I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I had just started ministry in Denham Springs, LA and needed to talk to this guy asap about something important. The conversation I needed to have with him was the only thing on my mind at the time. So I dialed the phone. It rang… and rang… and rang… and finally, an answer. It’s been so long ago, I can’t remember what it was that I needed to tell him, but I remember the phone call with clarity…
ring… ring… ring…
Me: “Hey, it’s Tony. I was wonde…”
Voice: (interrupting, and a little more persistent) “Hello?”
Me: (louder this time) “Hey, ______… it’s Tony! Can you hear me?”
Me: (about to hang up and try again)
Voice: “Hey, I can’t hear you, but, uh… just leave a message after the beep.” (“beep” sound)
I had been duped. I felt like such an idiot. I had been talking to an answering machine the whole time. He got me good. Of course, as gullible as I am, I’ve had the privilege of being fooled by the same exact ploy probably a good thirty or forty times since then as well. Has that ever happened to you? How embarrassing.
Sometimes we just get so caught up in what we “have to get done” that we are totally oblivious to anything else happening around us. We do this with God all the time. Heaven forbid He try to speak some kind of spiritual truth into our lives while we’re reading a book, washing clothes, or working. It’s like we just say, “Hello?… Hello?… Can’t hear ya – not now God, I’m busy. Leave a message at the beep.” How many spiritual discussions with the King of kings and Lord of lords have I missed this week because I was too preoccupied with my own business?
Martha missed out one day. She was a worker. I would imagine that if it had been around in the first century AD, she would have been diagnosed with OCD. She was a work-a-holic. Jesus came to her house for a visit. She liked to entertain people, so she had invited him in with her and her sister Mary.
Martha, being the good hostess, was making sure everything was just right. I mean, after all, Jesus was here. There were foods to be cooked, dishes to clean, clothes to wash, neighbors to appease, feet to be washed, kids to entertain, bills to pay, and the list goes on. And Mary, her sister, just sat down and listened to Jesus talk. THE NERVE! How could Mary just sit there and relax while Martha did all the work?!
I grew up with four older brothers. When we were old enough, we each had our chores to do. They would probably argue that they had more chores than I did, but actual history gets shaky when siblings’ versions are involved. Nevertheless, we each had to work to some extent. I remember thinking like Martha: “He’s not working, why do I have to work?” “How come he gets the easy job and I have to do this?” “His job only takes ten minutes, while mine takes twenty.” Yep, I remember conveniently getting sick on chore days… and running to be the first one to answer the phone or door so I could get out of work for a little while. (Mom, if you’re reading this, consider it “true confession” time.)
And then came the bickering. Yes, even among a pastor’s children: “Mom, Joey’s not vacuuming!” “Dad, Jimmy didn’t fold my clothes right!” “Mom, tell Adam to stop telling me how to do my job!” “Dad, you don’t care when Terry’s not working, but when I’m not working, I get in trouble!”
Martha had a rotten attitude: “Lord, don’t you care that I’m working hard and my sister, Mary, is not doing anything? Tell her to help me out a little!” Every time I read this verse (Luke 10:40), I think… how immature?! How old is this woman?! Is she seriously asking Jesus to “tell her sister” to do some work around the house? Wow.
Jesus tells Martha that she is worried about many things. He says, “Martha, you’ve got a lot going on. But think about what is most important. Think about what is necessary.” Jesus was in her house, imparting priceless spiritual truth. He was pouring into their lives. He was investing eternal wisdom into all who would listen. But Martha was saying, “Lord, I’m busy right now… leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”
I know, right?! How silly of Martha! Well, you can go ahead and say, “How silly of Tony!” too, because I am often in that same boat. I am a task-oriented individual. I like to have rules, and to follow them. I like to have my list of things to get done, and to know the time frame in which they will be accomplished. But what if God wants to do something unscheduled? What if He wants to show up when I’m busy with something else? What if He wants to pour into me when it’s not on my calendar?
I’ve got a beautiful wife to love on. Two wonderful kiddos to take care of. A church family to serve. And so on and so forth. Our schedules can fill up so quickly that we just don’t have time for the Lord. I think this story in scripture gives us two important truths about hearing from God…
1. Invite Him in. Schedule time with the Lord, and block out all other distractions. Even if other things on your list haven’t been taken care of, give Him the time you’ve allotted for Him. Do it daily. Do it often. And guard that time sincerely.
2. When you’re busy with other things, be sensitive to His voice. Many things are important. But hearing from the Lord is necessary. When His call doesn’t fit your schedule, and when it comes at an inconvenient time, don’t send Him to voicemail. Take the call.
Grace and Peace,