“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Pursuing the Better Part, by Randall D. Kittle

In Luke 10 we find the familiar story of two sisters, Martha and Mary. This passage tells us that, as Jesus was passing through their village, Martha welcomed Him into her home. While she was busy cooking and preparing dinner, we are told that Mary slipped out of her sister’s kitchen and was sitting at the Master’s feet listening intently to every word He said. After a time, Martha interrupted Jesus complain-ing and wanting to know if He cared that Mary had abandoned her to work alone.

Most of us would have felt the same as Martha. They were hosting the Master and were responsible for the comfort and care of many guests. How could her sister shirk her responsibilities and just sit there listening to another teaching when there was so much to do?

I’m certain Martha was surprised when Jesus responded,
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her”  (Luke 10:41–42). Jesus commended Mary for taking time to sit and learn at her Savior’s feet. He made it clear to Martha that it is necessary to step away from the unending pressures of life and spend undistracted time with Him.

The Better Part
Having invited Jesus to be a guest at her home, Martha set about doing what she thought were the important things. What Martha was doing was not evil or immoral. It was good, even necessary and important. The problem was this meant she couldn’t focus on Jesus. Her busyness and activity were distracting her from the “one thing” that mattered most … developing her relationship with Christ.

Mary was more focused on what was really important in life. She was pursuing
“the better part.” This was the better choice because it was “God-focused” and “God-elevating.” She made her choice from an eternal perspective. When Jesus said that it wouldn’t be taken away from her, that not only meant: “I won’t stop her,” it also meant: “She is focusing on eternal things that cannot be taken away. They will last for time and eternity.”

Martha’s mistake was one many of us make: We become so busy doing good things
for God that we don’t spend time with God getting to know Him better. We all need to slow down and invest ourselves in communing with God. Let Him reveal Himself to you through His Word. Spend time with the Lord in prayer. Worship Him and wait for Him to speak to your heart.

God gives each of us the opportunity to have personal moments with Him. He will meet with us, if we will take the time to be with Him. By taking the time just to be with the Lord, we are fed, refreshed, and renewed. If we are too busy to spend time with God, we’re simply too busy. We need to ask the Lord to give us the “eyes of eternity” so we can begin to see things from an eternal perspective.

A Better Choice
Allow me to share with you a personal example that illustrates the cost and value of pursing the better part. This story starts on a cold and very snowy winter day in Northern Illinois.

It had snowed a great deal, starting the afternoon of the day before and continuing all night and into the morning. As I woke up that Friday morning, everything was beautifully blanketed in a thick covering of snow. This was no run-of-the-mill storm. We had a lot of snow … and it was still snowing! Being in high school, I turned on the radio and television to find out if school had been canceled. It was no surprise (but still a delight) to discover it was a snow day — no school!

My momentary glee quickly subsided as my father called for me to join him in trying to get at least some of the snow off the sidewalk and driveway. My joy further diminished when I realized that while missing school sounded like fun, not being able to see my girlfriend, Gini, at school didn’t sound like any fun at all.

After making a “dent” in the snow, we came in to warm up and eat breakfast. I called Gini, and while we talked she reminded me that I had a basketball game that evening and it, too, would have to be canceled. Now this snowstorm was turning out to be more frustrating than fun. Before hanging up, we talked a little while about the next evening. It was the Coronation Ball, a girl-ask-guy formal dance at our high school. We had been going out for more than a year and she was so exited about this dance. Actually, she wasn’t really excited about the dance; it was the dinner she had been busily planning that she so anticipated. She and her friend were going to be making a “gourmet” meal for her friend’s date and me. They had been planning and practicing for weeks.

Day of Decision
Besides a lot of shoveling and hot chocolate, nothing much happened until the next day. That morning as I came in from removing the drifts that had blown onto the driveway during the night, I discovered a call on the answering machine. The message was from my assistant basketball coach letting me know that the game from last night had been rescheduled for tonight. Now I had a problem … a big problem. They had rescheduled my basketball game on the night of the dance. This meant I had to either miss the basketball game or miss the dinner my girlfriend had been planning and preparing for weeks.

For more than five years, I had been training hard for basketball — practicing, conditioning, hitting the weight room, and going to various summer camps. As a junior, I was the tallest player on my team, and one of the tallest ones in the conference … and still growing. I had recovered from a knee injury my freshman year, and was finally becoming the type of player I knew I could be. One of the private schools had tried to recruit me over the summer, and everything looked great for my future in basketball. But if I didn’t go to the game that great future would be void.

If I didn’t go to the dinner, I knew Gini would be greatly disappointed, but she would forgive me. After all, it would be for the team. The problem I was having making my decision that day wasn’t because of her; it was because of me. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I didn’t want all of her plans, all of her dreams, to be wasted because of a basketball game. I could let down all of my teammates, but I couldn’t see how I could let her down. It was on that day I knew for certain that she had totally captured my focus. I could tell that my heart was fixed upon her.

I chose to go to the dinner and dance with Gini. The dinner was great and so much fun. She seemed to glow as she served each course. Later at the dance, the news wasn’t quite so good. As each of my basketball friends trickled in, they told me how upset the coach was … he was mad!

As I walked into school the next Monday, I went past my coach’s office. A few steps beyond his door I was stopped by his voice, “Randy, since you’ve decided to stop playing basketball, I’ll need you to turn in your uniforms by tomorrow.” With that my basketball season was over and I was off the team.

Did I choose the better part? In my fifties now, I assure you my best basketball days are well in the past. Even at my best, I was never going to be an NBA basketball player, but I did get the best wife a man could ever have. My wife, Gini, and I just celebrated our 35
th anniversary. I can tell you with certainty that I made the better choice — a choice that told her she was more important than sports, more important than my friends, more important than my notoriety or reputation. I believe I have been reaping a harvest from this decision for more than 35 years. It was the right choice.

God … the Great Reward
I don’t want you to take this illustration to be a reminder that we need to count the cost of pursuing the Lord. When I met Gini, I didn’t count the cost, I pursued my relationship with her at all cost. I was serious about it. I called her often on the phone and we talked sometimes for hours. I wrote her little notes. I bought her flowers and gifts. I took her out to dinner, to movies, etc. I spent a lot of time and effort pursuing her.

It should be even more so with our relationship with the Lord. Unfortunately, that’s not what I see as I look across the body of Christ. In fact, if most men had pursued their wives like they pursue the Lord, they would still be single!

Seek the Greatest Treasure
The kingdom of Heaven is first and foremost about us spending time with the King — Jesus Christ! He is the “better part” we all need to be pursuing. When it comes to pursuing God, the Bible doesn’t tell us to count the cost, but pursue Him at all cost — like someone deeply in love. We are to see the Lord as the great Reward, and pursue Him above anything else. Does our heart see the Lord “… like a treasure hidden in the field” (Matthew 13:44)? Do we realize that He is the “…pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46)? If we did, we would do what those in the parable do — sell all we have to purchase Him!

As the Church, do we realize that we are desperately needy for God? If our hearts cry, “Yes!” then we should seek Him with a hungry heart unwilling to be satisfied with anything less. We should, like Mary, pursue the better part — longing for His presence and desperate to know Him ever more.

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