How many things are on your to-do list right now? Go ahead, think about the pressing tasks for a moment. Stuff to do, people to call, things to fix, flabby bodies to whip back into shape (maybe just me?) — anybody else working on a little home reconstruction over the past couple of months?
Maybe you’re thinking about the many needs of the people around you. Mothers, fathers, teachers, pastors, leaders — how much have you felt the burdens of those near and dear to you recently? Worship leaders, how many setlists, recorded worship times, and team zoom calls do you have to still plan and execute? Whatever and whoever is in your mind’s eye right now, it’s not a secret that there is a lot to do around us, and oftentimes the burden seems like more than we can carry. I feel the weight of that as a worship leader and friend to the community – as if there was 25 hours of work to be done every day. The frequent antidotal anecdote of this problem would be to say, “The Lord gives us nothing we can’t handle” (which is incomplete, by the way) and that “all things are possible with Him.” But I want to remind you of the other side of the equation. What are we doing that He hasn’t prompted, and what are we giving Him that He hasn’t asked for? Perhaps the knapsack is too heavy because we picked up the wrong one? What response does the new need before us warrant? Let’s look at the life of our Teacher for some wisdom.
“But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16 emphasis added).
People are surrounding Jesus. Sick, lame, blind, hurting, lost, hungry — they learned quickly that Jesus was life and life abundant. Yet in the face of much opportunity and surmounting need, Jesus removed Himself from them and continued in the practice that prepared Him for ministry in the first place — prayer and love unto His Father first in the secret place. It wasn’t his leftover time, but his intentional best. He prepared for ministry in the secret place for 40 days and then continued His ministry from the secret place moving forward. In fact, He continues to minister to us through intercession even as you read this! (Romans 8:34)
I try to imagine in my heart what it must have been like for Jesus to separate Himself from the needs of the people and walk away when there was more to do. But Jesus knew a couple of things that I have yet to truly learn. He knew that loving the world would be fruitless and a waste of time if He did not love His Father first. And He knew that the power to love the world well came from His unity with the Father. Completing tasks may make us feel effective, but apart from the Father’s heart it can just be busywork.
I’m remembering the love that Mary poured out unto her Messiah in Luke 10. She focused her attention on her love and her Lord, no matter what the rest of the people expected from her. Mary was devoted, and Martha was “distracted with much serving.” How could she have been distracted when the serving was for Jesus? This seems so backwards! It’s because it’s entirely possible (and common) to do things for Jesus while missing Him entirely.
We hear the word “distraction” thrown around a lot these days in modern worship circles to describe things in the worship service that “take people’s eyes off of Jesus” or “interrupt the moment” due to neglect or poor skill level. Worship leaders, I encourage us to ask ourselves if perhaps we’ve become the ones who are distracted. Maybe we are the ones who are “distracted with many things” and miss the presence of the Savior in exchange for the perfection of the service. And while we want to give Him our very best in those moments, perhaps we need to remember that He could define “best” differently than we do. Maybe He just wants the heart-devoted you unified with Him in love, sitting right next to Him.
The needs will continue, and I believe the Lord is bringing a harvest of souls to this region — perhaps like one we’ve never seen. But what if revival doesn’t look like thousands of souls converting right off the bat? What if revival looks like thousands of Christians finding Christ afresh and waking up to what it means to love Him again? For loving Him well will always lead to loving the world as He did.
One thing is needed. Choose that today, and let the secret place of adoration and prayer define what today’s to-do’s become.
Bobby Bemis is a worship leader at Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale.