How many times have I started a day of ministry with a brief season of prayer ended with the laconic plea "Lord, help me today to do Your will in Your will in Your way!" then rushed off to attack my mental list of "must do" items with a resolution to spend more time with the Lord "later"? I fear I am by nature more of a Martha than a Mary. My natural workaholic temperament gets great satisfaction from seeing jobs finished, and rails against the part of me that says, "Stop! It's time to sit and learn at the feet of Jesus!"
Early in my ministry I was afraid to be seen sitting down without an open book in hand, for fear that someone would think I was loafing. Then one day I discovered that Abraham, the friend of God, had his closest encounter with the Lord one day while he was sitting in the shade. The Bible doesn't say whether Abraham was napping or meditating, but when he looked up he saw three men, one of whom was the Lord Himself. (See Genesis 18.)
Immediately he jumped up and invited the men to stay, then ran to put Sarah and his servants to work getting a sumptuous meal ready. Abraham must have gone back and conversed with the Lord for as long as it took his household staff to prepare a meal from a whole calf and eighty-four cups of flour. Sarah kept herself busy in the kitchen, and it is here that this story has a fascinating parallel not only with the Martha-Mary story of Luke 10 but also with one of Revelation's most important prophecies about the end of time.
Sarah has much in common with Martha in that both of them got stuck working in the kitchen to serve the Lord while the other chief character in each story had time to sit and listen to the Lord. But Sarah's story is especially interesting because it goes on to show the results of her busyness for the Lord. Later that afternoon when God made the most wonderful promise of miraculous providence that Sarah could ever hope to hear, she laughed it off!
Was her faith in God's ability to provide her with a son weaker than Abraham's because she had spent her time working for the Lord instead of listening to Him? If it had been socially acceptable for her to leave the pots and pans and join the male conversation, might her faith in God have been stronger?
There is an important lesson for me here, because it comes much more naturally to me to busy myself "serving the Lord" than to take time to sit and listen for His instructions and promises to provide.
And it is here that I see an important parallel to Revelation 13. That chapter predicts that at the end of time, when everyone has to decide whether or not to accept the mark of the beast, the two-horned beast's main coercive thrust will be to take away the buying and selling rights of those who reject the mark (verse 17). In other words, those who refuse the mark will have to trust solely in God to provide their earthly needs when the beast's decree is enforced.
The real danger I perceive in getting "trapped in the kitchen" with Martha and Sarah, doing good works for the Lord, is not that I will see the works as meritorious, but rather that I will allow working for God to become more important than cultivating a trusting relationship with Him.
The contrast between the saved and the lost in Revelation 13 and 14 is drawn between those who follow the Lamb and receive God's imprint upon their minds (chap. 14:4, 1) and those who bow to a man-made image and receive the beast's imprint upon the mind or hand (chap. 13:15-17.) (That the beast's number typifies the incompleteness of man's works is a related fact that space does not permit my delving into here.)
The challenge I see here for myself is the challenge of maintaining my walk with the Lamb, when by nature I get such satisfaction from being out in the kitchen with Martha and Sarah. Certainly busyness and worship are both important, but they must be kept in proper balance.
I was spiritually blessed by the part I had in preparing this issue with its emphasis on the pastor's devotional life. My own devotional life was strengthened as I read and reread the articles, and I hope yours will be too.--K.R.W.