Charles Stanley - Fellowship With Jesus
What would you consider the greatest need in the life of a believer? Well, somebody might say, "Well, certainly, to pray would be the greatest need". Or someone might say, "Surely, to read the Word of God would be the greatest need". Or, to serve the Lord in some fashion. Or to exercise your spiritual gift. Surely, to worship would be the most important thing of all. Well, all of those answers are good answers. But I think the Bible is really rather clear about what is the most important, the greatest thing that you and I could do in the Christian life as far as our relationship with God is concerned.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to a passage of scripture. And usually, I will give you the title of a message first and then the text. But today I want to give you the text first and let you tell me what you think is indeed the greatest need in the life of a believer as a result of reading this passage of scripture. So, I want you to turn, if you will, to Luke chapter ten. Luke chapter ten and beginning in verse thirty-eight, we'll read through the forty-second verse. Luke chapter ten, verse thirty-eight through forty-two. This is one of those incidences in the life of Jesus that is so full of rich truth it is helpful to us.
The scripture says, "Now as they were traveling along," that is, Jesus and His apostles, "He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one: for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'"
Now for a little background. Jesus and His disciples are on their way, probably to Jerusalem, because often times He would go through Bethany to Jerusalem. And so He decided to stop in at the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus who were friends of His. And the Bible says that not only were they friends of His, but the Bible says very clearly that He loved them. And more than likely this was a place that He could find rest and relaxation and fellowship and intimacy with these people whom He loved very dearly. And so, on this particular occasion when He stops in they're going to serve Him a meal. And He has come, more than likely, for fellowship as well as for the meal.
Now, when we think about fellowship, we think about often times how we relate to each other. Or, maybe particular people that you and I can fellowship with. And, all of us have those people that we can fellowship with. And so, when we think about that, we think about Jesus even though He was human, and, though He was divine, He also was human enough to desire and to need fellowship with other people. So, in the light of this passage of scripture and what's happening here, I want us to see what God would have to say to us about the most important thing in the believer's life. Because the most important activity in the life of the believer is our fellowship with Jesus Christ. Nothing is as important as that. Nothing even compares with that. And here's a good example of an incident in which I believe Jesus makes that very clear.
And so, in looking in this passage of scripture, what I want us to see first of all here is this. And that is, that every single believer should have a strong desire to fellowship with our Lord. It is the most important activity in the life of the believer. However, you choose to do it. Whether it is sitting quietly and saying nothing and just listening to God. Sitting quietly with your Bible in your hand, reading and talking to Him and praying and listening to Him. Whatever your means of doing so. There is something about spending time alone with Him for which there is absolutely no substitute whatsoever.
Now, so everyone should have a strong desire. Every believer should have a strong desire to fellowship with Him. But, if that's the case, here's what you'll discover. Something in this passage that is so clear and that's this. If you and I choose to fellowship with Him, we may have to leave some things in life undone. Now, I think this passage is a good example of that. And I want you to notice what's happening here. Because this is a choice that Mary, the younger sister in this family, made. And if you'll notice the forty-second verse of this tenth chapter of Luke now says, Jesus talking to Martha said, "'But only a few things are necessary, really only one: for Mary has chosen the good part.'"
And what I want you to see here is, is that Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. This was a choice she made. She didn't have to do it, but she made the choice. She made a choice to sit at Jesus's feet. Now, what I want you to notice here also is the fact that as she sits at Jesus's feet, she's doing three things that I'm gonna ask you to give me back as soon as I give them to you, so listen very carefully. She was doing three things sitting at His feet. She was listening, she was learning, and she was loving. What was she doing? You get an A. Listening, learning, and loving. That's exactly right. All three of them are important. She was listening, she was learning, and she was loving. And when you and I spend time with Him, we ought to be doing the same thing. We ought to be listening. We ought to be learning. And we ought to be loving Him for who He is. That God would condescend to take time, to spend time with you and me individually and personally in our life.
Now, it's interesting here when you look at the life of Mary, here's what you'll find. The three instances in the scripture where she's mentioned, she is doing the same thing every time. Where was she seated? At His feet. Now, she was seated at Jesus's feet. Well, if you turn to John chapter eleven. I asked you to turn down a few pages there. Look at that, if you will. In the eleventh chapter of John. Here, this is the account of the death of her brother, Lazarus. And here's what you'll find Mary doing. Martha comes out to meet Him when Jesus comes after Lazarus is dead. And he's already been buried and they're concerned, "If You'd have come before, He wouldn't have died".
