Monday, August 30, 2010

Hidden Agendas (Part 3)

Hidden Agenda, image courtesy of John Casey,

I could easily answer that question with a Yes! I did find joy in doing something I know I had no previous desire to do. Unknown to me (I thank God for the clarity given to me now) but all during the time I was praying and crying to God to speak to me, He was working in me. God never saw a need to explain what He was doing in my life and I took His silence as rejection. What I now realize is that God was drawing me closer to Him by drawing me closer to those things I rejected before. Nothing could have enticed me to do household chores not even a failed marriage. Nothing could persuade me to launch a blog about my walk with Christ. I couldn’t deny I found joy and passion just in doing them and not having a hidden agenda. If there was an agenda, it was the joy and passion I experienced in the act of doing it.

I don’t consider myself a good husband because I do household chores and I don’t consider myself a good Christian because I blog. However, I do see how easily I could convince myself that I ought to receive acknowledgement and recognition for what I do. I can soak up attention so easily so I’m cautious about my attitude and checking my ego.

Martha did a hospitable act that caused her to refocus her attention on what someone else wasn’t doing. She sought support from Jesus to validate her opinion. Instead, Christ instructed her that she was worried and bothered about many things but only one thing is necessary…the focus of one’s heart.

Where is my heart Lord? Is it on you or is it all about me?

I allow myself to question many things I have said and done because I don’t want to find myself operating in a mode of self-justification that whitewashes my life. My life is focused on being submitted to Christ; body, soul and spirit, I belong to Him now.

I can see now what I was unable to see months ago. The Holy Spirit was swapping out those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors and bringing into my memory an undiscovered simple joy and passion. Each time I undertake a household chore or I sit down to write, I experience a joy, peace and contentment that increases the desire to do more.

There are bloggers dispersed all around the globe, those I have virtually met through this medium have given me an opportunity to hear the things which God is sharing through them as they live for Christ. Some have faced tremendous adversity; many are women who’ve known the callous and insensitive cruelty those of my gender can wreak on others. Some, seeking a place in the church have instead experienced ostracism. Some I have found to be genuinely down to earth loving and caring people. Some are hurt and continue to struggle with the painful reminders of their life.

Each in their own way has impressed me by their desire to press on.

I see Martha as a type of outward man, doing things which on the surface appear to be good, worthwhile things to do. However, there are things I do which cause me to seek attention and validation that what I’m doing is what others should be doing too. To this kind of thinking the bible says,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…[who]…did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.1

The problem with the outward man kind of thinking is that I can never humble myself by becoming obedient when I focus on what others are doing for Christ. Certainly I value the truths which the Holy Spirit imparts to me but the Holy Spirit is not following a single methodology in teaching me. I would not have learned to experience joy apart from the expectation of acquiring something greater than the task I performed were it not for the Holy Spirit enabling me to discover a joyful passion in doing things which I previously rejected doing.

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.2

This then is how I discovered my joy and passion: by doing them in the name of the Lord and giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ.

I am discovering that the fulfillment of obedience is joy and passion with thanksgiving.

To be given the opportunity to experience joy and passion and to be thankful for both the opportunity and the experience is something which I cannot adequately clarify; I can only say I have peace.

I see Mary as a type of inward man, who does not find it enough to be in the same house as Jesus, she sits at His feet hoping to learn from Him something far more valuable than attempting to fulfill a role that invariably leads to worry and frustration. There is in Mary the implication of joyful expectation; much like an expectant mother nearing the time to deliver.

Martha is living her life justified by her works; Mary is living her life justified by faith in Jesus. Martha expends effort and energy thinking her works will prove fruitful but instead, she finds frustration because Mary isn’t assisting her. Martha’s frustration demands that the situation be corrected in a way that pleases her. In all this Mary never says a word to defend her actions; Christ speaks not only on behalf of Mary but He addresses the real problem in Martha, worry and distraction.

As I look at Martha, I see how easily distracted I can get by the unexpected actions of others.

Martha had an expectation that Mary would assist her, when this didn’t occur she grew frustrated.

What does that say about me? It says that my (misplaced) expectations are directed towards the wrong person.

