Choosing “One Thing”
Amos 8:1-12 or Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 52 or Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42
I remember what it was like, before He opened my ears to His voice, before I could know His presence through His gentle words to me. I remember, and I don’t like it at all.
When I didn’t know the sound of His voice, my fate, the fate of my family, my friends, my church, they all rested on me. I went from task to task with great anxiety much of the time, trying to keep failure and suffering at bay. I tried to carry so much weight on behalf of others that the strain often became too much and I just let everything go, or sought solace in some counterfeit sources of comfort. I know that I often became insufferable to be around.
It was all from “good” motives. I never wanted anything but the best, even for my “enemies.” At least, I tried to want that, as much as I could. I wanted people to know the love of Jesus (even though I didn’t really myself) and I wanted them to know love for each other. I wanted to bring relief where there was suffering, and sustenance to those who were starving, whether for food or the Word. I wanted many things, but there was just one thing I needed, and I hadn’t learned where to find it. No, that’s not quite right. It isn’t that I hadn’t learned where to find it, it’s that I didn’t quite believe there was such a “one thing,” though I often wished there was.
Like most folks caught up in Western culture, whether they’re churchgoers or not, I wanted intimacy with God, to know His voice, but I didn’t really believe it was possible. Surely in heaven, but not now. And because I didn’t think such intimacy was possible now, I let the desire that could have been turned to Jesus turn toward others and their welfare. I tried and tried to live up to that desire, but because I had no foundation in intimacy, none of those houses I built ever stood up to the ravages of the world’s storms.
I was like Martha, hurrying from one task to another, always because I was concerned for the others in the house, wanting to be sure they’re fed and feel cared for. And I was like Martha because I complained a lot that others didn’t seem to recognize my efforts or join me in the task. Looking back, I doubt that I’d have joined me either. Who wants to join a whinger? (A great word for complaining that I learned from Harry Potter books…)
I don’t suppose that, on the surface, my life looks that much different to most folks nowadays. If you were to compare what I did before to what I do now, most of the things on the list would be the same. Some of the frequencies would be different, but the items on the list wouldn’t vary much. But many would, if they thought about it, say that the way I do things now is much different than the way I used to do them. There isn’t the anxiety around them there used to be. I don’t rush from one thing to the next. It’s easier for me to stop one thing and pay attention to another than it used to be. I don’t complain as much.
And if you could see me from the inside, you’d see a vastly different landscape. Things are radically different for me now, because I know His voice. I don’t think that the fate of the world rests on what I do any more. I am not as frightened of failure as I used to be. I act out of joy more often than I do out of fear.
We act out of one of two motivations, always these two. Other, smaller strategies may make our motivations seem more subtle or complex than this, but it really does boil down to a two-pronged path, like the two ways Moses offered to the people of God in the desert. There is a way of life and a way of death.
We either act because God is present and active and loves us, or we act because God is not present, or not active, or doesn’t love us. We act because God can be trusted, or we act because God cannot be trusted. It really boils down to that.
What I know about myself is this. I still get anxious sometimes. I still get worn down from acting too much in my own strength. I still complain from time to time. That is to say, I’m still a “carnal” human being, though that’s not all that I am any more.
But because I am carnal, I require time at Jesus’ feet, intentionally choosing the “one thing” that He commends. If I don’t spend time daily listening to His voice, His guidance, His reassurance, then I will act mostly out of my carnality during the day, out of my lack of trust. The more I listen to Him, the more I am able to act because He can be trusted. The more I listen to Him, the more I act out of joy rather than fear.
Each day, I try to choose the “one thing” again. And again. And again. To walk in His presence.
This is the relationship He offers to each of us.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that, “If you think you’re too busy to pray, you’re really too busy NOT to pray.”
What does your daily schedule look like? Do you start off with prayer? Is it words tossed off into the ether to try to secure some protection for the day, or is your prayer time spent looking into His eyes and listening to Him sing over you? If you want your life to be different, you have no choice but to learn to sit and listen. If you want this, but don’t know where to begin, simply pray something like this today:
Heavenly Father, I want to live abundantly in You. I want that, but I don’t have a clue how to begin. Please speak Your peace into my heart so that I can hear You inviting me into fellowship with You, so that I’ll have a Voice to follow into my secret place.
In Jesus’ Name.
If you’re still reading, I guess that means you’re still hoping to move deeper into the intimacy God wants to have with you. This is one of those “daily” thoughts that probably needs a week or two, so be patient as you work through this “week.”
Having asked God to lead you to a place you could never find on your own, the next thing is to give Him some time. I know. You don’t have any. Well, in one very real sense, that’s true because all of your time belongs to the One who gave it to you in the first place. But in another, more time has been entrusted to You than you think. You just need to begin. “Today” begin by setting aside 15 minutes before anyone gets up in your house. Get up a little earlier than usual, find a quiet place to sit or lie down (I often lie down for this kind of prayer.) and pray simply. As Larry Randolph has put it, just pray
“Help me!” over and over or
“I love You.” That’s enough. Sometimes I just pray,
“More! More of You Jesus! More!”
In Jesus’ Name.
There are many “fruits” that flow from this intimacy with God, but we don’t ask for those. At least, I don’t. At least, I don’t usually. You know the fruits I’m talking about: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. (Gal. 5:22) Sometimes I do fall into the trap of asking for the fruits, rather than the Spirit. Sometimes I find myself focused on what I’m lacking in that moment (or think I’m lacking) and not on the One in whose Provision I can rest.
Today, as you continue to pray simply, keep your eyes on His eyes, seeking only Him. Let all those fruits flow from the Communion you share.
In Jesus’ Name.
There are two images of persistence I want to offer you in the remainder of this “week.” One I learned from Larry Randolph, one I learned from Graham Cooke. Today is the Larry day. Read Genesis 32:24-31. In this passage Jacob refuses to let go until he receives his blessing. As you pray simply, the 15 minutes you spend will start to grow longer, as you press in for your own blessing. Don’t let go. Not because you can force God to give you something God doesn’t want to give you, but because you know He has this for you, and you are desperate to have it. Hang on. “More! I want more! For your Kingdom, Lord! For Your Glory! MORE!” Press deeper, hang on when it seems dry, and especially when you get your hip put out of its socket! Hang on!
In Jesus’ Name.
Read 2 Kings 13, from about verse 10 to 19.
Joash goes to Elisha for a blessing before Elisha dies, and he’s instructed to take a handful of arrows and strike the ground. He strikes the ground only three times, and angers Elisha because, had he persisted, he might have opened the door to so much more blessing.
When God gives you a handful of arrows, strike the ground and don’t stop till He tells you to! “I want it all! I want all the intimacy with You that my heart can stand! Deeper! More Lord!” Stay in your place with Jesus asking for more, even when Martha complains. Even when your friends and enemies make fun, even when it seems like you ought to let go and give up. Hang on. Strike the ground! AGAIN!
In Jesus’ Name.
If you’d like easier access to Hearing His Voice than looking it up on a webpage, it is now available as both paperback and Kindle book. (But it will always be free here.)