Have you ever written a Dear John letter? I can’t say that I ever have, but I have heard of them. You know—the kind of letter where you tell your boyfriend, “Adios, Amigo! Buh-bye! Hasta la vista, baby!” These days, I suppose, it would be a Dear John e-mail or, if you’re really hard-hearted, a Dear John tweet.
Well, I wrote my first Dear John letter this week—but it’s not what you may be thinking! Actually, my pastor asked me to write it! He is beginning a new series of messages from the book of I John and asked me to write a “Dear John” letter as an introduction to each of his messages—a letter that might be written by a typical person in the pew in these contemporary days to the apostle John. Each letter is from the perspective of imaginary Christians from different demographics. Pastor will ask someone who fits the demographic that week to read the letter as if it was their own words as the introduction to his message. This week’s letter was supposed to be from an active church mom who feels like she’s just going through the motions of her faith and feels like something is missing in her spiritual life. Well, here—I’ll let you read it for yourself:
Well, this has been a crazy week—as usual! I can’t believe here it is Sunday again. The days fly by so quickly and I wonder when I finally fall into bed at night if I’ve really accomplished anything. My list of things to do seems never-ending! Between my husband, the kids and all their activities, the house, my job and church—well, sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels trying to get it all done.
Church. Hmm, I’m busy in my church, singing in the choir, teaching kids and helping wherever I can. I’m there every time the doors are open. I mean, church has just been a part of my life since I was a little girl and asked Jesus into my heart way back then. But, John, lately I feel like I am just going through the motions in my faith, as well. Church sometimes feels to me like just another thing on my list of activities, just another place to socialize, just another responsibility. Remember the old chorus “There is Joy in Serving Jesus”? Where is that joy? And where is the joy of worship? Why isn’t it more satisfying? Other Christians I know seem to be doing just fine, but I feel a little—empty sometimes.
And it’s not just at church, either. I hate to admit this, but even at home my personal Bible-reading and prayer is just hit or miss most of the time. I used to be excited about the things of the Lord. What’s happened? Something is missing in my spiritual life.
John, it’s hard to say this, but I’m even beginning to wonder if I really am a Christian…
I don’t know exactly what our pastor will preach today, but I can certainly feel for poor Marissa—can’t you? We probably have all been there to some extent or another in our spiritual lives. That feeling that we’ve become so busy in the matters of life that the things of the Lord kind of get shoved to the back burner. Oh, maybe we’re involved in church but there is a difference between being busy in church activities and responsibilities and being focused on our relationship with the Lord and having a healthy spiritual life.
Pastor is preaching from I John today, but I want to look at an old familiar passage we find in the book of Luke. Verses 38 – 42 recount the story of Mary and Martha:
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha, especially since I have been on the serving end of hospitality many, many times throughout my adult life. I mean, somebody had to feed all those men, right? It’s not like they could simply call out for pizza delivery when thirteen men suddenly dropped in on them! It was a huge task to whip up a meal from scratch, and I am sure Martha wanted to serve her best to the Lord. Of course she needed help. Of course she felt stressed and harried. I know how I would feel in a situation like that!
It wasn’t that Martha was grumbling about having company suddenly thrust upon her, or that she was being inhospitable. Verse 38 says that Martha welcomed Jesus—and his disciples—into her home. I am sure she felt honored to have Him there. She loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. But it was a big, stressful job—and there sat her sister, not helping at all. I would be a little—no, a lot—peeved, too!
We often hear it said that Jesus rebuked Martha. I don’t see it that way. I think Jesus was sympathetic to her. He knew how big the job was to prepare a meal for all those men. He knew that she wanted to do her best for Him. I’m sure He knew that she loved him and her hospitality was an extension of that love. I can just hear his voice when He acknowledged, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” It was a voice of sympathy and love for her, not a harsh retort of “Get over it, woman!”
But Jesus had to speak the truth, as well. He was appreciative of the meal she was preparing and the love with which it was offered. The truth was, however, that there are some things of vast more importance than earthly food; things that say “I love you, Lord!” far better than busyness and material giving. There are things that rob us of the joy in serving Jesus and giving to Him. Jesus was not extolling or praising Mary above Martha. He was simply saying that Mary had made a better choice in sitting at His feet—a choice that had eternal value. Earthly food could have waited. Spiritual food, the Bread of Life—He, Himself—was the better choice. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Hunger pangs will come again very quickly, but He is the one who satisfies eternally.
We get so busy in this earthly life serving the Lord that, like Martha, sometimes we just neglect to sit at His feet. We may be totally involved in serving in our church or busy in some other ministry and we equate that with having a right relationship with Him. We minister to our families, we give to others, we run ourselves ragged sometimes and we lose the joy and fulfillment there is in simply walking with Him. We forget to simply worship. We do not sit at the feet of the Master to learn and be filled with Him. We’re too busy.
No wonder we sometimes feel as though we are just going through the motions and our spiritual life is not as satisfying and joyful as it once was. Take time to sit at Jesus’ feet—putting Him and your relationship with Him above everything else. Serving is good and necessary, but it should not come before time spent with Him in His Word and in prayer and worship. When we are too busy for that, we are too busy.
God wants our attention. He cares more about our hearts’ devotion than the busy work of our hands. He does not want us to get so busy for Him that we are too busy for Him. Martha was a good woman. She simply got her priorities mixed up. Let’s be careful not to do the same. Let us put Jesus and our relationship with Him first. Everything that is important will fall into place then afterwards.