Pastoral Perspectives

The “Martha” Syndrome

  Have you heard of this phrase? Its truth rings in my heart as I heard it, i.e. “If the devil can’t make you bad He will make you busy”. The Gospel of Luke 10:41 – 42 records for us: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”We are masters of to-do lists and schedules. We are organized and efficient, effectively planning and blocking each hour of the day so that we can “get the most done.”  But I can’t help but wonder if all this busyness is keeping us from the things that are most important.

            In fact this is a sad state for some with impressive programs, packed schedules, speaking engagements when this busyness does not equal godliness nor the kingdom of God being built. But how does busyness fit into the life of a Christian? Does it matter to our faith how we spend our time?  The Bible has a lot to say regarding the question of work and time, and even speaks of the pleasure both can bring us, above and beyond the efficiency of checking something off a list. Ecclesiastes 3:13-14 says, “…everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.”We have to realize we are in a daily spiritual battle and to be ignorant of this will not make it go away. The devil is always looking for opportunities to make us ineffective in our work for the Lord and to void our lives from being a vibrant testimony for Christ. One of the main things that will rob us of our vibrant walk with the Lord is losing our intimacy with Christ. “Not now Jesus I need to go fix my car”, “Not now Lord I need to watch this television program”, “Not now God I need to check my Facebook updates” and the list goes on.

            The response we got back in the last 2 weeks after “Recruitment” Sunday speaks so true of our condition today and if we do not give serious attention to our busyness, we’ve fallen into the snares of the devil. It’s strange how busyness tends to take from us the things we cherish most, often without us even noticing. When we are very busy, we lose sleep. We stop exercising. We stop spending time with friends. We are short and irritable with our family. We forget to pray. The beauty and sacredness of a new day is cheapened by how many tasks we are trying to pack into it. We are called to be sanctuaries, peaceful harbors to the lost.

            Mary and Martha are classic example of this problem that our Lord addressed. Martha was very diligent, faithfully doing her work in a proficient manner yet in her heart she was comparing herself to others. She wanted to see the work done, the job accomplished, the task completed which is admirable. Yet Jesus said to her that those things can wait, there is no rush to finish them if it sacrifices time with him. The one great need beyond all busyness in practical life, Christian life and ministry life is intimate communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ. The Lord is happy with our work for Him as He leads it. He is happy to see us work diligently yet let us always do our work totally relying on the Lord. Have you been working hard, yet have drifted apart from God? We are not meant to become so consumed with busyness that we are drained of joy.  God cares about the state of our hearts and how we spend our time. He cares that we rest, that we are balanced and bearers of peace. He cares that we find joy in our work, and that we are not numbed by the burden of busyness. He cares that we come to him as we are, ready to “Be still, and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10).

            When we neglect our personal communion with the Lord and serving the Lord, the service of the Lord suffers greatly in the end. Some years ago, I have quoted this story before in one of the sermon but I feel it would be suitable to be heard here:

‘Satan called a worldwide convention. In the opening address to his evil spirits he said, ‘We can’t keep true Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from having conservative values. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding experience with Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, read their Bibles, and have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time so they do not have time to have an intimate fellowship with Christ. This is what I want you to do: keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds.’

            So it is possible to think that we are busy and successful but in reality spiritually bankrupt! Why not begin NOW, be still in His presence for the next 15 minutes.

Lord, I agree that I have been too busy, that my spiritual life has been bankrupt and unfruitful. I am full of ideas and plans and yet not hearing your still small voice. Forgive me for going off and doing your work without You. Forgive me for being so busy that I don’t have time to rest and be quiet in your presence. I come now and sit in your presence at your feet, I love you Lord please let me see You as more important then anything else. Amen.


Pastor Cheng Huat

October 6, 2013