THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
By: Edward Carr
Many things occupy our hearts and minds; but only “one thing” is absolutely needful to our comfort, welfare and happiness, either as respects our present experience or future prospects and that is – communion with Jesus. Mary attained this “good part:” and, in inviting your attention to this most interesting subject, we will, in the first place, attempt to describe “the one thing needful;” secondly, to show how it is obtained; and thirdly, inquire why “the one thing needful” is so essential and desirable.
1. “The one thing needful” – The object of the brief history of the visit to Bethany is to inform us that communion with Jesus is the principal thing – and then to instruct us what that communion is. A contrast is seen between the two sisters – the one careful and troubled, the other quietly sitting at the Saviour’s feet; the one perplexed with many things, the other occupied with one thing; the one anxious to serve, the other desirous to learn; the one busy and bustling, the other waiting and watching. We would not imply that Martha was altogether wrong – Jesus does not say that; but it is certain she was neither so wise nor so happy as her sister. Moreover, we must not forget that there can be no acceptable service until there has been a previous humble, docile receiving of Christ’s word.
The fellowship which Mary held with the Master is expressed in the statement that she “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” Sweet position! Most blessed occupation! Here is restfulness and contentment. Mary found her lowly posture so full of comfort, she did not seek to change it. Poor, weary, restless child of God, learn that there is no peace anywhere but in quietly waiting at Christ’s blessed feet. Mary did not say much – there was no need. Her action in seating herself there spoke louder than words and plainly declared her desire to learn of Him.
Again, the sitting “at His feet” is very significant of humility. She was willing to be on a level with, and near to, His lowest members. And now she is privileged to enter into the true spirit of close communion, which consisted in listening to His teaching and looking up into His face. How sweet the lesson! She looked up and watched His words. Her very attitude was one of unspoken, unconscious prayer. She was willing to be instructed and thus manifested a meek and teachable disposition. Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet” because she loved her Lord so much that she could only be happy near Him.
Is this thy case? Oh, those who live at a distance find naught but unrest, disquiet and dissatisfaction! Children privileged to keep close to their Father escape many dangers and much discomfort. At His feet Mary “heard His word.” Turning away from every other voice, she lovingly listened to the utterances of His grace and received His teaching believingly into her heart of hearts.
This personal close acquaintance with Jesus is so desirable and yet alas, so little known and, we fear, so little sought after. His mercy and love overflow in rich streams of grace, permitting …
“a worm of the dust
With Him to commune as a Friend”
and imparting wisdom, consolation, instruction and strength to waiting, listening, looking, longing Mary. Let us now ascertain –
2. How “the one thing needful” is obtained – It is evident that, if Divine wisdom had not revealed it to Mary, she never would and never could have sought and found it at the Saviour’s feet. Heavenly wisdom is displayed by those who care about their soul’s salvation and love the Lord. These fruits do not grow on nature’s barren tree, but are produced by the quickening operations of the blessed Spirit of the living God. He makes His people willing in the day of His power; and it appears from the statement of Jesus, “Mary hath chosen that good part,” that it was voluntarily embraced by her – the act of her choice – which signifies a drawing of the heart to desire it. This is the first step towards obtaining possession of “the one thing needful,” i.e. communion with Jesus. The desires of the heart go forth to Jesus; the thoughts of the mind are sometimes fixed upon His Name; the understanding is enlightened to see the excellency of the lot of those who are privileged to possess the sweet rest of faith. Seekers always find and, like Mary, choose (it is an act of the will) that good part, which consists in letting the world go and cleaving to Jesus; holding earthly things with a loose hand and Christ with a loving heart. In short, as it is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit to teach the sinner his need, and to reveal Christ, the Supply of that need; so it is by the revealings and enablings of the same Spirit that poor sinners are brought into the enjoyment of communion with Him.
3. Why “the one thing needful” is so essential and desirable – The first reason that offers itself is because everything is included in communion with Christ. There is wisdom, happiness, peace, pardon, joy, rest, light, life, love, comfort, sanctification – in fact, every spiritual blessing is stored up in the heavenlies in Christ and, by communion, these blessings are imparted. This fellowship with Him does not consist merely in making the wants and wishes of the soul known by prayer, but in leanings on Him and lookings to Him and drawings from Him of precious faith. Without this, religion is an empty form. It is “the one thing needful.”
These communications to and from Jesus are needful to get through life comfortably and to die happily. There is no other way to Heaven. Those who sit at His feet here, shall sit on His throne hereafter.
Further, the Lord Jesus is glorified and honoured by that true discipleship which would first learn of Him how to serve – and which fears to perform service without previous instruction. He is the Teacher sent from God.
Lastly, communion with Him is needful to support us amid the trials, temptations, tempests and tribulations by which we are surrounded in the present time state. It is at His feet that He is “able to succour them that are tempted.” Thus, casting all our cares upon Him, we find, notwithstanding our foes, fears, sins and shortcomings, He careth for us.
We conclude these few feeble observations on a precious subject by breathing forth the desires of our heart in the language of good John Berridge –
“Teach me with child-like mind to sit
And sing at the dear Saviour’s feet,
Without distrust or fear.”