Written by Vicky Ng, Art by Christine Hwang
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3)
In these verses the psalmist reveals a startling dynamic: absorb God’s commandments, and your endeavors will flourish when the season is right. Perhaps you are familiar with the words of Psalm 1:2-3 and have seen this principle manifested in your life. Maybe you are awaiting the fruit, wondering when God is going to act or bless your efforts. Sometimes it just takes time, but it does not mean that we should feel discouraged or stop pursuing Jesus while waiting. When the right time comes, you will see the fruits of your labor. Meanwhile, you need to come to know your Lord day by day, little by little.
Do not underestimate the importance of spending time with Jesus every day, of continuing to seek Him and wait on Him even when His answers or provision are not immediately forthcoming. Like with any relationship, intimacy with God grows over time, moment by moment, the building blocks being shared conversations and experiences. The benefits of meditating on His Word are cumulative. The fruit, the blessings, the answers that we often so desperately want – they will come eventually, when the circumstances are right and your heart is ready.
The step-by-step process of drawing nearer to God is mirrored by the human body’s production of energy. All the energy-related reactions in your body take place in many small steps, harnessing energy in extremely minute amounts. One molecule of glucose produces only thirty or so molecules of ATP (the molecular units of energy), but each muscle contraction requires 10 million molecules of ATP per second to maintain. One can only imagine how many glucose molecules are necessary and how many chemical reactions must take place in order for a person to simply get out of bed. Such small-scale ATP production seems inefficient, but this multi-step design provides many points for regulation, ultimately protecting our bodies. Also, having the entire process broken down into dozens of steps ensures that the amount of ATP produced does not burn the cells, so energy production is continuous and smooth. In the same way, developing our relationship with God is a gradual process that often involves small but steady steps rather than drastic leaps and bounds. This keeps us focused on Him – His heart – not just what we want Him to do for us. It is often the case that we get to know God slowly in order that we may know Him deeply.
Spending time regularly with God is also important because when we are firmly grounded in His love and truth, we are better equipped to serve others. The New Testament tells of an occasion when Jesus visited his good friends, Martha and Mary, in Bethany. Martha wanted to entertain Jesus and the disciples, making sure they would have a restful time and be fed well. In contrast, Mary chose not to assist Martha, but rather to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen attentively to what He said. Martha was furious that her sister did not help her so she complained to Jesus. He responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)
Jesus was not playing favorites or saying that caring for the needs of others is unimportant. We do need to work and serve; the key factor here is timing. When we take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and engage with Him, we are ensuring that we are firmly rooted in and filled with His Spirit so that we have the resources to extend His love to others. Without first spending time with Jesus, we go out into the world with an empty tank and unclear direction. Spending time with the Master helps to recharge our hearts and refine our understanding of where and how He wants us to minister to others. When the timing is right, we serve with no regret and no reserve.
When Mary spent quality time with Jesus and listened intently to what He said, she heard Jesus discuss the events of the immediate future, namely, His suffering and death. The disciples heard this too, but their first response was to argue over who should have the honor of sitting next to Jesus (Mark 10:33-37). In contrast, Mary sought to express her appreciation for Jesus, taking the opportunity to do so after Jesus raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead.
Lazarus was dead for four days. In Jewish culture it was believed that a person’s soul left the body in three days, placing Lazarus beyond rescue. Yet Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. Mary chose to demonstrate her love and appreciation for Jesus at the celebration of Lazarus’ resurrection. In the middle of the party, she took a pint of expensive perfume – the cost was equivalent to a year’s salary at the time – and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3).
Mary’s actions caused jaw-dropping responses. If she lived in this day and age, such behavior would be the most-watched YouTube video clip for weeks if not months. The criticism she received for such a seemingly wasteful act was harsh. What Jesus said, however, was equally jaw-dropping: “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:6-9)
Rather than criticize, Jesus praised Mary for her actions. Why? He was moved not merely by the value of the perfume or the stunning way she anointed Him, but because Mary presented her gift at the appropriate time. Jesus pointed out that Mary poured perfume on His body in preparation for His burial. While Jesus was still alive, Mary sought to send a specific message to Him – that He is worthy of her best. Although His disciples had also been told about His imminent death, Mary was the only one who realized the gravity of His statements and took action to show her love. This profound understanding of Jesus’ heart can ultimately be traced back to her decision to sit at His feet and cling to His instruction.
Whether you are waiting on God for an answer or you sense He has a clear path for you, do not lose sight of how important it is to meditate on His Word. Sit at His feet daily and listen for His voice. Knowing Him is its own reward. Other blessings will follow, and you will be better able to carry out the purposes He has placed on your heart.
Missed the first piece in this series? Check out Key to Success 101 now!
- True Freedom - December 5, 2014
- Face To Face - February 25, 2014
- Donning A New Gown - January 14, 2014