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…3

I can avoid frustration, worry and disappointment by focusing on Jesus Christ because He will not frustrate, cause me worry or disappoint me.

When the writer of Hebrews says:

…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…4

I get the sense that as painful and shamefully humiliating as the crucifixion was, Jesus endured the cross as an act of joy. Earlier, Christ said this of Himself and His relationship to the Father:

…I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.5

So even though the task Martha was performing was a good task, she had no joy in doing it; she was unable to focus on the sheer joy of doing it to please God.

Has my focus been misplaced? Quite often it has and I’ve found frustration instead of joy.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.6

There is an all-encompassing joy when my focus is solidly on Christ. In Him, I find true joy in the things I do because He has demonstrated the mindset I need in order to see the joy set before me.

There was a time when I would never consider cleaning a toilet. The toilet is a metaphor for my life.

I find myself smiling at this thought that all along, God had this in mind for me; stubborn, lazy, selfish me. A valuable lesson I’m learning on finding real joy without hidden agendas.

"Thy words were found and I ate them, And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart. For I have been called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts."7

"...but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you."8

"And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."9

Father in heaven,

I am counting it all joy when I experience the trials of life. I am learning that these trials test my faith with the goal of producing endurance in me. I see endurance is necessary to sustain me when I'm bombarded with thoughts of doubt. I am learning to pray, to ask and to seek You in faith, a faith which You've measured out to me. I thank You Lord Jesus for not leaving or forsaking me, even when I forsook You; You are ever faithful. Thank You holy Spirit for the guidance you give me; imparting wisdom and understanding of the scriptures into my life. Through You, I am empowered to apply the word of God into my life each day. Father, I cannot forget those who prayed for my marriage. They stood as mighty warriors, holding the line against the thief who came to rob, kill and destroy a love so precious. Thank You for the bloggers who encouraged me when I was discouraged. Finally thank You for Lillian, the woman she is and the heart to forgive. Our jouney is incomplete but we move forward with You. Help me as we endeavor to build a relationship that fosters a love which I value and cherish. Amen.

  1. Philippians 2:5-8, NASB
  2. Colossians 3:17, NASB
  3. Hebrews 12:2, NASB
  4. Hebrews 12:2, NASB
  5. John 8:29, NASB
  6. Philippians 4:8, NASB
  7. Jeremiah 15:16, NASB
  8. John 16:22, NASB
  9. Acts 13:52, NASB
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


Peggy said...

Wonderfully thought out and questions of our basic motivation for the right reason and for the right objective.
"Where is my heart Lord? Is it on you or is it all about me?"

We all need this daily.

Very interesting correlation to the story of Martha and Mary and blogging. Great self examination
of our focus and expectations in ourselves and others. Lessons learned with no "hidden agendas".
We cannot assume responsibility for others (or control) only for ourselves and our own accountability before God, where it really counts.

Since you are a man of deep thoughts and interest on this topic, I thought this may interest you:

"A WORD about Martha" kinda puts all of this personal application that you have shared into a perspective of our own discipleship; our devotion, duty, dedication and dependence on Christ. How submitted are we to Christ in us?

Right kind of service, right attitude, right motivation = right relationship with Christ & others.

Thanks MTJ and many blessings on your new walk and relationship with Christ & your woman. May Christ remain the center of all you DO!

In Jesus Christ's peace & love and best wishes for restoration! One step at a time, one day at a time with Jesus Christ & the prompt of Holy Spirit power, empowerment and conviction to change.

From The Heart Online said...

Whoa. Great stuff! "So even though the task Martha was performing was a good task, she had no joy in doing it; she was unable to focus on the sheer joy of doing it to please God."

The Holy Spirit has, through these words, given me some food for thought. Writing that 4 part series on 'Lies that Steal my Joy' is no indicator of my success in that area except that I, too am a work in progress.

Thank you for sharing your heart. Truly. I'm challenged and inspired and encouraged. I wish I could express it better.

I love watching what the Lord is doing in your heart. I praise Him for His awesome work. Awesome. Awesome.


MTJ, You made some very good observations from the story of Martha and Mary. I think all of us struggle to find the balance in these areas.
Good Post! ~Ron

MTJ said...

