Only One Thing

Sometimes life — or death — gets our attention. Unexpected happenings and encounters challenge the status quo and reveal what we really believe, think, feel, want, and expect. Many of us have been touched by a death that felt premature, whether the person we lost was in utero, 17, 49, or 87. I find comfort in God’s perspective of our time on earth:

…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16, NIV)

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

Contrary to our feelings, no life is cut short. We each live exactly the number of days God intended for us. No one misses the best days of their life. We treasure certain milestones in this life because they are the only reality we know. But what awaits those who have a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is immeasurably better than anything we have, do, or experience on earth. Consider this description of what lies ahead:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” …I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21:1-7, NIV)

When we are in Heaven, God will live with us, in visible form. We will be His people forever. He will be our God, our owner, our guardian, our blesser, our protector. We will see, hear, talk to, laugh with, and touch Him. He will gently wipe away our tears and no more will fall. We will never be separated from Him. We will have no reason to mourn, as we will not experience loss or pain. All we have known before will cease to exist. Something new, better and beyond our ability to imagine will become our reality. And nothing will threaten it…ever. Far more life — truly knowing Him and being with Him — will become the only thing we need.

In our limited lives on this earth, we can lose sight of far more life. We can instead focus on to do lists, accomplishments, appearances, and numbers. But it is not what we do in this life that is important. Only our relationship with God through Jesus is important. That is the key that gains us access to Heaven. That is the key to contentment throughout the unexpected and challenging situations we face on earth. That is the foundation of far more life.

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Think of the most affectionate name you have for your father or father-figure and the feelings it evokes. According to HELPS Word-Studies, the Greek “Abba” is used as a term of tender endearment by a beloved child. Abba is the man who makes you feel cherished, protected, valued, and safe. Children adore, trust, and enjoy their Abba. This verse describes a relationship where there is no judgement, only unconditional love. It describes two people who enjoy being together, who love one another deeply, who value each other and their time together. This is the relationship God desires with us.

We do not have a business connection with God. He is not our employer who is taking notes for our next performance review. His goal is not that we increase productivity, work overtime, or sacrifice our health. We do not move up the spiritual ladder by proving ourselves to Him.

We also do not improve our status with God by avoiding sin. We do not earn points by going to church or being baptized. We cannot identify Christians based solely on what they do or do not do.

The Bible records a time two sisters, Martha and Mary, were hosting Jesus and his followers. Imagine the work of having 12 or more guests who were unable to call ahead. Guests who had traveled to reach you and would be staying for an undetermined amount of time. They had real needs. Martha was focused on meeting those needs and making their guests comfortable. But her sister Mary chose to sit with the guests and listen to Jesus as he taught them about spiritual matters. When Martha complained about Mary’s inaction, Jesus’ response is surprising to many:

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, NIV)

The only thing we truly need is a relationship with Jesus. The only thing we need to do is connect with Him so we can absorb His heart, words, and desires. All the rest will fall into place if we keep building a relationship with Him. Only one thing is needed for far more life: Jesus.

Sisters,
What unexpected life happening has challenged you?
What do you look forward to about Heaven?
How has God been Abba to you? What barriers do you face in considering Him as Abba?
Do you believe only one thing (Jesus) is needed? How do your thoughts and actions back up your belief?
Thank Jesus for giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso




Rest in Far More Life

By this point you may think you need to DO MORE to get far more life. Love God more. Love people more. Give God more glory. But God asks the opposite of us:

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

Cease striving? Or “be still” (as other translations instruct)? Doesn’t God understand that if we let up everything will fall apart? Chaos will overtake our lives?  How can that lead to far more life?

There are definitely areas of life where we need to continue striving. We need to keep battling temptation, sin, and unhealthy patterns in our lives, striving to become more like Christ. We need to keep expressing God’s grace and truth, striving to share His life-changing message with those around us. We need to keep working on our relationships, striving to offer respect and love through each interaction.

But we can’t meet all the needs or fight all the battles. Some of us have tried and found it is impossible and exhausting.  So how do we decide where to work and where to cease striving? But Psalm 131 offers guidance:

O Lord, my heart is not conceited. My eyes do not look down on others. I am not involved in things too big or too difficult for me. Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet. My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother’s arms. Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forever.” (GW)

We should find the places our soul is not calm, quiet, and content; these are the things that are too big or too difficult for us. Instead of positively impacting these situations, we are being negatively impacted by them. They are keeping us from far more life.

But what happens in the areas where we cease striving?  Some of them are big needs. And important to us. The text instructs “put your hope in the Lord”. God is big enough to handle it — ALL of it.  And, surprisingly, He can even handle it without us!

One Sunday I felt especially “full” and decided I would not volunteer for anything that popped up during the coming week. Instead, when I became aware of a need I would pray for God to meet the need. Three situations came up that week where I would have normally offered help, but each time I simply prayed. I was excited and humbled to learn that the person who stepped up to meet each need did it better than I could have. So not only did God meet the needs without me, He met them BETTER without me! Why was I surprised? He has a whole kingdom of resources at His disposal. A kingdom of people with a variety of skills, knowledge, resources, experience, and availability. A kingdom of power and wealth beyond my understanding. This experience reinforced my hope in the Lord. I don’t need to strive to make everything work. He can meet my needs  — and others’ needs — today and every day.  Placing our hope in Him is far more life.

Maybe you’ve been striving for so long that you don’t even remember what a calm, quiet, content soul is like. It experiences and radiates God’s character. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. Forgiveness. When we feel and emit these, we are not striving to do God’s work. We are calmly resting in God, quietly placing our hope in Him, and contendedly investing our energy; we are living far more life.

But when we are anxious, exhausted, stressed, fearful, angry, worried, hopeless, overwhelmed, or stuck, our souls are not calm, quiet, and content. These feelings are indicators that we need to cease striving in one or more areas. We need to identify what is too big or difficult and turn it over to God.  At those moments we are like Martha in Luke 10, worried and upset by many things. But recognizing that we are striving enables us to make a choice: will we continue or will we choose to follow the example of her sister, Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to Him?  Jesus said Mary chose what was better. She chose far more life.

Some of the areas where we are tempted to take on too much are physical. We can overpack our schedules and push our bodies beyond their limits. But we more tempted to carry mental and emotional burdens that are too big or difficult. We worry about people and situations over which we have no control. We replay past events and conversations in our minds, asking what we should have done or said differently. We imagine all the bad things that could happen in the future. Let them go! Cease striving! Remember that God is holding you like a mother holds her child. Lovingly. Tenderly. Securely. Rest — quietly, calmly, contentedly — in His arms. Place your hope and trust in His goodness and strength. Embrace far more life.

My pastor often says, “Do your best and let God take care of the rest.” That helps me understand how to cease striving in a practical way.  There are things we can and need to do. But we must also recognize our limits and God’s limitlessness. Knowing God’s power and trusting His character frees us to cease striving. Rest in far more life!

Sisters,
Prayerfully examine your heart, asking “What am I involved in that is too big or difficult for me?”
Are you willing to turn those things over to God?
If not, why? What do you need in order to trust Him in those places?
Are you willing to ask Him to help you grow in trust?
Thank and praise Him for being big enough to handle all of it.
Enjoy less striving and far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso