The Priority of Bible Study

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series You DO Have Time for Bible Study

How to choose the GOOD PART, encouragement for Bible study for women

You DO have time for Bible study.  I talked about that in this series already (Go back and read it here if you missed it).  But there are some things which need to be in place in order to create the habit of daily Bible study or devotion to God: a plan, a purpose, prayer, and perseverance.  

Today, I am talking more about how to create a plan for Bible study and how to set that plan in motion.

You may think when I say “plan” I am referring to picking the right Bible study for you.  But a plan for devotion actually starts before you decide what you are going to study.  A plan is the how of getting Bible study done.  It is the logistics of fitting Bible study into your busy day.

Today we are going to look at a hospitable homemaker who wanted to spend time with Jesus, who wanted to serve him; but she had her priorities a little messed up.  It is a familiar passage – a little too familiar.  As we revisit it, I hope the Holy Spirit will show you what Jesus had to say to this woman and how it affects you, too! 

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Start with “No”

Remember last time I mentioned one of my favorite verses?

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,

And revive me in Your ways.  ~Psalm 119:37

This is the starting point for your plan.

This is where you say “no” to certain things in your life, so you can say “YES” to studying God’s Word.  It is where you identify the items on your to-do list that are just not worth doing more than Bible study.  Notice I didn’t say, “Lay aside everything and spend your entire day studying God’s Word.”  I said, find the things that are less worthy than Bible study.

I am sure there are some things that are popping into your head that you don’t physically (or even mentally) write on your daily to-do list.  When was the last time you made a plan to sit down and watch TV for a half an hour?  When was the last time you penciled into your schedule, “Waste time on the internet?”  And have you ever added, “sit and do nothing” to your list of things you must get done today?  These things are less than worthy of stealing time away from you that you could be spending on better things, like Bible study.

Three Things to Say “No” to

One of the most often referenced stories in the Bible that speaks to saying “No” to the vain things is the Mary and Martha story.  And for good reason – it points out that the tasks of your homemaking day, even showing hospitality to others, are less important than spending time with Jesus.  But let’s revisit the passage and see what pops out while we consider the context of saying, “No” to vanity.

Now as they were traveling along, he entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me.”  But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  ~Luke 10: 38-42

Did you see Martha?  What did you learn about her?

Miss Martha

Here’s a quick list of what the Word of God tells us about her here:

  • she welcomed Jesus into her home
  • she had a sister, Mary
  • Martha was distracted with all her preparations
  • she asked the Lord, “Do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”
  • Jesus told her she was worried about so many things
  • Jesus told her she was bothered about so many things

What I see here is a typical homemaker’s heart.  She has invited Jesus into her home.  And she wants to be with Him.  She longs for fellowship with him, longs to serve Him in some small way.  But she has a few problems: distraction, worry, and bother.

Miss Martha’s Problems

Let’s look at these three problems and see what Jesus has to show us through Martha’s example:

  1. Distraction – the Greek word for distraction means “to drag all around” and “to draw different ways at the same time.”  It means she was thinking about so many things at once she couldn’t focus on the most important one.  I don’t know about you, but I see some of Martha in me – I can get distracted very easily!
  2. Worry – the Greek word for worry is closely related to the word for distraction.  It means “to be anxious about, to have a distracting care.”  It means she was worried about the wrong things – so many wrong things.   Anxiety is a stumbling block to spending devoted time with the Lord.  {For an interesting insight into what Jesus meant when he said “worry” read this post.}
  3. Bother – the Greek word for bothered is related to noise and uproar.  It is “to make noise, an uproar, to disturb, or stir up.”  And in this context it is internal, in the mind.  Part of Martha’s problem was she didn’t turn off the noise in her own head long enough to sit at Jesus’s feet.

She had a number of things on her mind because she had invited Jesus into her home.  Making sure He had something to eat and something to drink.  She wanted to make sure her standard of hospitality was met.  So, she busied herself with stuff to do.  And listened to all the distractions instead of simply taking a moment to be quiet at the feet of Jesus.

You DO have time for Bible Study - a discussion of saying Yes to Bible Study and making it a priority in your every day life. The priority of Bible study illustrated by a Biblical example.

Say “Yes” to the Good Part

What Jesus says to Martha about Mary is what brings this whole discussion together.  He said of Mary, “she has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  Here He makes a contrast by implication.  The contrast is between what is lasting (what shall not be taken away) and what is not lasting (distractions, worries, and bother).  And the implication is these three problems (distraction, worry, and bother) add up to vanity – that which is passing away.

In a moment – in a sentence, really- Jesus lays out what is most important in this life.  And He helps Martha to rediscover her priorities.  He wants her to say, “Yes” to the good part.  I love how Jesus used words!  And I love He was always able to get to the heart of an issue, usually in one or two sentences.  He makes it so simple!

You might note, and rightly, Jesus does not give Martha an action plan for spending time with Him.  And you may be tempted to think He didn’t really offer a solution to her problems of distraction, worry, and bother.  But don’t move away so fast from what He said to her.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one…

If you ever needed direction as to what your number one priority should be, it is here.  No, Jesus does not give a “10 Steps to Have the Perfect Quiet Time” message.  He did not tell her what her “Top 5 Priorities as a Hospitality-Driven Follower of Jesus” should be.  He gives Martha half a sentence to tell her what everything else in life should line up behind: “time listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.”

The Freedom of Devotion

Here’s what I love about studying this passage and thinking about it in the context of creating the habit of devoted Bible study: it gives me just enough to highlight the most important, but enough freedom to live my life differently from others.  I can have any set of priorities I want to have in whatever order I want to have them, if I have the first one right.  As long as my number one priority every day is taking time to listen to God’s Word and sit myself at His feet, I can have the rest of my priorities take whatever shape I want.

This is wonderful because Jesus doesn’t expect me to be a regimented copy of the Christian homemaker next door.  He doesn’t want my life to look exactly like my best friend’s or my pastor’s wife’s.  He wants it to look like my life, with my priorities highlighting the things He has led me to do.  Did you notice He didn’t want Martha to change into Mary?  He just wanted her to recognize what Mary had chosen (the good part) was the one necessity of her day.

The Choice

Did you notice one more thing as we saw the verse referenced again? It is a choice Mary made that Martha did not.  Her decision to sit at Jesus’s feet was not swayed by the sighs and frustrations of others (namely Miss Martha).  She had chosen the good part and she was sticking with it!  She had said, “Yes” to listening to the Lord’s words.  The result was she was saying, “No” to being helpful and hospitable, like Martha.  But even the opinions and desires of other people did not dictate to Mary that she should change her focus or readjust her priorities.

And really whether you start with, “No” or start with “Yes” doesn’t really matter.  What matters is we focus in on God’s Word and we make it not just a priority in our life (something that makes the list, somewhere near the bottom), but we make it the number one priority of our lives.

Have you made diligent, devoted Bible study number one in your life?  The choice stands before you today to spend time on what matters or to focus your eyes on vanity.  What are the things you need to say, “No” to in order to say, “Yes” to time in God’s Word?

You DO have time for Bible study - encouraging words to help you understand the priority of Bible study

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