Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Only One Thing is Needful

I shared this prayer with some people last week. Based on the feedback I have received, it has touched a raw nerve. It makes me suspect that there are more people out there who feel the same way. Taken from my review copy of Jesus Calling Devotional Bible (see my review here), the prayer is from a person named Wanda.

"All of life seems foggy lately. I think I can pinpoint the source of this fog: I feel disconnected from You, Jesus. There's no telling just how many days have gone by without a thought of You. I can't remember the last time I read my Bible or told someone about You either. But I'm here now, on my knees, needing You to lift the fog. I wish I could blame my current state on those around me. But I chose to shut You out. I chose to give up the habit of praying daily. I chose to hang out with people who don't know You, people who don't encourage my relationship with You. How do I find my way back? How can I erase the distance between us? Somewhere in my past I remember that You promised to never stop pursuing a relationship with me. Well, I'm taking You up on it. Please, Jesus, restore me to You and make us close again." (From: Jesus Calling Devotional Bible, Thomas-Nelson, 2011, p1582)
God Is the Prime Mover

What I like about this prayer is the deep confession of one's foggy faith, and an earnest hope to be renewed and restored. Most importantly, it is a recognition that it is God who is the Prime Mover. Whenever Christians feel down, one way is to attempt to dig out past treasures from our diaries of spiritual success stories. For some of us it may be our needed booster to bring us back. For others, it may be another attempt to kick-start our faith without guarantee that it will be sustained over the long haul. For anyone who wants to draw on our past histories or our present reserves, my advice is: "Don't." Whenever there is any 'Martha-like' activism that threatens to usurp the place of a 'Mary-like' needful spirituality, remember the Lord's words:

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-39)
Only One Thing Is Needed

Perhaps, the confession of one's foggy faith is due to worry and being upset about many things. If one cares to ponder about it, often it is not the object of worry that is the problem. It is the worrying disposition that is the source of anxiety. This prayer puts a stake on the ground of faith, amid winds of  distraction, disappointment, and discouragement. It sets our hearts to acknowledge that by ourselves we are weak and helpless. With God's help, we can be strengthened, be helped that we too may help others. Alone, there is only so much faith we can garner.  With God, faith comes free-flowing, and it is the shape and volume of our ability to receive that is the limit. Depending on ourselves, we see more problems and doubts. Depending on God, we see more than solutions. We see an opportunity to exercise our faith. If anyone believes that becoming a Christian means more money or better health, or greater wealth, he/she is badly mistaken. That is a worldly and deadly quickfix tablet disguised as 'gospel.'

No. Only one thing is needful whenever we feel our life is foggy. Keep our eyes on Jesus. Let us focus on seeking out God to meet our legitimate needs. Let God focus our one thing. Let God help us address the source of our discouragement. Let God be our answer.

It Begins With Prayer

For Christians, we know that life is not a bed or roses. Believing in Jesus does not mean it any easier. Contrary to what some preachers assert, life can be harder. Ask the prophets like Jeremiah or Hosea. Ask the martyrs like Jim Elliot or John Wycliff. Ask anyone in the Third Word who have suffered for their faith.  Let me end with a prayer by the great Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones. It is a prayer that combines the best of one's earnest desire and one's honest acknowledgement of a need for God to help.

"O Christ, do not give me tasks equal to my powers,
but give me powers equal to my tasks,
for I want to be stretched by things too great for me.
I want to grow through the greatness of my tasks,
but I shall need your help for the growing." (E. Stanley Jones)

My readers, whatever the stage of your spiritual life or condition, the moment you stop, look up to God, and to ask Him for help, you are pointing in the direction of the kingdom of God. You will be empowered by the Spirit of God. You will be accompanied by Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Seeing our clouds of doubt lifted by the breeze of faith, we are ready to go and grow.


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