Staying Focused on Jesus in Times of Trouble

You are allowed to feel worried.  Life is complicated.  Trouble will come in this world.  Jesus clearly acknowledges this in the Gospels.  Anxiety and fear are normal emotions humans feel.  There is no shame in these feelings even for a devote follower of Jesus.

The question is what do you do when you feel fear?  Your decision here determines how you live in times of great challenges.  This is demonstrated in today’s passage involving two disciples of Jesus – Mary and Martha.

Martha chooses the human way.  She works, strives and tries to control things and completely misses out on a blessing.  Jesus says she is fearful and troubled by many things.

Mary chooses the needed things first.  She picks Jesus above all else, even her fear.  She sits at His feet and Jesus says this will not be taken from her.  Her Lord protects her in her devotion.

You will need to work in challenging times like this but the priority should be Jesus first.  He makes the worry melt away when you are in His presence.  It is your choice, though.

Join my two oldest kids, Faith and Tommy, our family, our church and me for worship followed by a devotion from Luke 10:38-42.  (There is a transcription of the message below as well).

God bless you!

Transcript

Hi, everyone, and welcome to Calvary Catonsville’s Midweek devotional. We welcome you and pray this is a blessing to you. Let’s pray:

Lord, thank you for this time together. Thank you for bringing us together virtually. We know that we are separated by distance but we are bound together through your spirit Lord in communion with one another, and communion with you and the Father through the Holy Spirit. We pray that you would bless us and pray that our worship will be pleasing to you. And we pray that we would leave our worries behind and just enjoy and fellowship with one another, and fellowship with you Lord, pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Welcome to the devotion. As we had talked about Hebrews chapter 10, where it says think of different ways to encourage each other. The word translated “think of” indicates that it’s consider, or try to think up, be creative in finding ways to encourage each other. So that’s what we’re trying to do, too.

So we’re going to be in Luke chapter 10. If you open your Bibles to Luke chapter 10.

When we starting in verse 38, where it says:

Now what happened is they went that entered a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary who also sat at Jesus’s feet and heard his word. 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. And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

As we grapple and adjust to the new normal of this altered life, it’s really easy to get discouraged. It’s really easy to get off track from where we’re supposed to be. I know I like routine. I like things how I think they will they go along smoothly.  I like what I’m used to.  Then God in His timing and His sovereignty allows things to be changed. Ajusting to that can be challenging.

My wife, Jen and I were both talking this week about how different this time is than anything we’ve ever experienced.  I guess the closest thing in my lifetime was 911. And as terrible as that was, it was immediate and it just happened. We knew basically the extent of what was going to happen with a couple of days.  Then it was just dealing with it.

Here you have something that is really hard to get a handle on. We don’t exactly what it is and how long it’s going to go on. It’s really easy to respond to that outside of Jesus’ direction. It feels like life is slipping through your fingers, that there is a storm coming in and We can’t really get a grasp on it.  So we can try buckling down and trying to in our own strength. Work it out, grab onto it, grasp and through our effort through our working, get control of things.

It’s an illusion, but it can be comforting to try to control things if we just work enough. If we get enough knowledge, surfing the internet, seeing the latest updates, if we get enough supplies, get enough toilet paper, if we get enough hand sanitizer, we can have control of this and fight off fear and anxiety.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the fear that comes along with it and just feel the anxiety. Fear is part of what makes us human and if we did not fear we will not be human. But Jesus helps us through that fear and it’s how we respond to the normal response, the human response of fear and anxiety and worry, that dictates how we’re going to go forward day by day.

We’ve studied through Matthew, and over and over again, we’ve seen that it’s not the outward actions that God is pleased with that he asked for. It’s the heart that he looks for first.  Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 913.

When he says,

but go and learn what this means I desire mercy and not sacrifice. But he’s not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

And then a Hosea 6:6 He says:

For I deserve mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burned offerings.

Whether the circumstances around us are good, whether they’re good according to our sight, or the circumstances around us are challenging according to our sight. God is looking for first our heart that is devoted to Him.  Our trust and faith in Him because of that heart is what changes things around us.

