Our Window of Opportunity
The start of a year can be a time in which we review our responsibilities for the coming year. We have a window of opportunity in which to decide which roles to keep or take on in our church, ministry, or other activities outside of our personal and family life.
Did you know that these are decisions that have eternal consequences?
The Day Martha Lost The Joy Of Serving Jesus
Martha was a good woman who, along with her sister Mary, became a disciple of Jesus. Jesus valued their hospitality and their home became a place of refreshing that He made use of as He travelled in and out of Jerusalem (Luke 10:38, John 12:1-2).
One day, Martha received Jesus into her home for dinner. But she became overloaded with her work preparing for the meal. To make matters worse, her sister Mary absconded from her kitchen duties and sat down to listen to Jesus’ teaching, leaving her to labour alone.
Finally, the stress became too much for Martha to bear. She marched into the room where Jesus was speaking and ordered Him to tell Mary to help her.
Far from the response Martha was looking for, Jesus took the opportunity to point out that she, not Mary, was in the wrong. Her attitude of care and worry over all the details of serving was unnecessary, and Mary had made the better, lasting choice.
Many of us can identify with Martha. I can! Martha had lost the joy of serving Jesus and was hindered from spending quality time with Him.
What were some of the reasons Martha got into this stressful place, and we do today? Here are some potential traps we need to avoid as we make decisions regarding our life and ministry in 2011.
4 Traps To Avoid in our Service for God
Trap #1: Maintaining High Standards
Perhaps Martha was preparing a 4 star meal, when Jesus and His friends would have been happy with much simpler fare. But Martha had a certain standard of hospitality in mind that she wanted to keep up. Maybe she had a reputation for quality hospitality that she wanted to live up to. That standard became a trap.
Prayerfully ask, ‘Are there any areas in my life or ministry that I am intent on maintaining a high standard could cause me stress? What is my motivation for this?
Ask, ‘What is the opportunity cost of meeting this high standard?’ What will I neglect by insisting that I meet my desired criteria? If the answer is, time to enjoy God, enjoy life, or enjoy your family, you may need to reduce your expectations or release the role.
Trap #2: Filling Gaps
Like Martha did, we can be tempted to fill any gaps left by other people. This is especially true when we have leadership responsibility. We want to provide a certain level of service and feel the ministry will fall over if we don’t step in.
Sometimes, others may place well-intentioned emotional pressure on us to fill a gap. If this is the case, stop! Step back and prayerfully ask yourself, family members and God if this is the right course for you to take.
Ask yourself, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen?’ Is this gap something I can trust God with, or am I trusting in my own efforts?
There may be other team members who will step into the void when it appears. They may not have the courage to do so until they see that their contribution is needed.
Even if this doesn’t happen, isn’t God’s grace big enough to make up the difference?
Realise that the worst thing that can REALLY happen is that you is that you fill the ministry gap and become stretched so thin you dry up, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Eventually the very thing you are working to keep will be lost to you.
Trap #3: Prioritising Service Above Relationship
Martha was so busy serving her guests that she didn’t take time to be with her guests. She had become so stressed that the most important part of hospitality, spending time WITH her Guest, was neglected.
Martha was conforming to a misguided value that serving Jesus by taking physical action is the most important thing a Christian can do.
Sometimes, like Martha, we embrace the same belief. This can arise out of urgency to meet a genuine need.
The dire circumstance of unreached people groups and lost people in our community heading towards a Christ-less eternity can become a driving force. For many years, my husband and I were involved in world missions. But many times we were in danger of neglecting personal and family issues as well as our personal relationship with Jesus.
More than once I have become so engaged in meeting needs until I had nothing left to give. I call this, ‘Christian service burnout.’
The presupposition is that our highest act of service to God is to offer all of our gifts, time and energy to the cause of Christ.
But is that really what Jesus wants?
Trap #4: Valuing Other People’s Opinions Above Our Devotional Life
Another trap we can fall into is to give way to the pressure of other people’s opinions or values. It is important to note that Mary did not allow Martha’s opinion to sway her from spending time with Jesus.
Be a Non-Conformist Like Mary
It takes courage not to conform to the expectations of others in our world—especially the opinions of other Christians! But we must have that courage if we will have Mary’s reward.
Watch out when your intention to release or bring focus to your ministry is resisted. It is understandable that you will be missed, but you are not irreplaceable.
As Christians, and prophetic people, the greatest investment we can make into our relationship with God, our spiritual gifts and ministries, is the personal time we spend with Jesus—our devotional life.
As you plan for this new year, will you value your relationship with Jesus above service?
That is the most important decision you can make as the year begins.
© Helen Calder 2009, 2011 Enliven Publishing
Now on team with David McCracken Ministries