There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Many years ago, a strange question was put to me. It was, ‘ How do you eat an elephant?’ Never having had the choice of this delicacy on the menu of any restaurant I had visited, I felt that I was at a bit of a disadvantage in answering this. After some fruitless consideration on my part, the questioner enlightened me by saying that it was easy to eat an elephant; you take ‘one bite at a time’. Since that day, I haven’t come across any Elephant Curry or 'Entrecôte au Éléphant’ on any menu, but I have found the principle, ‘one bite at a time’, to be an invaluable piece of advice for setting priorities and tackling what often seems to be an insurmountable mountain of work.
The Bible uses a slightly different term for speaking about priorities. The term used is ‘one thing'. Here are some examples.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
The psalmist’s ‘one thing' here is a desire to be in the close presence of God throughout his life. He is very sure and definite about his priority.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
There is a more sombre note to this ‘one thing’. A rich young man, purporting to have kept all the commandments since his youth, is facing the challenge of prioritising between the love of money and devotion to God.
”Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Mary is rightly prioritising her time. Poor Martha hasn’t quite tuned in to what is more important here and has allowed resentment to creep in against her sister.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
The apostle Paul was steadfast in his priorities from the moment he met Christ on the Damascus Road. Gone were all other concerns. Only one thing would matter to him for the rest of his life and that would be to ‘press on’.
There are times when the Holy Spirit also draws near to us, as he drew near to the psalmist, the rich young man, Martha and Paul. Sometimes he draws near in great quietness and gentleness; other times, he comes with seeming more power. But, either way, he communicates clearly what God’s ‘one thing' is for our lives at any point in time. Sometimes, it’s not always what we would have chosen. Is there a ‘one thing’ that you have been struggling with lately? Do you identify with the rich young man and Martha and find this a challenge? If so, just think about this. Who do you think, of the four people mentioned above, was the happiest at the end of the day? Who went out into eternity with fewer regrets? As we seek to accept God’s ‘one thing’ for our lives, we will find our lives the richer, fuller and happier as a result.
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