We see that in today’s passage, Luke 10, Mary and Martha, this might be a familiar passage for you. And Mary and Martha are mentioned quite frequently in the Gospels. They are friends of Jesus. They’re the two sisters of Lazarus. And you might be familiar with this passage. But I’d asked you in your familiarity not to lose sight of what Jesus is saying, because Mary and Martha are believers in Jesus.  They’re friends of Jesus.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus are considered some of the closest friends of Jesus. He stays with them frequently when he’s in Bethanyor near Jerusalem. So they are the ones who know him really well. They are disciples. So when Jesus is interacting with Mary and Martha, as disciples, guess who else he’s interacting with, by extension?

Us.  You and I.

He’s speaking to disciples, he’s speaking to people who know him. He’s speaking to those who know His goodness. And he’s teaching them. So we can learn from this just by looking at what happens.

We can also miss their humanity.  Mary and Martha are very human.  They’re dealing with a situation that’s very normal, dealing with Jesus as human. And when he teaches them, he’s teaching them as a regular person just like us as a regular person.

Could you imagine being in your house and someone saying, hey, guess what Jesus is showing up today? And he’s gonna bring Peter and James and John, and he’s gonna have lunch or dinner at your house. How would you respond to that?

I was thinking about this earlier and I almost had the desire to start vacuuming in my house. The desire to get things straight, the desire to be presentable for Jesus. But that’s not at all what he is looking for. We know that we don’t have to make ourselves presentable for Jesus. We don’t have to clean ourselves up for Jesus. He’s looking for those who are following him, those who trust him. But that temptation is so, so strong.

It’s easy to lose sight of what our role as a disciple is. The role of a follower is simply to listen to the master, and be taught by him, and then do what he says.

We see this in the very human Martha, who responds to Jesus coming over in verse 40. It says:

but Martha was distracted with much serving.

This may be a very distinctive, distinctly American response, but we tend to think that serving is good, Work hard is good. If we were to judge Mary and Martha, as church people and say, without Jesus’s response, and say which one’s better? Which one’s doing a great job as a Christian?

Martha, right?  She is the one working, she is working really hard. She is out there serving and doing her best and feeding everyone else.  Mary is just sitting there? Just sitting down relaxing and listening.

What’s your instinctive response? When you hear that? Who’s the one doing God’s will?

It seems like Martha.

And particularly if you’re that, that type a Christian, you hear, hear that and you say, yes, Martha. Martha is the one. Martha is working and she’s doing God’s will and she’s working hard and she’s the good one, and that Mary over there is wasting her time. We want to make it about us and not God.

But God says in the Bible says she’s distracted. She’s not where she supposed to be.

by serving. She’s taking what she’s supposed to be doing, listening to God, putting that aside, to listen to herself to work, to do effort to strive.

Mary, on the other hand, is sitting at Jesus’s feet first, and listening first.

She’s taking in what the master has to say first, before she does anything else. Now notice it does not say that Mary never works. It doesn’t say that she never serves. It doesn’t say that she’s not going to serve later. But first and foremost, she spends her time With Jesus at his feet, taking in the good thing.

We have a fundamental  framework here that can apply to any situation, because Mary and Martha have been put under stress. Now Jesus is not trying to stress anybody out.  Him coming to their house has created a situation where there’s pressure applied, and how one reacts to the pressure defines how we go through life as Christians. Martha starts working and working and working and working. And she’s going to control this situation. She’s going to fix it. She’s going to do what everyone says she’s supposed to do, according to her effort.

On the other hand, Mary just listens to Jesus. She’s a disciple of Jesus, one of His sheep, and she goes to the shepherd first and listens to him and gets filled up. At some point, the shepherds gonna say go do something. But not now. Not before she’s filled. Not before she’s given peace, not before she’s built up.

Martha’s got it upside down, right? And Mary just sits at his feet and learns.

And take it further. We’re given the reason why Martha makes the very human error.  Verse 41 Jesus Himself tells her

And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.

She’s worried and troubled about many things.

Her motivation is heart. Our motivation is worry, anxiety, fear.

It’s so easy to get worried. It’s so easy to let it dictate how you interact with Jesus and how you interact with a world. Particularly, I mean, we don’t have to be geniuses to take this and apply this to the current situation. There are so many reasons where we can turn and get worried and start running around trying to control things and get as much as we can or protect ourselves as much as we can.

The prudent sees trouble coming, and flees. We talked about last week how we’re not like those who are in darkness, we can understand that things may be precarious.

But we can’t let it dictate how we live our lives because we serve the King of kings and Lord of lords.

