A man cannot serve two masters… (Matthew 6:24)
Those are the words the Lord planted in my head on a Sunday morning when the preacher was teaching out of Matthew 9, a passage that does not include - and really has little to do with - that verse at all.
So, acknowledging that the Lord had something specific to say to my heart, I let it float around within me the rest of the afternoon. Later that day, at the first prayer night of the year, the family pastor shared Romans 12:1 and made this point:
We try to live in a way that is holy before God, but still acceptable to man.
Huh…we can’t live one way before God, yet still try to live for man. Sounds familiar.
Sounds like how we can’t serve two masters; how we can’t choose ourselves and still, authentically, choose God.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with getting caught up in the busyness of life. In fact, I would even say that I created the busyness for a while. I liked how it made me feel. Well, I liked how it made my ego feel because my body and my relationships - with God and people - weren’t loving it at all. The “glorification” of busyness in my life seeped into ministry over time. Suddenly, I found myself losing God in the midst of ministry because I was so focused on myself.
If you had asked me a year prior to the situation that taught me that if I thought it was possible to somehow lose God in ministry, I would have said no way. And I would have been very wrong.
So keep all of that in the back of your head for a second, and follow me into Mark 1.
Verses 32 to 36 tell us that Jesus had spent hours performing miracle after miracle; healing the sick, casting out demons. It literally says “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Before daybreak, He went out alone to pray. He may not have even slept that night. He may have healed the last one at the door and then left with urgency to be alone with His Father. We’re not sure. We just know that He without saying a word for the sole purpose of spending time in prayer.
When we get down to verse 37, it says “And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
In other words - Jesus, what are you doing up here alone when there are more important, urgent things to do? People need you!
Now, let’s circle back to where I started. I have lived much of my life putting that kind of pressure on myself. The kind of pressure that has a voice whispering to me, “What are you doing resting? People need you. Your job needs you. Ministry needs you.”
God didn’t put that pressure on me. Quite frankly, He doesn’t need me, He just chooses to use me.
My job didn’t put that pressure on me. Maybe I was/am needed there in some way, but I was given space to have a life outside of work.
My family and friends weren’t putting that pressure on me. In fact, my family is one of the voices constantly telling me to take time to rest.
That pressure was coming from me.
I don’t believe Jesus felt that pressure internally in this passage, and I don’t believe the disciples made Him feel any pressure either - even with their franticness.
You know why? Because the Scriptures show me time and time again that Jesus knew where His strength came from. He knew that it was only through the Father that this ministry went on. He knew where to find true rest. He knew who was sovereign. And He prioritized His relationship with the Father above all things. Above His disciples’ feelings. Above Himself. And yes, as Mark 1 shows us, even above ministry. No external force or opinion was going to change that on any level.
And His choice was to present Himself as a living and holy sacrifice that was acceptable to God, and God alone. I mean, look at this:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
He chose the Father above it all. The Son of God - a perfect, blameless, God-in-the-flesh and -entitled-to-the-throne being chose God rather than Himself.
I guess the bottom line of what I’m trying to say is - you have to choose.
And the choice isn’t between God and family, or God and work, or God and ministry, or God anything else. It’s between God and you; you and your desires, your thoughts, your opinions, your “rights”, your plans. If we’re being brutally honest here, it’s between a holy God and your innately sinful can-do-no-good-without-God self.
And once you choose, you have to keep choosing.
If Jesus found it necessary to get alone with God in the midst of His ministry and miracles; if Jesus denied and humbled Himself; if Jesus chose the Father…
Well, then I better lay my heart before the Lord and ask Him to show me how to choose Him above all else, too.
P.s. I just want you to know that this was written from a place of conviction, and yet praise. Conviction because it took a sermon, a prayer service, three books, God speaking a Scripture directly to my heart and then still making the wrong choice to have my eyes opened to what I've written about here. Praise because God didn't stop speaking until I saw it. He knows I'm "but dust" (Psalm103) and will get it wrong many more times than I get it right, but I #ChooseJesus. And in the moments I foolishly choose myself, I hope I feel the same conviction I felt today so I remember to stop and #ChooseJesus again.