Unstopping the Wells of Revival: Clearing Away Distraction
7pm, 12 Bassett St
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.” 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 10:38-42, NIV
In Isaac’s day, the Philistines dumped rubbish in the wells to keep Isaac and his family from obtaining the water that would sustain their life in the desert. In our day, the enemy has been at work in a similar way, stopping up the wells of revival with all sorts of rubbish. And so this season, we are continuing to “re-dig” these wells of revival through our prayers. Our assignment is to pray through, repent of and renounce the various barriers and hindrances to revival that are keeping us and our declining Western church from the infusion of divine life which God has poured out on his people in past seasons of revival.
As we look into the metaphorical wells to start digging, an obvious barrier comes into focus: distraction. We live in an age of noise, constant activity, and total distraction. This distraction and noise is not inert…it is actually demonic. This past Sunday during worship, Father Len Cowan shared his deep conviction that distraction is a primary strategy of the enemy in our time. If he can keep our eyes off of Jesus our example, off of the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-4), and onto political chaos, a 24 hour news cycle, endless binging opportunities on Netflix and Prime, a schedule jam packed with activities and work and social events, so that we don’t even feel we have time to pray…then he has succeeded.
Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist once remarked that “hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil.” And surely it is not overstating things to say that one of the key outcomes of us being worried and distracted and overly busy with less important things is to keep us distant and separated from the life and power of God. Pastor Andrew pointed out on Sunday that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15), the only way to a life that is fruitful (and there is a world of difference between fruitfulness and activity) is to slow down enough to abide in Jesus and life in the awareness of his presence and our union with him. If we are overly busy and distracted there is simply no way for us to practice the presence of God.
In the scripture above, Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. The two sisters could not have responded more differently to his visit. Each made a choice as to how to honor Jesus as a guest in their home. Martha decided to do what she believed was expected of her as a hostess, to busy herself in the kitchen, making food, and all that goes into entertaining a special guest. Mary, however, chose not to busy herself in the kitchen, even though this was likely what was socially expected of her. Instead, like the rest of the male disciples, she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words. This was her way of honoring Jesus.
If we are to sit at Jesus’ feet and pay attention to his words, it requires that we say no to other things. Even things that are convenient or amusing to us, or perhaps even things that are culturally expected. When Brother Lawrence was asked by some of his visitors, what must I do in order to practice the presence of God, he replied that the answer was quite simple. All one must do, in order to dwell in the constant awareness of God’s presence, was to say no…to renounce everything that leads us away from God’s presence. Simple indeed. Easy? Not so much.
Mary renounced her duties in the kitchen, choosing instead to sit at Jesus’ feet. And this bothered Martha to no end. “Lord,” she said, “tell my sister to come help me in the kitchen!” But Jesus responds, “Martha Martha, you are worried and distracted about many things, but only one thing is necessary.”
This is what the Lord is saying to us today. To his church in New England. “Friends, your lives lack power and authority and wisdom and peace and the anointing of my spirit because so many of you are living worried and distracted and stressed out.” We are living lives cut off from the vine because we are out there trying to crank out fruit on our own. Some of the stuff we are doing is expected of us by others. Some of our busyness is just to cope with our own exhaustion – like binging shows or doom scrolling our newsfeed or getting lost in tiktok and social media. Jesus’ words to Martha are for us. “You are distracted. But only one thing is needed.”
And then he says, “look at Mary. Mary has chosen the better part. Instead of distraction. Instead of busyness…whether it was extra or expected of her…Mary has chosen to sit at my feet. To spend time with me. To pay attention to me. To focus on me. And it will not be taken away from her.”
And for us to participate in revival – we need to activate our inner Mary. We need to discipline ourselves to say NO to the hurry and distraction of our age and to find time to sit at Jesus’ feet. Every day.
As you look at your life, what keeps you distracted? What occupies your thoughts and time, keeping you from focusing on the Lord? What makes it difficult for you to consider something like fixed hour prayer? Ask God to help you renounce what does not help you abide in Jesus.
Pray for yourself and the church to be like Mary. Pray for God to strengthen our resolve to spend time with Him, listen to Him, and linger in the secret place. Pray for the church to recover the spiritual habits and practices of prayer and abiding that nurtured the saints in generations past.
Resolve to spend time with God this week and to reorder your days, schedules, and activity so that you have time to be with God and remain in communication with Him daily. Find a spiritually buddy and hold each other accountable to prioritizing Jesus and reducing clutter from your lives.