This just made me think of how we went to turn on the dryer in our house, not yesterday, the day before. And after working for how many years the dryer takes this particular time to break. We have a virus related emergency going on and we don’t have something to clean our clothing. After enjoying my Bible study this week and knowing how important trust in God is during this time, when confronted with something mechanical, this is my responsibility as the dad as husband that I couldn’t make work – I was worried.  I was stressed.  I took it apart and diagnose it. I couldn’t make it work. And I will, quote Bible verses tonight  today about not worrying. But I was worried. I was quite frankly freaking out. Because I was focusing on me.

I was being the Martha in my household at that particular moment. And trying to control and handle things in my strength.  “This has to be done. This has to be done.” I declared anxiously.   Don’t you understand? And I didn’t want stop to say Jesus help me, Jesus. guide me, Jesus, fix this. Jesus. What do you need from me? Because I was so focused on me and my worry I was a lot like Martha. I was worried and troubled by many things.

Jesus’ response about Mary as she’s chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.

What is Jesus promises to us? He promises those who come to Him peace.

In John chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus says,

Peace I leave with you my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

In Matthew chapter six, we have the words about worry:

Jesus says Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life. What you will eat? Or what you will drink, nor about your body? What will you put on? Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns sit your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not have more value than they?

Which are you by worrying could add one cubit to his stature?

Why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow, they neither toil nor spin. And I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now, if God so closed the grass of the field, which today is in tomorrow’s thrown in the oven, will not much more clothe you,

oh, you little faith.

Therefore, do not worry, saying what shall we eat? or What shall we drink or what shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, but Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things should be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about its own things sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Can I get an amen to that whole passage? Amen. There’s so much in that that that directly applies.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about its own things sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Second Timothy, chapter one,verse six says,

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.

These are the truths that have allowed Christians throughout history to thrive and celebrate and rejoice when the world around them has been filled with challenges and struggles.

Paul and Silas were in prison in Acts being beaten,possibly headed towards execution, and they’re singing praises the Lord so much so that everyone around them realizes what’s going on. Because they know that tomorrow’s trouble is Jesus’s problem. The world’s trouble is Jesus’ problem.  Even our material trouble – if you’re experiencing challenges with a job, or stock market or even just looking around at what’s going on.

That’s Jesus’s problem.  He is Lord of Lord and King of kings. He holds the entire universe together through his power.  He made everything, including you.

Do we trust him? In what He is saying?

Do we trust them in that we can’t control this from tomorrow, but He can. We can’t control what’s going on in the world, but He can. If we do, then we can rest in peace. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

How can he give us rest? How can we trust him?

First Peter, five, seven, I often quote the first part cast your cares on him. Because I just love it so much. Because the tense of the verb is continual saying cast keep on casting your cares on Jesus, because we keep taking it back. We throw our care at the cross, and then we’re like, no, I really like that care. I really like that concern. I feel like I’m out of control if I’m not worrying and we grab it back from Jesus. But the second part is he gives us the reason why we can do that.

Because he cares for us.

God who made us cares for us  and doesn’t leave us alone. He’s not too busy running the universe to care for us. The contrast is Martha. Mary says, “Okay, Jesus, I trust you. You were the most important thing first and foremost. I’m going to redeem my time, every moment of it to be with you, and then let you dictate what happens after that point.” Just the proximity of Jesus changes us.

Martha lets her fears and her burden change her.  Her fear dictates how she’s living her life.  Now, remember, her fear is not abnormal and fear is not bad in itself. But it’s just what she does with it. She takes it and then holds on to it and makes decisions based on it. Whereas Mary probably has the same fears of pain, same anxieties, the same troubles, but she takes it and goes to Jesus’s feet and just sits there and lets Jesus handle it.

It’s a difference between Naomi and Anna who we talked about last week.  Naomi turned to bitterness. Anna turned to faith in Jesus and wound up seeing and proclaiming the arrived the Messiah

It is the difference between the scoffers that Peter talks about who say where’s the promise of is coming the same. It’s been the same since the beginning. And Simeon, we talked about last week, who has been waiting, remember waiting for the constellation of Israel, and he gets to see it in joy despite hard times and despite challenges.  Because what happens is if we stay in the fear part, it changes how we look at life. And we stay in the trouble part, which changes how we look at life.

