This morning, we continue our new message series entitled, “Seek.” Over and over and over and over again, we’re called in God’s word to seek Him. We know that if God calls us to do something, it’s not something that we’re going to do naturally on our own.
We were challenged last week to seek after God the way that He seeks after us. Fervently, but patiently. Urgently, but patiently. Passionately, but patiently. Like Jesus, deciding that not my will, but the Heavenly Father’s will be done.
Today, we’re learning more about the value of seeking God from the example that He gave us in the lives of the M&M sisters; Martha and Mary.
I’m not sure how many of you here have a sister, or are a sister yourself. It seems to me that quite often, sisters are very different from one another. One loves dresses, the other jeans. One is sporty, the other is a book worm. One eats salads, the other downs pizza.
Although they would die for each other, it may look at times like they are about to kill each other. These differences are a breeding ground for drama and conflict.
Whether or not that is the case for you, it certainly does seem to be the case for Martha and Mary. We first are introduced to them here:
Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village (Bethany as revealed in John 11) where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha and Mary represent two unique aspects of our lives in Christ. Although these two aspects are very different from one another and often conflict with one another, they are intended to complement one another. There is the Martha, doing the work of ministry for Jesus and Mary, receiving the ministry of Jesus.
If you form a committee of doers and seekers, you can just sit back and wait for the drama to begin.
The Martha doers just want to get things done. The room needs flooring, so let’s go buy it so that we can get to work laying it! They measure the area of the room and head down to the hardware store to buy what they need and have it finished by the end of the day.
The Martha seekers want to research what type of activities are going to be taking place in that room. They want to be sure that they choose the right type of flooring. Then, they want to be sure that the style and color are a good fit, too. They’ll plan meetings to share ideas and opinions back and forth to be sure that as many as possible are in agreement. Then, once the type and style and color of flooring is selected, they’ll get estimates from professional and amateur installers weighing out the pros and cons of each estimate. A year following the meeting, the flooring installation begins.
Both Martha doers and Mary seekers are needed in the body of Christ. In fact, in our own lives, there needs to be a healthy balance of times and seasons for both doing ministry and receiving ministry.
Myself, I’m a doer. When I read about Martha’s plea to Jesus that it just isn’t fair for her to be doing all of the work, my heart leaps and I can quickly say, “AMEN!”
However, Jesus said that all of her worrying and getting upset over all of the details of the meal didn’t matter. He said that there is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary had discovered that better thing and He refused to take it away from her.
Mary chose to seek Jesus. She chose to sit at His feet; to learn from Him, to build a relationship with Him, to understand Him, to seek Him.
However, Mary would not have had this opportunity had it not been for Martha inviting Him in to stay at their home. Jesus didn’t say that what Martha was doing was wrong, it just wasn’t as important. He didn’t say that Martha was in sin because she was busy serving Jesus instead of spending time with Him. One isn’t right and the other wrong, one is just more valuable than the other.
Both doing and seeking are important. However, seeking is far more valuable to Jesus than doing. It is far more important to Him who we are than what we do. It is far more important to Him why we do it than what we do.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
It is more valuable to spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus, getting to know Him, than just going out and doing the work of ministry. When we truly discover this, the work that we do will have far more meaning and value and impact than just doing it because it is what we are supposed to do.
Receiving flowers with an “I love you!” note from your spouse is far more valuable than receiving that same gift from a stranger handing them out in bulk on the corner of a busy intersection. Right? Relationship sets the context for works.
We do not do the work of ministry to earn our salvation, we do the work of ministry out of love and gratitude found in our relationship with our Savior!
We need to first and foremost be Mary, not Martha. We were reminded last week from Mathew 6 not to worry about the things of this world, but to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and that everything else would fall into place from that. Relationship, then work. NOT work to earn relationship.
The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
God isn’t looking for a people doing the work of ministry, He is looking for a people who are seeking after Him. Even Jesus, Himself, said:
…Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Relationship, then work. Mary, then Martha. Seek, then do.
We continue on to the next verse following this encounter that Jesus had in the home of Mary and Martha. Though the scene many have changed, the subject matter has not.
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
Relationship, then work. Mary, then Martha. Seek, then do. Jesus was seeking His Father in prayer.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Their hunger and thirst was not for the relationship that Jesus had with the Heavenly Father, but to be able to do what Jesus was doing. Therefore, when He taught them how to do, He started by refocusing them on relationship first and foremost. (By the way, the traditional prayer that we quote isn’t from here, but from Matthew’s account of the same event. 🙂 )
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Again, after Jesus teaches them how to pray, the doing, He redirects their thoughts back to relationship.
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
Although Jesus says that it was not because of their friendship that you would receive what you are asking for, the only reason that you would walk to that house and not go to all of the houses that you passed between yours and theirs is solely because of your relationship with them, right? Seek, then do.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Ask and it will be given to you, not act nicely and it will be given to you.
Seek and you will find, not do good things and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened, not bless others and the door will be opened.
These three things that Jesus says to do are all done in relationship. We are far more likely to ask someone, seek after someone, knock on someone’s door if we know them. When we ask, seek, and knock on the door of a stranger, we expect to be turned away with empty hands. When we ask, seek, and knock on the door of a friend, we expect to be welcomed and to receive what we need.
Relationship, then work. Mary, then Martha. Seek, then do.
For time’s sake, we’re not going to go through the account, but most of us are familiar with the account of Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus. He became sick in Bethany while Jesus was in another town ministering and he died as a result. John 11, where this is recorded, says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Jesus said that it was for God’s glory that He became sick and He said that He was glad that He was not there to heal Him when He shared with the disciples that He had died.
Now, He was not glad that Lazarus had died. In fact, Jesus wept and He was moved in spirit and troubled when He arrived at his grave. He was glad because of the opportunity to prove that He IS the resurrection and the life!
Guess who came and met Jesus two miles before He even got to the village Bethany? Yup, Martha came guns-a-blazing blaming Jesus saying that if He had been there, He would have been healed and also that she knew that even now God would DO whatever Jesus asked. How do you think Jesus felt at her attack? Martha was all, “Do, do, do!”
Who did Jesus ask for? Yup, Mary. She shared Martha’s same thoughts, but Jesus was troubled and moved in His spirit at her broken heart. Mary was all, “Relationship, relationship, relationship.”
When the stone of Lazarus’ tomb was rolled away, who complained about the stench? Martha!
Who do you think ran to meet the risen Lazarus to take off his grave clothes? We don’t know for sure, but my money would be on Mary.
Just a few weeks before Jesus was about to give up His life, we find Him again in the village of Bethany.
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served (no surprise here, right?), while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
There will always be poor among us. There will always be needs to be met. There will always be work to do. However, we will not always have time to choose to be with Jesus. Long after we are dead and gone from this earth, there will be work left to do. When we stand before the judgment throne of Christ, will He care about all of the work that we did or whether or not we know Him?
Yes, it is important for us to do the work of the ministry. It is important for us to use our giftings to serve others and to meet their needs. However, there is something more important that this and that thing MUST come first! Seeking Jesus. Spending time at His feet. Getting to know Him.
After all, He is to be the source of all of the work that we do. It is all to be directed by Him, with His strength, and by His enablement. How can we effectively do the work of ministry if not doing it out from time spent seeking Him.
This morning, as we leave with our M&M’s (either melting in our hands, or digesting in our stomachs), let them remind us of the M&M sisters and their priority in our lives. Mary, then Martha. Relationship, then work. Seek, then do.