What God Wants Most
Suppose you have to choose between two people who want to go to dinner with you. The first is very warm and takes a genuine interest in others. He listens attentively and is fun to be with. Those who develop a friendship with him want it to last a lifetime.
In contrast, the second person is aloof and demanding. He keeps most of his friends (if you could call them that) at a distance. The only time he calls is when he wants something from you. He’s pretty unpredictable emotionally, and you never quite know where you stand with him. He wields considerable influence, but if it weren’t for his power he probably wouldn’t have any friends at all.
Who would you rather have dinner with?
Who is God like in your mind – the first person or the second? A way that we can get to that is defining our relationship with Him – to answer this question, “What does God want from us?”
Could each of you take a minute and write in the space provided in your bulletin a list of the things that God desires from us? Don’t copy! This is your own personal list – based on how you think of your relationship with God.
Field several answers …
Find a partner near you and share with them what you feel is the thing that God wants most from you.
Unfortunately, many people have a distorted view of God’s character. To them, he’s much like the second person – distant and uncaring. Although he is powerful, he can’t be counted on. The only real benefit in knowing him comes from occasional answers to prayer. No wonder people have a hard time relating to him!
38 “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’” (Luke 10:38-40)
Have you ever been there - Feeling like you have been putting forth all of the effort, while those around you have been taking it easy? How did everything get dump on me? Why don’t they get their lazy rear-ends in gear and take their responsibility for service as seriously as the 20% of us that are doing 80% of the work?
Martha complex – the big dinner
41 “’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:41-42)
What is going on here? Big dinner, lots of preparations.
The point here is not that Martha’s activities are bad. The choice Jesus discusses with Martha is between something that is good and something that is better. Life is full of tough choices, and Jesus is addressing the relative merit of good activities here. For conscientious people such choices are the most difficult and anxiety-filled.
Jesus answer has a double meaning.
1) a bologna sandwich will do …
2) all of your preparations are getting in the way of us spending time together.
“At its core, Christianity is Christ. Christians embrace a Person, not merely a philosophy. It is not knowing about his teaching so much as it is knowing him. The greatest misunderstanding about Christianity today, even in the church, is the perception that God’s bottom-line requirements are deeds to be done and beliefs to be believed. The Christ who spoke is bypassed for the things he spoke; the Guide is left behind for the guidance he gave; the Commander is ignored in the carrying out of commands.”
We all can get caught up in the fanatic pace of doing things for God. We draw out our spiritual to-do list, and we manage our punch-list of things that we have to do for God. We get so busy doing that we forget the one that we are doing it for.
We treat God like the date that gets forgotten in the corner, as the other circulates the room joining in with the fun, being the center of the crowd, forgetting the one he came with.
Mary and Martha both love Jesus. On this occasion they were both serving him. But Martha thought Mary’s style of serving was inferior to hers. She didn’t realize that in her desire to serve, she was actually neglecting her guest. Are you so busy doing things for Jesus that you’re not spending any time with him?
Jesus did not blame Martha for being concerned about household chores. In the section just before this he instructs the young man to get busy and do something. Here he is only asking her to set priorities. It is possible for service to Christ to degenerate into mere busyness that is totally devoid of devotion to God?
What is the one thing God desires most? Why does it appear that Mary gets off easy when there is so much work to do?
Jesus commends her for taking time out to be with him. In a sense she is preparing the “right meal”. What she has done by sitting at Jesus’ feet will remain with her. This meal will last.
Let’s place this event in Bethany within Luke’s context in Scripture:
“The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)
The Message has a great rendering of this passage that begins to give us a clear picture of the love that God desires:
“He said, ‘That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.’”
The one thing is an intimate, heart-to-heart relationship, a close and growing friendship with God. This is what God craves. This is what we crave. God created every person to yearn for this intimate relationship with him. Nothing else will do.
On Jesus last night with the disciples, see how he qualifies his relationship with them.
“I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. You are now my friends … I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:12-15)
Become God’s friend and the rest will follow. The Scripture provides many other directions, laws, and teachings. They’re all good. But without an intimate relationship with Christ, we lose – for eternity.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (John 3:16, Message)
Flow of Scripture as intimacy with God
Ø Establishment of the covenant
Ø Jesus pitching his tent among us
Ø Holy Spirit indwelling us
“I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, the home of god is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evil are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
With Martha, Jesus clarifies for us that our response to his teachings are very important, but nothing is more important than our relationship with him. The other things that make demands on us – the service, championing justice, cultivating righteous motives and moral behavior, and even acknowledging Jesus – are good endeavors. But the relationship comes first. The other stuff follows and flows out of the relationship.
Like Martha, we can do a good job of performing, but we’ll crash and burn without taking care of – first and foremost a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus.
Jesus’ response to Martha has a faint echo of His message to the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation.
“’I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who way they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.’” (Revelation 2:2-5)
Closing scene of The Raiders of the Lost Ark …
God craves our friendship, our closeness, our intimacy with him. This relationship is the first-and-always-foremost thing he wants.
Ages ago, God had everything. Then he created us people – not because he needed some more creatures. But because he sought companionship. Kin, Friends. Relationship. Love.
God simply craves our love, more than anything else.