Fractured By Service
January 4, 2015
Intro – Joe Theisman was playing quarterback for the Redskins one Monday night when he was tackled by HOF linebacker, Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants. Immediately Taylor motioned that Theisman needed help. And boy did he! On the replay, his right leg was going one way when the full weight of LT landed on it and part of it went another way. It was awful. Theisman’s leg was fractured, and as it turned out, so was his career.
And so are a lot of Xn lives. It’s not our leg that’s fractured, but if someone took the top off of our head today, it would be a tangled mess of fragmented thoughts going every which way – trying to do the right thing in a world that demands a lot. Our boss expects 50 hours a week minimum. Then we need to be at our son’s game, our daughter’s dance recital, a PTA meeting and a Bible study – all at the same time. Frazzled, foiled, frenetic, frustrated – FRACTURED. Too many good things spell disaster.
That’s just how Martha felt. But rather than sympathize, Jesus answered: “Check your priorities!” In a game between the Cubs and Pirates in 1902 left-hander Jimmy St. Vrain pitched for the Cubs. Good pitcher, lousy hitter. That day, he struck out his first 2 times, so the 3rd time, the coach had a brainstorm. He said, “Listen, try batting left-handed for a change. You’ve got nothing to lose.” So he did, and lightning struck! On the very first pitch, St. Vrain hit the ball – not much, just a slow roller to short. But when Jimmy saw a fair ball, he was off like a flash. Legs churning and arms pumping, he was going to beat that throw if it killed him. There was only one problem. He was running toward third base instead of first. His turnaround confused him and everyone. Even Honus Wagner didn’t know whether to throw to first or third!
The point is activity must be prioritized. For a Xn all effort must spring from a vital, living relationship with Almighty God. That is the one thing that is necessary. One thing! That simplifies things, doesn’t it? We don’t live frantic lives because there are too many demands; we live frantic lives because we have not been with God. We’ve skipped first base. Is third base important? You bet it is. But it doesn’t mean a thing until you’ve been to first! And service for God doesn’t mean a thing until we’ve been with God. Martha paid dearly when she got priorities backwards.
I. Problems with Others (Battered Relationships)
Got relationship problems? You’re not alone. So did Martha. Her busyness led to battered relationships. V. 40: “But Martha was distracted (literally drawn about in different directions – torn apart) with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Martha is ticked. She’s trying to make a great dinner for Jesus; Mary’s doing little to help and Jesus doesn’t seem to care. She actually orders Jesus: “Fix it!”
Was Mary cheating Martha? Jesus doesn’t think so. Mary had helped earlier. V. 40 notes Mary had “left” Martha, implying Mary had helped Martha earlier; when things were in order, she checked out to be with Jesus. V. 39 says, “And she had a sister called Mary, who [“also”, left out of ESV] sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” Mary helped, but also sat. She wanted to be with Jesus more than serve Him. Martha’s all about activity. She loves Jesus, too. But her love is expressed in doing! But service distracted her, and killed her relationship with Mary. Killed it with Jesus, too!
Ironic, isnt’ it?! She fails the very thing she wants to achieve – serving Jesus – and then blames Him! V. 40, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” Imagine accusing Jesus of not caring! Then she orders the Lord, “Tell her then to help me.” Wow! But serving out of duty instead of love leads to resentment. The principle is: We won’t get along with people if we don’t get alone with Him. We will kill relationships and resent the Lord.
During WWII the Japanese got a huge leg up by knocking out the US fleet at Pearl Harbor. Six months later came the decisive Battle of Midway with the US still at a huge disadvantage to a great Japanese fleet. But very early in the battle, U.S. naval fliers destroyed the bridge of the ship of the commanding admiral. All radio contact was lost between ships. From that moment the captain of each ship was on his own. In darkness and confusion, Japanese ships began to fire at one another and the rout was on. Why? All because communication with the leader was lost.
Similarly right relationships with others comes from being rightly related to our head? Without that comes sniping, anger that others aren’t doing as much as we are, feelings of loneliness and even resentment of God. The only cure is constant contact with Him! Can’t be mad at one you’re praying for.