Peggy: I'm learning the reality of crucifying the flesh, and while it remains a struggle for me, I have found the grace of God to strengthen me. Thanks for sharing that examination on Martha and Mary; I enjoyed reading it.

Kim: As I've shared, through your writing, the Holy Spirit helped me gain clarity about myself in this area. I do hope others found inspiration from reading your series.

Ron: This is so true of the struggle and the attempt to find that perfect balance. A part of me wants, seeks and desires attention, while another part of me has discovered the aspect of joy in doing something, as unto the Lord.

Teresa said...

This is a powerful post...there are so many amazing, God insight in here that I am going to read it again. Praise God! Your humble gratefulness to God is so revealed in your writing!
You are a great brother who knows we have a wonderful BIG brother! Thank you for your obedience!

MTJ said...

Teresa: I thank God that I've found so many brothers and sisters who encourage me to walk upright before the Lord. It is a journey which I have discovered tremendous joy. For that I give God all the praise.

Thank you for your encouragemenet and prayers of intercession; I am in your debt sister.

sarah said...

This is another great post...and good lesson. Sometimes I start doing something not wanting to do it and am amazed at how good it turns out. My Martha...needs fine tuning too often. Really grateful He loves me in spite of who I am.

Karen said...

I haven't been visiting here long, but your thought provoking posts always seem so "meaty" in the head tends to nod in agreement while I read your posts...and my heart shouts...amen! That's so right!

MTJ said...

Sarah: I know too well how I mess things up, so I'm very appreciative to be given the opportunity to experience the simple joy of doing something without the expectation of gaining something in return. As it turns out I benefitted from these experiences by learning to do things as a praise offering to the Lord.

Karen:I'm glad we share in the joy of our hearts shouting; I am incapable of describing this joy of the Lord experience, so I too send up shouts.

BTW: That image of the sapphires along with the scripture just opened my mind up to the possibilities of being rebuilt with a precious foundation. That's something to shout about!

Stuff could always be worse said...

You do have a deep thought process, very insightful. I never have thought of Household chores, as spiritual. I can see your point!

MTJ said...

Kim: This was definitely an understanding I came to by way of the Holy Spirit. As I indicated, I was lazy and MIA whenever the word household chores came up. I believe the Holy Spirit helped me see this from a different perspective than the one I had.

Nate Cook said...

i loved this. thank you for posting. God is dealing with me on things similar to this. i am a married christian man with a struggle of pornography. my wife knows all about this and we have talked about it. God is good and has delivered me from this horrible thing. but my flesh i am still trying to do away with. and some times i stray from the Lord and dive right into pornography again. then when i come home and live life with my wife i have to have a hidden agenda to satisfy my flesh and its lust. this kills me inside and sends me right back to our Lords feet begging for forgiveness. (which i know He gives.).... i dont know what i am really trying other then this. thank you for posting what you have posted. this has really ministered to me. and i just want you to know that God is ministering through you to me. so be blessed and encouraged.

your brother in Christ


Faith Imagined said...

Your thoughts on Mary and Martha are amazing! I will be meditating on your insights for days.

I love this line, "I am discovering that the fulfillment of obedience is joy and passion with thanksgiving."

Awesome writing!

MTJ said...

Nate: Thanks for sharing your struggles with pornography. Each of us faces our own personal struggles and demons. I had to come to the realization of what Paul referred to in Ephesians 6;12, "For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood--contending with only physical opponents--but against despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere." -- It was imperative to me to understand that I was in a life and death struggle. I'm not sure if others felt it in this same way but I think every believer in Christ understands to some extent that my life is valuable but it's also fragile.

We all reach a point where it becomes a matter of deciding and taking a stand. You begin by saying, "No the first time. This is the part where we discover that resisting the devil forces him to flee from us. With each subsequent resistance, you recognize that it's not a temptation, it's an opportunity for spiritual growth.

There's a place in God's grace that He wants you to ascend to Nate, I'll be praying with you brother that you reach that place of peace with God. You've placed your desires of pornography on the altar of sacrifice, now leave it there for God and accept what He gives you in its place. It takes time, patience and steps but you're headed in the right direction.

Alisa: I was really blessed in reading about The 300 Club. You continue to bless, inspire and encourage me sister.