5 Choices That Shape Focus and Fulfillment
Most Christians are familiar with the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, who hosted Jesus and His disciples one day in their home (Luke 10:38-42). Martha demonstrated an action-oriented response of making all the preparations while Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to His word. Martha’s choice led to stress, frustration, and even a demanding spirit toward her sister—and toward Jesus. His words to her have echoed in millions of hearts over the last two millennia: “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.” So let’s look at our we make choices, and 5 specific criteria that will shape focus and fulfillment.
All of us who desire to serve Christ must make choices about how we are going to relate to Him. These choices have ramifications, and not all choices carry the same eternal value. Misguided choices produce negative results like distraction, doubt, discontent, discouragement, and dilution of our efforts.
As Christ followers, we make decisions every day about how we will allocate our very limited resources of time, attention, and affection. We are wise to reflect on the choices of Martha vs. Mary and set our priorities around the things that produce good fruit and have eternal significance.
Anyone in a ministry leadership role soon learns that you cannot please everyone and cannot do everything. It is not easy to say “no” to the expectations of people and the countless opportunities to do good things. Yet, “no” is a Christian word. I have learned that the power of “no” is in a stronger “yes.” Our “yes” commitments are the clear and vital priorities we embrace. One leader wrote, “A life in which anything goes will ultimately be a life in which nothing goes.”
“No” is a Christian word. I have learned that the power of “no” is in a stronger “yes.”
This is why our ministry is so clearly rooted in the narrative of Acts 6:1-7. The crisis of complaint hit the fan as the widow-feeding efforts in the early church broke down. The Apostles wisely realized the importance of solving the problem but also making a clear, conviction-driven choice. Seven model disciples were selected to resolve the immediate dilemma (vv. 3,5,6). The leaders remained focused on the highest and best priority of “prayer and the ministry of the word” (v. 4). The power of “no” was in their strong “yes.” The fruit of this wisdom and focus was astounding. The gospel impact of the church advanced exponentially (v. 7).
Clarity for Choices: Five Clear Decisions
Over the years of my pastoral journey the Lord helped me clarify five vital priorities that represented my “yes” commitments. Not only did these enable me to say “no” to other demands, they represented the wisest stewardship of my gifts and best expenditure of my efforts for the good of those I served. If you are a pastor, yours may be different, but these might encourage you to find more clarity in your priorities. If you are not a pastor, let this guide you in praying for your pastoral leaders. Perhaps these will help you think deeply about your own priorities in life.
1. MAINTAIN AN EXEMPLARY LIFE–(1 Timothy 3:2–7; 4:12, 16; Acts 20–28; 1 Peter 5:3; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9; Titus 2:7–8) This had to be first as I focused on my spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, marital, family, and relational health. Without it, my credibility and ministry would inevitably fail. Example is our most powerful rhetoric, so we must endeavor to live a life others can follow.
Example is our most powerful rhetoric, so we must endeavor to live a life others can follow.
2. MODEL A COMMITMENT TO PRAYER – (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 11:1; 22:39; Acts 1:14; 6:4; Romans 15:30; Colossians 1:3; 4:2) The prayer level of any ministry never rises any higher than the personal example and passion of the primary leader. I could not simply point the way. I had to lead the way if the church was to become “a house of prayer for all nations.” As a real priority, this shaped my time allocation, allowing me to lead multiple prayer meetings a week, train others in prayer leadership, and intentionally incorporate prayer experiences into many aspects of my life and ministry.
3. MASTER THE STUDY OF GOD’S WORD –(1 Timothy 4:6, 13–15; 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:1–2; Acts 6:2) This conviction to “study to show myself approved” ultimately resulted, by God’s grace, in a depth of life that made the messages authentic. John Wesley said, “God’s word sets me on fire and people come to see me burn.” The Lord’s word to Ezekiel shaped this commitment: “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people…” (Ezekiel 3:10-11, NLT). The most important thing about any ministry is what they do with the word of God. Leaders and congregants must be people of the word through deep and systematic study and clear proclamation.
“God’s word sets me on fire and people come to see me burn.” – John Wesley
4. MULTIPLY LEADERSHIP WITHIN THE CHURCH – (John 17:6–20; Acts 20:17-38; Ephesians 4:11–2; 2 Timothy 2:2) Leaders don’t just fall from trees. Spiritual leaders are only developed through intentional, biblical, and transparent equipping of their hearts and minds. I had to be intentional and consistent in spending time each week investing in current and future leaders, challenging them to grow, and providing meaningful interaction with God’s word and practical wisdom. Each of us is called to reproduce other disciples, so we must consciously and consistently allocate regular and meaningful time to invest in a new generation of Christ-followers.
Each of us is called to reproduce other disciples, so we must consciously and consistently allocate regular and meaningful time to invest in a new generation of Christ-followers.
5. MOBILIZE THE CHURCH TOWARD MISSION – (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15; John 20:21; Acts 13:1-3; Philippians 3:12-17; 2 Timothy 4:5–8) “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Because “the Holy Spirit is the ‘how-to’ of ministry,” I was responsible to seek His mind, will, and direction for the work of Christ. Over the years we engaged the congregation in extraordinary prayer, fasting, and full surrender of the future of the ministry to Him. As I led this effort of discovering His mind and obeying His will, the Lord’s blessing rested on our efforts. We are wise to discern ministry vision by “inspiration,” not just “imitation.” Jesus has a plan He wants to reveal for every church, so there is little value in seeking to duplicate some other ministry’s apparent success.
Think Before Making a Choice!
The renowned management expert Peter Drucker said, “The two most important things anyone can do are to think and then do things in their order of importance.” Each of us must think biblically and clearly about the commitments that matter most. Every day we must order our efforts according to the best priorities for our unique identity, purpose, and calling.
“The two most important things anyone can do are to think and then do things in their order of importance.” – Peter Drucker
It has been said that nothing is dynamic until it is specific. Get specific about your commitments. Write them out. Share them with the people who live, work, and minister with you. Choose the best things that will not be taken away from you in eternity.
Bernard Baruch wrote, “Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, whatever follies I have witnessed in private and public life have been the consequence of action without thought.” My friend Crawford Loritts has stated, “When we are born, we look like our parents. When we die, we look like our decisions.”
Let us be thoughtful, intentional, and focused in how we serve our Lord and His mission in this world every day. Make the decisions that will matter in eternity.
Copyright © 2023 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.