Have You Chosen The Better Part? by Maranatha Chapman

“.for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

“.for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

(Exodus 20:5, 34:14)

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “jealous” as “intolerant of rivalry.” It should come as no surprise to us then that the Lord, in the context of warning His people about idolatry, describes himself as “jealous,” and even said His very Name is “Jealous.” The Lord Jesus wants all of our hearts and lives all of the time, and anything short of whole-hearted devotion is an affront to Him. Why? Because we have allowed something-which is an idol-to rival Him, and, tragically, to even surpass Him in claiming our heart’s affections. Hebrews 4:13 says, “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Whenever we are holding back aspects of our lives from Him, or we have become captivated by something or someone other than Him, it does not go without His notice. What does He see when He gazes into our hearts and lives? Do we provoke Him to jealousy (1 Cor. 10:14-22, James 4:4-5)?

Some years ago I had the honor of meeting an apostle (in the truest sense of the word) from Nepal named Prem Pradham. This man spent more than 10 years in harsh prisons, where he brought many men to the Lord and discipled them so that, upon their release, they returned to their villages and raised up churches all over Nepal. This dear little man, who was no more than 5′ 6″ tall, endured beatings, torture, starvation, exposure to the cold, and was even placed in solitary confinement in a hut with dead prisoners’ corpses for three months. The stories he told of the saints in Nepal were very stirring. But what got my attention the most was his description of how he and the other Christians in Nepal came to the Lord.

In Nepal, it is against the law to “change from the religion of your birth,” that is, from the religion of the family you were born into. So when Prem and others presented the Lord Jesus and the good news of the kingdom of God to people, the choice to follow Him came with the immediate realization that they were also choosing to become fugitives. Upon being baptized, new faith in Jesus was welcomed by arrest and punishment by law of a minimum of two years in prison. Because of this, from the very beginning, they understood that they had to give the Lord everything-all of their lives. Of course, just like us, they had to grow and be sanctified in many areas of their walk, but because of such a good foundation, whatever stage of life in the Lord they found themselves in, they were giving Him their all. These saints had a profound realization that they were here on the earth for the Lord and His purposes, no matter the cost, and this was proven out in their lives and choices.

In sharp contrast, many people today in Western nations come to the Lord in a context that costs them very little. Some want to add Jesus to their life to help them with their problems. Others want Him for the “God section” of their lives so as to have a wholesome belief system, ethics, inspiring devotions, and Sunday religion. Here in the United States, you can come to Jesus at a “Christian alternative music” rock concert and go right on piercing and tatooing your body and pursuing worldly trends, but now supposedly be doing it for the Lord. Women can come to Jesus and go right on pursuing feminist goals and ideals. Christians here feel persecuted when someone at their restaurant table prays over the meal and a stranger gives them a look. And we could go on and on. The message that so often tragically comes forth today is that you can add Jesus to your life and pursuits, and it will cost you little in terms of laying down your life, fitting around His Lordship, and putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Many today have no comprehension that He mercifully saved them “for His good pleasure.” The Apostle Paul said that those of us who are born of the Spirit “are not our own,” for we belong to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:19). Much of our Christianized culture encourages lukewarmness because lukewarm is closer to hot than cold is, and therefore looks better and is more acceptable. God help us!

Ladies, the Lord wants all of us: all of our lives, all of our motivations, all of our devotion. He does not want us to allow anything to “rival” Him in importance in our hearts and lives. It is not acceptable to Him that we section Him off to a devotional time in the morning or a meeting on a certain day of the week. He wants all of our day everyday! Nor is it acceptable to Him that we go to sleep from time to time, becoming passive of heart toward Him and His kingdom. He desires us engaged in active faith, trusting Him in all things, seeking first His kingdom, pursuing His will for our lives wholeheartedly, fervent in spirit, on our feet, on our face, on the edge of our seat, always at the ready for whatever He has. Does He forgive us when we give Him less than our all, hold to idols in our heart, go to sleep, and become weighted down with the cares of this life? Yes, He does. But is a partial life for Him what we are settling for, or is our pursuit to follow Him completely? What does our life and choices tell us? Let’s aim to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit a hundred-fold!

This brings us back to our day-to-day lives. We all know many of the things the Lord wants us as women to do. If you are unsure, take a moment to read Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2 & 5, Titus 2, and other such passages. How can we as women maintain such a heart and fervency in the midst of housework, crying babies, homeschooling, dirty dishes, etc? In Luke 10:38-42 we are told the story about Mary and Martha, and the Lord Jesus’ response to each of them that day. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to what He had to say. She was engrossed in the Lord, and He said she chose “the better part,” that which was truly important and of eternal significance. Martha, as we know, was very busy serving the Lord. I’m sure everything she did was good and noble and truly hospitable. But Jesus said she was “worried and bothered about so many things.” Where was Martha’s heart? Fretting, busy, comparing (to Mary, v. 40), and preoccupied. On the other hand, where was Mary’s heart? On the Lord Jesus.

