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FIRST-PERSON: What’s important

EULESS, Texas (BP)–I love Thanksgiving because of the time my family spends together, especially as we head for the mad rush of the holiday season this year. But it’s quite different for my wife and me this year. My family is scattered all over the country and the world, and I’m not sure who will be coming or where we will be going for Thanksgiving dinner.

This reality of “who’s going where for Thanksgiving” seems to be a common phenomenon in today’s rapid-paced American family. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. It’s easy to lose perspective of what’s important and what we should be thankful for when we’re stuck on the interstate with the thousand other cars headed to a family member’s home. And when we get there, it’s not so much that you lose your gratitude but you lose your perspective on what’s important as you sit down, forget about all the awful things you said to the cars around you on the road, smile, pray and eat glorious Thanksgiving food.

What’s important in the fast-paced lifestyles of our families? Adding to the challenge of this question, we have war in Iraq and the Middle East, the continuing effort in Afghanistan, social unrest in Africa and even, yes, division here at home. What is most important in life amid these challenges? How can we be grateful as a family?

Some parents have sons or daughters serving in the military today. Some are experiencing “division at home” in terms of divorce, a child’s rebellion or financial problems. Some are feeling the effects of “spiritual burnout” when we can’t just get our spiritual lives on track. Some of us are working, working, working so that we can take the few days off, again, to get in a car or a plane to go visit family for Thanksgiving. You’re tired. You’re a spiritual Sahara Desert and you wonder, “What’s most important in life?”

I want to remind us that the most important things in life are really quite simple. The most important things in life bring life, not exhaustion. The most important things in life give peace, not turmoil. The most important things in life promote love, not hate. What am I talking about? The Bible gives us the answer. His name is Jesus.

Now, before you check out to this “too pat” of an answer, hear me out.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, we find Jesus visiting some friends. Their names are Mary and Martha. Martha invited Jesus and His disciples to stay with them, and Jesus gladly accepted the offer. But when we arrive at their home, Luke 10:40 describes the attitude of Martha, who was “distracted” by all the preparations that had to be made for Jesus and the disciples. On the other hand, Martha’s sister, Mary, is sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening to every word that comes out of His mouth.

Martha says to Jesus (I paraphrase), “Lord, don’t you care about me? Mary’s sitting there doing nothing, and I’m slaving away trying to get things ready for You and Your disciples! Tell her to get in here and help me!!” I love Jesus’ response: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-2, NKJV).

What is most important in this Thanksgiving season, amid the challenges at home and abroad? The most important thing for us is to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His every word. Worrying and becoming distracted about the issues of the day only cloud our focus on the Savior.

It’s not that we retreat into a fantasy world of simple faith or we shy away from the challenges we face. Rather, we sit at Jesus’ feet in an act of worship, waiting to hear Him speak words that will direct our steps, show us how to live, bring life, hope, peace and joy in the midst of confusion, death and division. By sitting at the feet of Christ, we will have chosen “that good part, which will not be taken away” from us.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year, even in today’s challenges. Wherever my wife and I end up — whether at home, in Virginia, in Texas, in England, or in Tennessee with family members — I’m making it a priority to teach my family to sit at Jesus’ feet. Only then will we know what true gratitude is in our lives. I want to challenge all of us to teach our family to sit at the Master’s feet and not become distracted by all that is around us. Rather, at the Master’s feet, the issues of the day will become clearer as He teaches us how to deal with them. What’s most important in life? Sitting, listening and soaking in every word of the Teacher who gives us the sense to make sense of it all.
Claude Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. His column appears monthly in Baptist Press.

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  • Claude Thomas