And so, look in the thirty-second verse. At first Mary stays inside. Then she comes out to meet Jesus and verse thirty-two says, "Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'" So, the first instance she is there during the serving of the meal, or before the serving in the tenth chapter of Luke. She's at His feet just fellowshipping and listening and loving and learning from Him. Here when her brother dies she's at His feet crying out to Him. Turn on over now, if you will, to the twelfth chapter. And in the twelfth chapter, I want us to read two or three verses here because I want you to see what's happening.
Jesus is on His way now. Last time He's coming through Bethany. He's on His way from Bethany to Jerusalem to the Cross to be crucified. How very important that instance was in the life of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And chapter twelve verse one says, "Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there; and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him". Look where Mary is. "Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume".
Each time we see Mary, where is she? Seated at the feet of Jesus. Listening, learning, and loving Him. At the feet of the Lord Jesus, asking Him a question about her brother's death, why He had not come before. And then the last time, Lazarus is raised from the dead. There he sits beside Jesus and what is she doing? She's so full of love and admiration and joy over the Lord Jesus Christ that she's poured the most expensive perfume they have. And what is she doing? She didn't get a towel. She took her own hair and wiped His feet. There's something about Mary. She understood the importance of spending time fellowshipping, loving, learning, and listening to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, when you and I do that, we're gonna have to leave some things undone. I don't believe anybody will be able to spend the time that is necessary in order to be what God wants us to be, to be the persons He wants us to be, to accomplish the things in life He wants us to accomplish. We are not gonna be able to do it and do it well and do it successfully with any long-lasting consequence unless we spend time with Him. Now watch this. Listen. That is, I simply say this. The degree to which we are successful at whatever God calls us to do will be determined to a great degree by the time we spend alone with Him. Because what happens? That's where we get our focus. And when our focus gets off of Him, things happen to us that we'll see in this passage.
That helps us to keep ourselves anchored to Him, focused on Him. It enables us to become the persons God wants us to be and to do the things He wants us to do. And to the same degree to which we, listen, to the same degree to which we diminish in our time with Him, so we will diminish in our success at whatever we do in life. Whether it is being a mother, whether it is being a father, husband, wife. In your business or ministry, whatever it may be. It is a time that we spend with Him that makes all the difference in the world. And so, here's what we find. We find that Mary, knowing that Jesus was coming, she had been in the kitchen with her sister.
And you say, "Well, now wait a minute. It doesn't seem very fair that Mary's out here at the feet of Jesus and Martha's in there doing all the work". Well, I believe it's pretty evident in looking at the life of Jesus, that He had already sent word ahead that He would be there and that He would bring His disciples with Him. Now, I believe that for two or three reasons, one of which is not in the scripture and that's this. Can you imagine Jesus being thoughtful and kind as He was and considerate, that He'd ever knock on the door and say, "Well, hello, Mary and Martha and Lazarus. I'm here with all my twelve disciples for lunch, for dinner". No. I can't imagine Him saying that because that would have been very unfair to Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It would've caught them off guard.
Now, go back if you will to Luke chapter nine. And I'll give you a good reason for believing that. Because the ninth chapter of Luke says, "Jesus now on His way to Jerusalem," and it came about in verse fifty-one, "And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him". So, Jesus was always thoughtful and very careful. And you'll recall, of course, this without having to look to the twenty-second chapter of Luke what's happening. And that is you'll recall that He sent some of His disciples on to prepare a place in the Upper Room for them to have the Passover Supper.
And so, Jesus was the kind of thoughtful man who certainly would not have just shown up on their doorstep to say, hello, I'm here for dinner. And that would not be the way He operated. And so He certainly must have told them He was coming. They were preparing the meal. And more than likely the meal had been prepared and before the serving time came because, look at what Martha says. The scripture says that Martha in verse forty, "was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Jesus, and said to Him, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?'" Now, more than likely, the meal was prepared. They haven't started serving yet. And so, when the meal was finished, well, Mary just went in there and sat down at the feet of Jesus because that's what her desire was. She felt the need to do so.
