The above words were spoken by Jesus to Martha. He had been welcomed into the home in Bethany and Martha was busy serving while Mary, her sister, sat at Jesus’ feet, listening intently to his words. This annoyed Martha and she protested to the Lord, asking him to bid Mary to assist her. Jesus’ reply should be noted by us: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42). What was Martha’s mistake? Present in their home was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, honour and privilege beyond words. He was the greatest teacher and Mary knew this and listened intently to every word he spoke. We can understand how Martha felt but in these circumstances she was wrong and Mary was right, for she had chosen “that good part which [would] not be taken away from her” (v42).
We might ask ourselves why this incident is recorded. What relevance has it for us? Well, we can make the same mistake as Martha if we put the things of this world before attention to the Son of God. Tragically, this is often the case and the result is and will be disastrous. Do we put other things ahead of doing the daily readings? What are our priorities? We need to honestly answer these questions before it is too late.
We all know that our lives have a beginning and an end (unless alive when the Lord comes). Recently, while hospitalised, I was told I had but 2-3 months to live, that I had a terminal illness for which there was no treatment or cure in the hands of men (Motor Neurone Disease). I was visited by a religious person who asked me how I was in view of what I had been told. I spoke to her of our hope in Christ, of his coming and the resurrection. But what I would like to share with you is the state of mind such news had upon me. As you will appreciate it was a shock, but not altogether unexpected as the weakness I was experiencing could be put down to various causes.
However, the diagnosis, after 12 months of tests, confirmed our worst fears.
It is one thing to know that you will die, as will all Adam’s descendants because of sin, but it is another thing to be given a very limited time to live. Inevitably the mind is assailed by many thoughts, the surpassing value of knowing the Truth, the hope of eternal life and the coming Kingdom being foremost among them: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3). We cannot question the will of God as He knows best; we know and believe that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Sufferings there will be and prayer apparently unanswered, but our loving heavenly Father knows what is best and we do not. There are many things that we would desire to remain alive to see, such as grandchildren growing up and accepting Christ, the dramatically accelerating events in the Middle East heralding the Lord’s imminent return, etc. But God knows best. We cannot question Him. We must remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:18–19). With the Apostle Paul we are persuaded that “neither death, nor life … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our God” (v38–39).
What we Should Treasure
The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim 6:6-7); that “godliness with contentment is great gain”. David made similar comment when contrasting the greatness of God with mere men: “all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding” (1 Chron 29:14-15). David was old and in his prayer he helps us appreciate how fleeting are all human achievements. This should have a salutary effect upon our lives, our values and what we deem to be important. In the life of the greatest man, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we find the same values expressed and worked out in life. Foxes may have holes and birds nests, but the Son of Man had no permanent place to lay his head. He spoke about treasure being that which is laid up “in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt 6:20). He spoke of being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). It shows us how clearly he had thought about and rationalised life’s values. It is a different way of thinking to what we are generally accustomed to or what is advocated so loudly by this world. When faced with imminent death we can see more clearly the utter vanity of all human pursuits: the quest for wealth, fame and prowess in the sporting arena, academic achievement, etc. This magnifies the surpassing value of the Truth, of knowing our heavenly Father’s purpose and His desire that we might please Him and respond to His wonderful grace in Christ. Without doubt, the greatest thing that has come to our notice in our lives is this message, the Gospel. We need to recognise this and respond accordingly. In contrast to all human achievements and rewards it has an eternal dimension, offering the gift of eternal life in the kingdom of God to be established following the Lord’s return. It is a great honour and privilege to know these things and it brings consequences if we fail to respond positively.
It has been the source of much grief to see some young people drift away from the Faith, being drawn aside by worldly temptations which appeal to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). It is a dangerous place to be in, as those who know the Truth will have to give account before Christ’s tribunal. So this editorial goes out with an earnest appeal to any in this situation to stop and think seriously about what lies before them and to retrace their steps before it is too late: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31) and “the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Prov 21:16). Forever is a long time to be in the grave. The Lord warned many times that there would “be weeping and gnashing of teeth” by those who knew but failed to prepare for his coming. So any in this position should return to him now before it is too late. We should never underestimate the mercies of our heavenly Father, because “he delights in mercy” (Mic 7:18); “is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). The welcome given to the Prodigal Son by his father upon his return shows us our Father’s response (Luke 15:20), and this will be reflected in the ecclesia’s response of love, warmth and joy.
If we want absolute proof of God’s existence, power and control we only have to look at the witness and history of Israel, or on the prophecies relating to the advent of the Son of God. They show that God’s Word is true and that His purpose is on track. The dramatic events taking place in the Middle East today, with Russian power and troops coming down into Syria, make it plain that the Lord is at the door and we need to watch and pray that we “may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
Hearkening back to our title we can see that Mary chose to listen to the Lord, to the one of whom Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). For this she was commended. When we do our daily readings, we are sitting at his feet, hearing his voice. We must not be like Esau, described as a “profane person”. Why? Because “for one morsel of meat [he] sold his birthright” (Heb 12:16). What does this mean? He was prepared to sacrifice future eternal blessings for present gratification. We are in danger of doing this when we put worldly pursuits and gratification before service to Christ, the coming King.
Christ in our Lives
Wonderfully, we have been the recipients of the grace of God, our sins forgiven because our Lord conquered sin’s power and rose again. We can share his victory over death and partake in eternal life. This is the antidote to death, which came into the world with Adam’s sin. How foolish we would be “to insult the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29) by ignoring our Father’s love in giving His Son to die for us. Indeed, “one thing is needful”.
In what time we have left to us, let us heed the example of the Apostle Paul who could say, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:6-8). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).