II. PROBLEMS WITH SELF (Frustration and Anxiety)
Want to be frustrated and anxious? Skip time with Jesus. V. 40 “But Martha was distracted (pulled apart, fractured) with much serving. 41) But the Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Martha’s having a nervous breakdown serving God. The word “distracts” means to “draw away” or to “draw off”. Martha was actually drawn away from Christ by her service for Him. Fractured by service.
The word “anxious” refers to inner turmoil. She’s just a bundle of nerves – torn apart inside. Paul commands in Phil 4:6 we be anxious for nothing. The word “troubled” speaks of outward discontent. It speaks of her busyness. Moving a couch in, getting the plates set, seasoning the meat again. Martha was distracted, inwardly and outwardly, conflicted because of her service. Like at Buckingham Palace where they measure precisely where each place must be set. She’s a complete wreck, just trying to serve a meal. She was substituting service for relationship!
But God made us to be with Him before serving. Without that relationship, we will be the same nervous wreck that Martha was. Leonard Verduin Somewhat Less Than God tells of a certain kind of African ant. The young are sheltered and the queen is housed in great tunnels. Workers forage in distant places for food. If, while they are away their queen is molested, the workers, even though far away, become nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become absolutely frantic and rush in aimless patterns until they die. Some radar-like device keeps them oriented to the queen while she lives. If she’s cancelled out, all orientation ceases and frenzy ensues.
That’s a Xn operating without a living relationship thru Bible and prayer with our King. We’re made for a relationship with Him. Before He wants our service, God wants us fixated on Him. That’s our rock! We are living with an audience of one. Just one! Disorientation, frustration, anxiety show we’re not locked in to our Head. We must take Mary’s part. Get oriented at His feet.
III. PROBLEMS WITH GOD (Inability to Separate Need from Necessity leads to wasted effort)
Martha is living a wasted life. V. 41, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” You’ve got to get to first base before you can go home. Mary has chosen the thing that’s of lasting value. Martha, by implication, had chosen what would not last. Martha loved Jesus just like Mary, but she chose badly how to display her love. The meal would soon be over. It was all done in her own strength, her own fleshly effort. It was wood, hay and stubble that would burn at Judgment. It could have been more, but she bypassed first base.
Now listen carefully. Here is the heart of the matter. Martha thought the way to significance was to meet every need. Wouldn’t you? She was trying to go to second, third and home all at the same time because she saw the needs there. She saw needs and tried to fill them. How can you fault someone trying so hard to meet every need? But fault her is exactly what Jesus did. Martha’s premise was – everything is necessary. Jesus stopped her cold with His comment: one thing is necessary and that one thing wasn’t any of the things Martha was up to. Don’t miss the implication.
There is never any lack of need. It isn’t a question of need. One will say we need a third grade teacher. Another will say, we need a VBS teacher. We need a short term missionary. We need food for the sick. We need a youth sponsor. It’s not a question of need! The question is what is necessary? Listen now. Until we sort out the difference between need and necessity, we are doomed to be eternally frustrated, frenzied, and fractured without any possibility of producing eternal value. What is necessary is to be with God; He will let us know in the midst of all that need what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. He never intended we do it all. Here it is -- Martha confused need with necessity and became broken and useless.
On the other hand, Jesus said concerning Mary, “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha’s service – wonderfully intended but anxiously executed, will not count. But Mary’s worship will never be taken away from her. Why? Because she “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (v. 39).Think about that. Wouldn’t you think Martha’s service, earnestly rendered to meet a need, would get some credit? Have some worth? Wouldn’t you think so?
But the opposite is true. Worth is ascribed to doing nothing more than being with Jesus, worshiping Him. Not a single worldly need is being met – and yet that was the one necessary thing which was eternal! Amazing! That’s first base, Beloved. You have to get there first. The rest falls into place after that, but nothing counts until that! Turns out the biggest need of all is OUR need of Him! The paradox of Martha is that in trying so hard to meet every need, she actually met no need. She was effort without direction and ambition without devotion and it will not work! Meantime, Mary found in devotion to Jesus the one thing necessary to produce eternal results. What a paradox.
We’ve all heard of the fellow who to prove his love for his wife, swam the deepest river for her. He crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. There was nothing he would not do for her. She divorced him anyway! He was never home! Tragically, that’s how many of us are with Christ. We’re never at home for Him. So busy doing for Him that we are never with Him. That can only lead to a fragmented life of frustration with others, self and God.