And I want to show you in a few moments why that was so very important to Jesus as well as to Mary. And so, she left the serving alone. Now, when you look at that passage you say, "Well, that doesn't seem to be fair". Yes, it was and I'll show you why in a moment. But, let's think about this for a moment. And that is, any mother, any woman who has children, or even if she doesn't. You know as well as I do that it doesn't make any difference how early you get up or how late you go to bed, there's still something to be done, right? There's always something that you could do. There's always plenty to be done. It's never finished in a home. There's always things to be done.
Likewise, in business, it makes no difference what your task may be. There's always something left to be left to be done. There's more of this and more of that and something here and something there. And the person who really wants to get ahead in life and do their best, and, and does not just want to do what is expected of them only, there's always more to be done. Any student, for example, makes no difference if you, if you try at least half-way decently, there's always studies to be done. There's always papers to be written. There's always tests that are coming and there's always activities to be involved in on the campus.
And so there's always work to be done. Well, what about these people who are retired. You say, "Well, they have plenty of time to spend time with the Lord". Well, you'd think so. But every retired person I've ever met said, "I'm busier now than I've ever been in my life". I don't quite understand that, but, I guess what's happened is now they feel free to do a lot of things they want to do. And so they're so involved in all the things they want to be involved in that their time is all taken up. And so that's the way it is. Any pastor, for example, knows it doesn't make any difference if you had forty hours in every day, there's still more to be done.
As I tell people, Sunday for me comes every three days. That's how fast it comes. About every three days. And you'll never be able to finish doing all that needs to be done. And that's true of most people in life. So that, you will never just find time to fellowship with the Lord. You've got to carve it out. You've gotta make it a priority. You've gotta set aside time. You have to make choices. There are choices that have to be made. I mean, people say, "Well, I don't have time. I just don't have time to just sit around and read the Bible". Well, that's not a very good phrase because nobody's asking you to sit around and read the Bible. We're talking about you loving the Lord Jesus Christ enough and so much, that you make that a priority in your life.
First of all, because you love Him enough and you want to spend time with Him. Secondly because it is the most important event in your life. And there's nothing that even comes close to that in your Christian experience. But, we get busy. What we don't realize is this. You can get so busy you can become barren in your busyness even if you're serving the Lord. No pastor has an excuse, no matter how busy we are, to say, "Well, you know, I don't have time to spend much time in prayer and Bible study because I'm so busy serving God". God will not accept that. Doesn't make any difference. Well, I'm so busy studying for the sermons, I just don't have time to pray. God will never accept that.
The most important in the life of a pastor, the most important in life of the mother, the most important part of the life of any person is time spent in fellowshipping, listening and reading and praying and talking and serving and fellowshipping with Him in worship. The most important thing. But if you do that, you're going to have to leave some things undone. And you see, some people, they, they're so actively oriented. If they see something needs to be done, they go at it. In fact, they don't even have a schedule or system. They just do what comes naturally. And they just do what pops up next. And the people who holler the loudest are the folks who get their attention. And probably that's the way it is in a home where you've got several children. The one who cries loudest gets your attention. There's always something to be done.
What we have to ask is this. Of all the things we hear calling for our attention. All the things that are crying out for us. Listen. Jesus isn't going to scream. He's not gonna holler, He's not gonna shout for your time. He's just gonna be there waiting for you to love Him enough, to want Him, to spend time with Him. If you and I spend the time we need to spend with Him, we will have to leave some things undone. So Mary, when the food was prepared, and before the serving time came, she just went in, sat down, and began to listen to the Lord Jesus and to love Him and to receive His love in return. Listening, learning, and loving Him. And it was a wonderful time of experience with her. And a time that I am sure she must have thought about many times, because listen. The last time He came by and she sat at His feet, listened to Him.
And the Bible says that Martha was still preparing. She is anointing His feet with oil, very special perfume rather. Very precious perfume, expensive perfume. Wiping His feet with her hair, which was a very humble thing. Besides that, it wasn't really the proper place for a woman, to take in such a situation because her proper role was that she'd be in the kitchen serving. But Mary's love and devotion to Jesus brought her to His feet. And you think about this. How many times she must have thought about it. How grateful she was that she spent that time with Jesus, listening to Him, learning from Him, loving Him, because the last time He went through was the last time she would have seen Him in that condition. Then it later, it was crucifixion, resurrection.
