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When we fully understand that God uses everything in our lives (all thoughts, feelings, words and actions) to “work together for our good,” we can then realize that the sum of all we encounter is but to teach us to know that we need not to wonder if our daily lives are counting for Him in the way He desires. He is the Orchestrator and therefore in control of the finalities of all begotten of Him, in directing our lives through the administration of His work “in” and “for” us (Phil 2:13; Rom 8:28).
Thus wherever we are, it is in His school of training, which will—without fail—always serve to progress us unto our next level of learning. In His omniscience, all has been taken into account, even the wrongs we will inadvertently choose, and has been preplanned to an inevitable single end—to continually “conform” us to the life of the Lord Jesus (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). This does not address the redemption in which we are “irrevocably” planted (Rom 11:29), but increases our effectiveness in the possession of it!
“But One Thing Is Needful”
“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (Luke10:41). The Lord’s words are very striking. Beloved friends, if you are busy about many things you will not only be busy, but troubled. Martha, we read, “was cumbered (distracted) with much serving”; and she was not only “encumbered,” but also “troubled”—it weighed upon her (vs 40—NC). If you have service that weighs you down, look to it; see well why it is. Plainly that very character would put you along with Martha there.
“And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (vs 39). The Lord takes her up to signify His entire approbation as to where she was and what she was. He has a reproof for Martha’s service, but has only approbation for Mary’s simply sitting at His feet. “But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (vs 42).
Only “one thing.” To what a little point would that diminish all care (e.g. eliminate unnecessary concerns—NC) if we only recognize and bowed to the truth of the Lord’s words. There are a great many needs in the busy world; there are a great many duties that you have, and that Christians think they have to society, to their neighbors, and what not. The Lord here would bring our hearts from everything simply to one—to sit at His feet and hear His Word!
Don’t you feel as if that would leave service out altogether? How is it possible that only a single thing is needful, and Mary had chosen that very part, when there are so many things to do? Are we to leave out service to the Lord? What does it mean? Beloved, this: That the thing which is to be our care is that we receive from the Lord Jesus. And if we are receiving, service and everything else will take care of itself. Mark, I do not mean that you won’t serve. You will. But I say this: that if your care is not for service (i.e. as a priority—NC), but to be receiving from Him, you will find that the “one thing” of which the Lord speaks embraces all the rest.
What our Father wants from us is receptiveness (first, then service—NC). He wants in us the capacity to receive. “Come” and “drink”; and he that believeth on Me (faith being that receptive character in the soul), out of his inner being shall flow rivers of living water.” Mark what a beautiful thing—that out of the innermost of man’s nature (e.g. new nature—NC), the part that craves, the fullness flows.
If rivers of living water flow out of you, this means both testimony and service, surely. It implies real ministry to others, and that God is to get His own from you in the world. But if this is to be true of you, what are the means by which it is to be accomplished? You are to come and drink; you are to come and receive as Mary did, and you will find in this “one thing needful” all other things are contained. Even amid a ruined world, paradise is returned again for him who takes this place at Jesus’ feet—this place of happy dependence to which there is no lack.
You see, the fullness is His, it is not ours. People have the idea that grace in a man is a sort of thing that God puts as it were a seed into the soul, and it is to grow and grow, and develop there into more, so that he has consciously more and more. That is not it at all! Surely I do not mean to say that a man is not born of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, and that as so born he does not grow. Certainly he does; but that is another thing (grace admits in only one degree but understanding it deeper ever increases—NC). From the very beginning of growth this ought to be true of us.
Beloved, the blessedness we speak of is to be found in that which God has already given to us, if we are Christians—that which the Apostle sets forth in Colossians 2:9 and 10 (the key of the epistle): “In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are filled up in Him.” Now, if that is really so, you see your competence at once. God has given you place, your part, in Him already. And think, beloved, that in One in whom is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, in Him we are “filled up!” Faith has got to recognize this. Faith has got to make it all practical. Not to make the thing true—it is true—but we have to recognize it to find the proper truth of it.
Alas, we are all Marthas, apt to be busy with much serving. And the last thing which we naturally think of is to come to the Lord to find satisfaction in Him alone. You think, “If He is such a glorious Person, He must be served. No, if He is such a glorious Person, would He come down from heaven to earth to be served by us? Was it not more adequate faith in Mary, saying, as it were, “If He had wanted service, He would not ask for it from such poor, incompetent hands as ours.” “The less is blessed of the better” (Heb 7:7). It is not more blessed to receive, but “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” And are we trying to serve the Lord Jesus? Take care we are not trying to be “the better,” and to make Him “the less” (of course inadvertently so—NC). Are we trying to serve Him, when He had to come from heaven to serve us?
What is the secret, beloved ones, of all the dishonor done to Him (alas!) by His people? It is that they are not where Mary was—they are not in the place of real occupation with Himself. That is what the Lord wants. He has come all this weary way to attract our hearts to Himself. He wants us to receive out of His fullness—He want us simply to receive. Not to get us to say, after a little while, “I must be doing something now” (receive to do, not to do then receive—NC). He wants us to receive, receive and receive!
If it is only receiving from Him, every other responsibility will be met easily—not by effort, but met of necessity. This will come after you own soul is fully satisfied; for the vessel must be filled itself before it can properly flow over. It is not from a vessel that is partly full that you expect an overflow. You must sit at His feet until you are filled yourself—that is the first thing. And when filled yourself, don’t think that you require effort then. As surly as you are filled yourself, out of your inner being shall flow “rivers of living water.” How slow are we to receive in its full reality the grace that requires not, but gives—that delights to give—that only seeks to have objects for it; the grace that, simply as we receive it, we find not only fullness for ourselves, but that which makes our lives full also for others.
That “one thing” needful is occupation with Him—to sit at His feet and learn of Him. So then, if we want to serve Him, the only possible way is to receive from Him first until our hearts are so full that we cannot contain it any longer. The overflow is not measured by the capacity of the vessel, but by the power of the spring. Think of that! Think of our testimony in the world being the testimony of the divine fullness—not the measure of what we are, but the measure, so to speak, of what He is. The “one thing” needful for us is that our whole souls should be satisfied with Himself—and to be occupied with the Lord Jesus Christ is to be satisfied (In satisfaction there is absence of greed—NC).
- F W Grant
Excerpt from MJS devotional for August 10:
The legal Christian considers the law to be his best friend who will enable him to live righteously. But in reality the law, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, is his beloved enemy. The Spirit’s purpose is to bring the well-meaning believer down into defeat, wretched and ready to realize, “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom. 7:25). - MJS
“It is perhaps the most alarming symptom of decay to be seen amongst evangelical believers today, that so many have accepted (at any rate mentally) the fact that they cannot be justified before God except by the sacrifice for sin once made for all upon Calvary, proceed to build a new legal code by which to live, and seek to be sanctified by their own efforts and endeavors. – JCM