Article: Listening to God is more important than working for God | Jacob Varghese

God is speaking to us all the time. The real question is, ‘are you listening’? Do you know that a word from God can change everything? Do you believe that? Then you need to say “Lord, speak I am listening”. Listening to God has many benefits. We need to develop a lifestyle of listening to God. There is nothing more important than hearing the voice of God. When we listen intently, we recognize His voice more easily, get to know Him better and can truly understand what He is saying. Of course it is important that we move beyond mere hearing, we need to practice listening to God. God speaks to us in different ways in different situations. Listening to God helps us to stay close to Him. Listening to God helps us to understand and follow His will for our life. We overlook the fact that God speaks to us all the time, we may not even know it and we don’t give Him the credit.
John 10:27 says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” God wants to be our shepherd to lead, love, and protect us. The Holy Spirit enables us to listen to God productively. When the Holy Spirit awakens our attention and opens our ears, listening brings insight and moves us to action. When God speaks through His word, we are experiencing God. Listening to God changes us and God equips us to minister to others. So we must desire to hear from God. The Bible says in Luke 10:38-42 “It happened as they went on their way, Jesus entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Here it is very clear that listening to God is more important than working for God.
We must decide to choose the good part as Mary did. There is nothing more important in our life than, fellowship with God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and hearing the voice of Jesus, our God. It was a matter of choice for Mary; it will also be a matter of individual choice and decision for us. Mary had to decide what was more important to her at that moment – to hear from God or to care for other urgent matters. The truth is that we will never bear many fruits unless we learn to hear the voice of God. If you fail to make a firm decision that hearing the voice of God is important to you, you will spend very little time on it. If you desire to be guided by God, He will guide you. Tell God: “Lord, I want you to guide me. I am open for it. Holy Spirit, please speak to me, because your servant is listening.”
Luke 10:38 says “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” When Jesus arrived in the city, a woman named Martha invited Him and His disciples into her home. It is important to note that we are told “they were traveling along.” Jesus was not by Himself. We are told that “they” were traveling. That means a group of them were traveling together. This reveals that Martha was an incredible hostess. She had invited a crowd into her home. We might wonder how large her house was, but we are not told. We don’t know. But I understand it was typical in those days, for people to invite travelers into their homes, since inns or hotels were rare. Either there was no inn in the village or Jesus already knew Martha. But the verse seems to imply that they did not know one another when it says, “a woman.”
Luke 10:39 says “She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. This verse clearly tells us that Martha had a sister named Mary, who was seated at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. It is surprising that the story does not tell us that Jesus and the disciples approached the home. It does not describe the greetings between Martha and the men. It does not give any details about Martha’s invitation to enter the home, where the men were seated or standing or how long they have been there. We are not told, if they had a meal or had spent the night there. We do not know if Martha introduced Mary to the men. We are not given the age of Martha or Mary. We do not know if Mary is older or younger. But the story zooms in on Mary who is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Where did she come from? What was she doing before she sat down at His feet? What was the topic being discussed? Was Jesus talking about politics, heaven, the kingdom, the latest healing or signs and wonders or how to have eternal life? But the Holy Spirit wants us to see Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. That is the most important picture for us to see. Martha is not that important. The disciples are not more important. The room, the food, the decorations on the wall and not even the topic of discussion is more important than that the snapshot of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. But we are told that Martha has been distracted. What was she doing?
Luke 10:40 says “But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” What we notice here is that Martha was preparing for a meal. We do not know which meal she was preparing: breakfast, lunch or dinner. From John 11:1&2 we understand that three people lived in the home: Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We are also left with the impression that she was a very busy woman. She was not lazy. She was the perfect person for preparing such a large meal. But we are told that she missed one very important priority. She was distracted. She was in a state of constant distraction and she never stopped to listen to Jesus. She was extremely focused on all of the details required to prepare the meal. Look at Martha’s faithfulness and also her sense of urgency to get some food to her group of guests. Nevertheless, she is like a person who is always panicking and always reacting. But Mary, we see here with a humble posture, stable nature and surrendering herself at the feet of Jesus. As a result, Martha became critical of Jesus and her sister Mary.