And, how grateful she was that she was wise enough to spend time with Him when she could. Now, listen. I imagine when you and I come to the end of life and we know that life is coming to a close, maybe rather soon if we live in that kind of a situation, die in that kind of a situation. More than likely, every single believer who faces that will say, more than likely, or think this, "Oh, how I wish I had spent more time fellowshipping with the Lord, getting to know Him. Because I'm about ready to meet Him and I'm gonna spend all eternity with Him. And I've been so busy doing this and buying that and going yonder and dressing this way and doing these things".
And we will recall all of the things we found ourselves doing and so many things we were involved in and trying to please this person and doing that and doing the other, to the neglect of the most important Person in our life. Because you see, nothing is more important. I'll tell you something else. In the eyes of Almighty God, there is no desire in the heart of Jesus greater than the desire that you and I spend time loving Him. Why did He create us? He doesn't need me. He doesn't need you. The very reason that our Lord created us was what? In order to fellowship with us. And to receive our love and to love Him in return. He wants to love us. He wants our love. He desires our love. And have you thought about this?
There is not anybody in the entire world who can take your place in loving Him. Why? Because He wants love from all of us. You can't love Jesus for me and I can't love Jesus for you. I can't fellowship with Him for you and you can't fellowship with Him for me. It is something He desires. He longs for that for all of us. You say, "Well, now Jesus, He doesn't have any needs. And I mean, after all, why does He long for fellowship"? He created us for that purpose. I don't think any of us understand. I'm sure I don't fully understand by a long shot, how He must desire and long for fellowship. And to sense our love, and to sense our attention, and to be sensitive to Him and to want Him, to desire to be yielded to Him.
I don't think any of us understand that. That's what He wants from us. Service and things and all the things that we do, that's secondary to Him. What He wants is us! He wants the person. He wants the heart. He wants the spirit. He wants the soul. He wants our being. Not what we do. What we do for Him will come in its rightful place. But if we do all these things and He doesn't have us, then we've missed it. And likewise, He's missed it. Mary was a very wise woman. And so she decided she's gonna have to leave something undone. But she was gonna spend precious wonderful time at the feet of the one Person, before whom she could learn the most. Before whom she could, in her own heart, express genuine love and know that it was coming back unconditionally.
So, we said first of all, that it should be the strongest desire in the life of every believer. And secondly, that if you and I spend the time we should fellowshipping with Him, hmm, we're gonna have to leave some things undone. So, I ask you a question. Where does t is its priority in your life? You see, none of us can say, "I am too busy". We all have to say, "I've made choices that cut Him out. I've made choices that left Him out. I've made choices that minuscule the time I spend with Him". I tell you again, our success in whatever we do will be related to the time we spend alone listening, anchored to, focused upon, talking with Him. But there's a third thing in this passage that's so clear to me, I want us to see and that's this. That if you and I spend the time we should with Him, sometimes we'll be misunderstood. And this is exactly what happens in this passage. Look at this. I want you to read with me now, if you will, beginning in verse forty.
Now Mary's sitting at the feet of Jesus and they're all there. Food's prepared but they haven't served it yet. So verse forty says, "But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him," that is to Jesus, and said, "'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.'" Now look at this. If you and I spend time with Him as we ought, we're gonna have to leave some things undone. And sometime we're gonna be misunderstood by other people who say, "Well, I don't understand this, just sitting around reading the Bible". Well, your friend will call you and say, "Well, let's go do so-and-so," and you may say, "Well, tonight I think I'm just gonna stay in and just have some time with the Lord".
Well, you can have time with the Lord tomorrow. No, I just want to be quiet and just spend some time. Well, what do you mean spending time with Him? Why can't you just go out and then come back? No, I just... you see, some people don't understand that. Martha didn't understand what was going on in the heart of Mary. And I believe Mary had the perception, this deep inner perception that had to be the work of the Holy Spirit to say to her, "Mary, you sit right where you are and you just let Me love My Son through you". That's what she was doing. So sometimes you'll be misunderstood. A mother who wants to spend time with the Lord may be misunderstood by her children, or a husband, or a husband the same thing, or children. Or, somebody else and somebody says, "Well, you know, I try to have a Bible study in my business and they won't let me".
Well, if you, they hired you to work eight hours a day you better work eight hours a day. You can have your Bible study somewhere else, some other time. It doesn't mean that you substitute what is a responsibility in order to do that. But something else I want you to notice in this passage and that's this. That fellowship with our Lord Jesus when neglected, is gonna result in consequences we don't like. Look what happens here. Verse forty: "But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha.'"