Mary is sitting at Jesus’s feet. She’s enjoying a Bible study, most likely the teaching of Jesus. Meanwhile, Martha is getting angry. He’s getting accusatory because the fear has twisted her into bitterness.

And it’s verse 40

she approached Him and said, Lord, do not care that my sister has left me to serve alone. Therefore tell her to help me.

It’s kind of funny, but anyone else been there of was just me?  Sean says “Yes. All right!”

She’s mad at Mary.  For sitting and doing what a disciple is supposed to do, listen to the master. And that makes her angry andnd that anger does what?  It causes her to turns on Jesus.

Lord, how dare you not tell her to help me?

Anger turns her entire viewpoint around. And she starts ordering Jesus around and questioning his judgment. When we take counsel of our fears, and let the fear and worry and trouble guide us, and then add in our work and struggle in grasping, and let that define our life as Christians, we will then wind up like Naomi – “call me Mara – bitterness as the Lord has dealt harshly with me.” We end up like Martha and start accusing everyone around us and questioning God’s goodness. “God, are you really taking care of me? Because this situation on in front of me is making me worried.”

We wind up doubting and scoffing like the coffers and say, “Is He really in charge? Is he really coming back?”

But we also have to clear antidote to it.  Mary is sitting at his feet. And there’s no

recorded words from her saying, Lord, I don’t trust you sitting at your feet. Lord, I’m unhappy sitting at your feet.  She’s exactly where she is supposed to be. And Jesus even says, it will not be taken away from her. This blessing, this joy, this peace

Come to me and I will give you peace.

We’re gonna be talking about Hebrews chapter 12. Next week, next week’s devotion. But it’s worthwhile to say in advance.

If you look at Hebrews chapter 12, it talks about the great cloud of witnesses that we have that allow us to go forward in faith. Seeing as we have a great cloud of witnesses, who are the great cloud of witnesses. If you go back to Hebrews, chapter 11, you have all the great men and women of faith. And if you look at it, those men and women of faith had great challenges and great fears, great fear inducing situations. They had tough decisions like we mentioned last week, Moses turned away from being Pharaoh, the richest most powerful nation in the world. He turned away from that, to be a shepherd in the backside of the desert, to be poor, to be the face down the new Pharaoh with no army, no weapons, but God behind him.

He is esteemed that much more than anything else. We can know that this is the way to go. Because we have all those witnesses that went through it and then got to see Jesus and face to face. They got to see the constellation of Israel.

Now more than ever, it will seem like effort is required and will seem like work is required.  The temptation to grasp things and work things and protect ourselves will become more and more.  The temptation to run about and be like Martha will pull at us. And the normal temptation to fear and let that fear drive us will seem like a part of the new normal. Just turn on the news and there’s something that just makes us want to run into my basement.

But look what that gets Martha.

She’s running around, she’s angry. She’s fearful. She’s much troubled, and she misses out on sitting at Jesus’s feet in peace and safety.  Mary likely went through all the same temptations but chose to Jesus’s feet and Jesus says, I will protect you there.  I won’t take that away from you. I love you, I care for you.

Cast your cares on me, Mary. Why? Because I care for you.

Proximity to Jesus is what changes a potentially scary situation into potentially glorious.

We know that He is working, we know that He is doing his thing to bring us to glory and to bring more people to that marriage supper of the Lamb.

In order for us to enjoy it and rejoice like Paul and Silas in a scary, challenging circumstance, we just need to start with time with ith Jesus, cling to him like never before.  Look to Him, grasp Him, work with Him. Bible study prayer, meditation, fasting.

If you’re fearful, go to the shepherd. He’s the one that comes down the sheep. If you need encouragement, goes a shepherd, go to the other sheep. Reach out and be encouraged.

Be calmed.

You know, we can’t be like the literal sheep. When there is something scary with sheep, kind of like little kids. What do they all do? They run to mom and dad, the sheep run to each other and just gather together with a shepherd around the shepherd’s voice.

Physically, that’s a bad idea right now.  But we can do that virtually. We can do that through prayer. We can do that through email through telephone calls. Just keep united with one another. So that we can all be at Jesus’s feet, and learning and being comforted and being calmed and having that fear drip away – all at the same time, all in concert with one another, all in communion with Him, Jesus, one another, the Father and through the Holy Spirit.

So I would encourage you to do that too. Today let’s pray.

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