It is possible to do what they call, “the Lord’s work,” and still miss the Lord.
Perhaps you feel distant from God. And perhaps you don’t know why. You’re committed to your local church. You serve faithfully there. You always help out, even on the jobs that no one else likes or notices.
So why does God seem so distant?
It could be that the very things you are doing in order to feel his presence are the things that are making you feel so far away from him. No one else knows this about you better than you do but maybe you’re not really doing the Lord’s work. Maybe you’re just doing a bunch of jobs to try and earn the Lord’s attention. It could be that you are performing for Christ instead of fellowshipping with him.
But don’t beat yourself up too bad. You’re not the first to fall into this trap.
One day, Jesus entered the home of a woman named Martha. By all appearances, she was ecstatic. You would be too. The other day, the bug man came to my house and I vacuumed to get ready. The bug man! Who vacuumes for the bug man? Has a bug man ever commented on the feng shui of someone’s living room? So just imagine if Jesus stopped by.
When he came to her house, Martha served. She was doing the Lord’s work. But she missed the Lord.
Her sister, Mary, was doing the exact opposite. She was just sitting. Don’t you hate it when you’re working hard while others who could be helping you are not? That was Martha’s sister. Martha worked. Mary sat. But Mary wasn’t just sitting anywhere.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:38-40 (ESV)
Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Listening to him. Worshipping him. Knowing him. All the while, Martha was missing him. She was so distracted doing the Lord’s work that she didn’t have the time to actually be with the Lord.
Notice the result of her performance. She didn’t feel any closer to Jesus. If anything, she was farther away from him. And the distance made her doubt. She asked Jesus the exact same question that his disciples asked him when they thought that there were about to die in the middle of a storm (Mark 4:38). “Don’t you care?”
The more our relationship with Christ is based on our performance, the more entitled we will feel. And the more anxious we’ll feel when things don’t go the way that we would like.
You can see that in Jesus’ response to Martha’s hard work.
But the Lord answered her, “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.” Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)
If Jesus ever calls your name twice, you know that you’ve missed something. He goes on to tell her that her performance is leading her to anxiety. But he offers her a remedy and it’s not to stop working. That’s one of the lies that we tell ourselves. If I could just quit my job, walk away from all of my responsibilities and move to the beach, life would be good. No, Jesus’ answer for Martha wasn’t a life of leisure. It was a life of devotion to him instead of a life devoted to trying to please him.
In Christ, you are loved. Nothing you do can make Jesus love you any more or less. That’s not a free pass to do whatever you want with your life. Instead, it should be motivation to live your whole life devoted to Jesus.
And the ones who are truly devoted to Jesus aren’t always the ones in the kitchen, the Sunday School class or the meeting room busy doing the Lord’s work. They are the ones who are determined not to miss Jesus.
So don’t quit doing the Lord’s work. Keep teaching Sunday School. Keep being a deacon. Keep singing with the worship band on Sunday mornings. But as you do those things, remember who you are doing them for. Remember that it is possible to do the Lord’s work and still miss the Lord.
Remember that Jesus would much rather have your fellowship than your performance.