Can't you hear Him saying that now. Now, Martha, Martha. "'You are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few are necessary, really only one; Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'" He said, Martha, I'm not gonna ask Mary to leave her fellowship with me and go serve the table. Because Martha, wonderful as you are, the food we appreciate greatly. More important than that is I just want to sit here in this quiet, calm, peaceful home and just fellowship. And I want to express My love to you all and let you express your love toward Me. But look what happens. The scripture says in verse forty: Martha was distracted. That means she was overburdened. She was pulled in lots of different directions.
And now notice what happens. So she came up to him and said, well... So the Lord said to her, "Martha, Martha, you're worried. You're bothered about so many things. You're worried and bothered". You see, here's what happens. When you and I get our eyes off our Lord, that's what happens to us. We get worried and we get bothered. Now, here's what I want you to see. Here's the reason it happens. You see, when you and I are fellowshipping with Him, what's our focus? It's on Him. Now watch this carefully. The time you and I spend fellowshipping with Him, that's the time God anchors us, fixes us, and fixes our focus. Because He knows that you and I are going out into a world that's difficult to live in, hard to live in. Lots of temptations and trials and hardships.
So what happens? In our time of fellowship with Him, that's where we get anchored, fixed in our focus on Him. So that when we're out there doing whatever we have to do, what happens? Our focus is still upon Him. It is when I get my focus off of Him and begin to look at circumstances. I can get worried and bothered and upset and impatient. And you see, what happens is when you and I are spending the proper time with Him, the things that would normally bother us, don't bother us. The things that would normally upset us, don't upset us. Why? Because we're anchored. Because we are focused. We know that He is in our life. He's working in us. He's gonna see us through this. He's gonna enable us. He's gonna empower us. He's gonna show us the way. He's gonna fix whatever needs to be fixed in our life.
And so what happens? We can face difficulty and trial and hardship and, and times of loneliness and need and so forth. We, we can face those how? With confidence and assurance and boldness. It is always the same? No, it's not always the same. Because you see, nobody stays fixed all the time on Him. Nobody stays anchored all the time. But what I've discovered in my own life is when I begin to get worried and bothered and anxious, more than likely most of the time it is because I have allowed myself to get too busy to spend time getting my focus where it ought to be. Getting anchored back where I should be. And spending time with Him. He says, "Martha, Martha. You're so worried and bothered about so many things".
All these things are not all that important. You see what happens. And so I want to challenge you to re-evaluate your life and the time you spend, ask yourself this question. Do you love Him enough to give Him the best time? Do you love Him enough to give Him time when you're the most alert? And do you love Him enough to make Him the priority of your life? You see, here's what happened. Watch this. Martha lost her joy. She lost her peace. She lost her very enjoyment of what she loved to do most and that's to cook. She lost her enjoyment, why? Because things got out of sorts and the priority wasn't where it oughta be. And so she'd lost it.
That's the reason we lose our joy, our peace, and our contentment. Busy, busy, busy, doing all these things and we lose our focus on Him. And my friend, if you've never trusted Jesus as your savior, none of this is gonna work. Because you see, your life is always gonna be in turmoil. You may calm it down for a season, but the turmoil will come. And I want to invite you, if you have never trusted Him as your personal savior, to ask the Lord Jesus Christ into your life by faith. You just ask Him to forgive you of your sins based on His crucifixion at Calvary. Tell Him you want Him into your life, to abide in you, so that you can relate to Him and fellowship with Him. Because you're gonna spend eternity with Him one of these days, if you will.
And if you don't, you'll be banished from the greatest lover there's ever been. You'll miss... listen. Listen carefully. If Hell were nothing else but, listen to this. If Hell were nothing else but the total, complete, absolute absence of all love, wouldn't that be Hell enough? To think that you had to live for all eternity and never experience one bit of love, that in itself would be Hell. And I want to invite you to come to Him. But most of all, I want to invite you to re-examine your life and make a choice that you believe would be pleasing to our Savior.
Father, how grateful we are. You love us so much. Your love is beyond our understanding, our comprehension, but not beyond our experiencing. And I pray today that You'll just etch this message in the heart of every single person who hears it. Let it not just slip in one ear and out the other. Let it sink deep and take root. Let it bring forth fruit that brings You honor and brings You love. For we ask it in the Savior's name, amen.