We can imagine what Martha was thinking. Mary should be helping her prepare the food for all the people in her home. Martha felt that she was left all alone to prepare all of this food. No one has asked if they could help her. No one cared about her. Martha might be thinking my sister -she never helps! She is out there just sitting and listening to Jesus. I need help! She has wondered, look at Jesus; even He does not care about me. Martha might have thought to herself, He does not care that I am working to feed Him and the people along with Him. He should send Mary to help me. And finally we see that Martha speaks directly to Jesus and challenges Him. Yes, Martha criticizes Jesus. Her words reveal that she has taken this personally. She is really asking Jesus, “Do you appreciate and love me for what I doing for you?” This is a very common response. We become upset, maybe angry, and we blame God. The fact that she blamed Jesus reveals that they must have been friends and that is why Jesus stopped at her home. Or, she is the one very bold woman. She confronted Jesus! Her words reveal her thoughts. Isn’t it? We can imagine her thinking, “Cooking food is too important and these men need to eat. Enough of the talking, we can do that later over the meal. What I am doing is more important now. Yes, we too think like that so many times. Working for God is important than talking to God, isn’t it? But what does the Lord say? Lord rebukes Martha. In Luke 10:41-42 we see “the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” What was Mary doing? Listening to Jesus! Here Jesus is clearly telling only one thing is necessary and that is what Mary has chosen. Yes, Listening to God is more important than working for God.
In the Sermon on the Mount we see Jesus is telling us do not worry about what we will eat, drink and wear, rather trust that God cares for us. Martha was not trusting God, that the men would be alright if the food was delayed. Jesus seems to say to Martha that only one dish was really necessary for the meal instead of the “many” about which she was so anxious. Jesus is telling here, Martha, Martha, I know the pressure; I know how hard this is for you. I know your pain Martha; come, come close to me Martha. I know all those problems of you being alone in cooking a meal for this crowd. I know all those worries but you only need one thing and I am here to give that to you. There is only one thing about which Martha should have been concerned. She should have been eager to quietly sit and hear the Word of God. Martha had missed that the one good thing. Notice Jesus’ words, “Only one thing is necessary!” Only one thing needs to be done! One thing is required and it was not meal preparation but to listen to Him. Yes, Listening to God is more important than working for God. Martha thought she was doing the most important thing – providing for the needs of her guests. Jesus’ comment must have shocked Martha and maybe even made her feel annoyed when He said, “Mary has chosen the good part.” Mary chose that which was morally superior. Listening to Jesus teaches was superior to preparing food. We don’t know what has happened after that. We are not told what happened. Maybe she returned to preparing the meal and completed the task anyway. Or, did she sit and listen to Jesus? We are always busy working for the Lord. But Jesus is telling only one thing is important and necessary. What is that one thing important to you? Mary chose the best part according to Jesus! What will you chose?
Jesus is not saying Martha, you lost your chance. He is not saying it is too late for you but He is saying Martha, you need only one thing. What is that one thing? Sit with Jesus so you can later stand in the storm. Spend time at Jesus’ feet. Panicking will make our life miserable and also making everybody around us miserable so it is important for us to spend time with Jesus. It is not that serving is not important but listening to God is more important than working for God. God wants us to serve Him but it needs come out of a different heart not panicking or questioning then you are going to enjoy serving, you are going to love serving. Spend time with Jesus, sit with Him and listen to Him. You cannot afford not to. Sit in His presence, listen to Him and get a word from Jesus. A word from Jesus can change everything in your life. Listen what God is telling you. When you get a word from God, it can bring you peace, healing, solution to your problems, reconciliation in your relationships and so on. Get a word from God; it can change everything for you. Not that it is going to change your circumstances but it is going to change everything inside of you, to help you to hold on and go through storms and come out strong. Jesus is telling only one thing is important and necessary. Working for God is not more important than listening to God. Mary sat at Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations to be made. Jesus said, Mary has chosen the good portion. Now it is our turn.

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(Jacob Varghese)

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