WHY NOT? Now – let me pose this question. Why is it that we don’t spend more time with our Lord? Why are there far more Marthas than Marys? Some will say, “Well, I’m just not the meditative type. I’m a Type A personality – gotta be doing something!” Really?! Well it seems clear that Martha is about as Type A as you can get, and Jesus didn’t give her a waiver. Cut her no slack. More than ever she needed Him.
Many will say is, “I’m just too busy! I try, but I’m too busy.” Really? How much time do you spend watching sports, on hobbies, watching TV? Sure we’re busy. But we make time for the things that we really want to do, don’t we? We make time for what we value most! What do you value most?! I grant you that time is at a premium, but time is not the problem, it’s the excuse! Laziness is the problem; time is the excuse.
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “If men like Moses, David, and Paul had to get alone with God in order to get their work done, how much more do we need that quiet time at the beginning of each day?” D. L. Moody said: “If you have so much business to attend to that you have no time to pray, depend upon it, you have more business on hand than God ever intended you should have.’”
Third -- We spend little time with God because we have a little concept of God. Figured Him out years ago. Got His attributes down. Have no true appreciation for the absolute infinite nature of His creativity, mercy and grace. God is not “in your face.” Deut 4:29 reminds us: “you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” You have to want this, Beloved. God doesn’t force anyone. Spurgeon once wrote:
What the hand is to the lute,
What the breath is to the flute,
What is fragrance to the smell,
What the spring is to the well,
What the flower is to the bee,
That is Jesus Christ to me.
What’s the mother to the child,
What the guide in pathless wild,
What is oil to troubled wave,
What is ransom to the slave,
What is water to the sea,
That is Jesus Christ to me.
Don’t you want to know Him like that? Then you must spend time with Him.
Fourth – Sometimes we don’t seek God because we feel unworthy. So we set out to earn His favor. But do you know that you cannot ever become more acceptable to Him than you are right now. Ephesians 1 says that we are already accepted in the Beloved -- as desired by God as Christ Himself. If you’re a Christian today, you can’t get any more accepted, you can’t be any more loved, you can’t become any more worthy, and you can’t get any more forgiven. Folks – enjoy it! Revel in it! Bask in the love of God.
Fifth – we fear intimacy with God. We know our hearts. There is a desire for good, but mixed with a lot of bitterness, lasciviousness and hypocrisy. We hate it, but it’s there and we know it. How can I come to God like that? But of course, God also knows. He’s always known. He loves us anyway. Mary wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t keep her from Jesus. Almighty God, who knows perfect love within the Trinity, wants to spend time with us – even though He knows every secret of our treacherous heart. PONDER that. He longs for us to come to Him – flaws, imperfections, doubts and all. He loves us that much.
Conc -- After 30 years of service and having written 1/3 of the NT, Paul found one thing necessary in his life in Philippians 3:10: “That I may know Him.” Don’t you already know Him, Paul? “Yes, but I long to know more.” After all you’ve learned and been through there’s more, Paul? “Infinitely more.” And that’s more important than taking the gospel to other places. “I’ll do that too. But the one necessary thing is to know Him.”
What is it that gives value to life and keeps us from being fractured by service? Is it wealth? No. Is it education? No. Is it raising a wonderful family? No. Service to the poor? No. What is it that gives us focus and purpose and meaning? It is to know Him! What is it that removes frustration and allows us to face our world without confusion. It is to know Him! It’s the one thing which is necessary. First things first. Miss that and you’ve missed all. It’s first base. Nothing else counts unless you’ve been there first.
In an article entitled “Singing in Chains” in Christianity Today, February 2008, Mark Buchanan writes, “Arthur Burns, Jewish economist of great influence in Washington during the tenure of several Presidents, was once asked to pray at a gathering of evangelical politicians. Stunning his hosts, he prayed thus: “Lord, I pray that Jews would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Buddhists would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Muslims would come to know Jesus Christ.” And then, most stunning of all: “And Lord, I pray that Christians would come to know Jesus Christ.” Buchanan goes on to say, “Such a good prayer, I’ve started praying it myself.” Let’s pray.