There are many places in the scriptures, like those listed above, where women are exhorted to serve, be workers at home, devoted to good works, love their husband and children, be submissive, etc., etc. The standards for women are very high, and the Lord calls us to all of these things. But this calling is never to the neglect of our maintaining the heart of Mary, and staying before Him in our hearts, even while vacuuming and changing diapers. It is so easy to be tripped up and allow our heart’s focus to become consumed (i.e., “worried and bothered”) with all these things-even the very things the Lord has called us to do! Martha was, after all, busy serving the Lord Himself! But her heart, at least on that particular day, was far away from Him. Our hearts must stay at His feet, praying without ceasing, seeking first His kingdom, saturated with His Holy Spirit.

Sisters, believe me, I understand how what I am saying sounds impossible. We love the idea of this, but the doing of it eludes us. However, the Lord never calls us to that which He does not also enable us to do. In Matthew 13:33, the Lord said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.” The key word here is “until.” It takes time to become completely “leavened” in our day-to-day walk with the kingdom of God. Our part is to continually engage ourselves with His “leaven,” daily “kneading” it into our hearts and minds with our “all,” regardless of whether our all is a “shallow all” or a “deep “all.” If we are faithful in this, He is more than faithful to permeate our lives with the precious leaven of His kingdom, deepen and enlarge our capacities for abiding in Him, and keep us awake and fervent of heart.

Some of you reading this may be saying, “Yes! Amen! But I have no idea where to even start.” Let me offer you some things I have found that really help. Begin your day with the Lord. Take/make the time to come before Him before your day gets going, and allow your heart to be quieted and stilled before Him. Incline your ear to Him, whether He speaks anything to you at that particular time or not. Simply wait before Him in alertness and love and readiness and peace. Lay your day at His feet. Give Him your list of things you need to do. If He has you pray for someone or something, or read a particular scripture, follow His lead, but continue all the while in that place of quiet waiting and listening.

But now comes the critical next step: learn to abide in this place before Him as you walk out the bedroom door and begin your day of functioning. Don’t leave the Lord in your bedroom or your “quiet time,” walk on with Him from there out into whatever your day holds. Learn to keep your heart stilled and quieted and attentive before Him, regardless of what you are doing. If that means you have to close your eyes while you stir the soup or make more frequent trips to the bathroom simply to get somewhere where you can resettle and refocus your heart on Him, do whatever it takes. If you find yourself asleep in your heart, wake up and go on. Don’t fret around in guilt when you stumble, this will only hinder the deepening process. Just confess it and go on. Remember, such “leavening” takes time.

One of the most profound helps is singing to the Lord throughout the day. Ephesians 5:18-19 says, “.be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Sing to Him all through the day. Have your children join with you. Allow the joy of the Lord to fill your heart. If you are somewhere where singing out loud is not appropriate, then hum to the Lord! I have found engaging my heart in humming to the Lord keeps the words to the songs running through my mind, and, more importantly, helps me stay in that place at His feet-fervent yet at peace, listening yet content, awake and sober yet not heavy and sluggish. Also that Ephesians 5 passage goes on to say “always giving thanks for all things in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (v. 20). I have found that truly “giving thanks for all things” goes hand-in-hand with growing in my discernment of seeing the Lord’s hand in all things, which, again, helps my heart stay centered on/with Him.

One word of caution and warning: In your learning to do this, beware of developing a heart-posture of pushing away any and everything that distracts simply because your capacity for abiding before the Lord throughout your day is small, and you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of distractions. You will inadvertently end up pushing away your husband, your children, your home, the saints, and things that are good. The goal here is to learn to abide before the Lord with a quieted heart in the midst of dealing with and relating to all these necessary things. Of course if something is truly a distraction, don’t hesitate to “nip it in the bud” or otherwise deal with it decisively (you can always push away the influences of the world). Beware of engaging in “worldly and empty chatter,” whether in person or on the telephone, for this will get you off real fast. If you listen to the radio or watch television, take note of whether or not they draw you away from this place, for they easily can and will. Don’t hesitate to question your investment of attention or time in anything that draws your heart away from the Lord or lulls you to sleep.

Ladies, let us continually give our all to our precious Lord, whose Name is Jealous, and bring joy to His heart in doing so!

 

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