What is a spiritual leader? In essence, leadership is simply influence. If you have a sphere of influence in you marriage, your family, your school or workplace, a local church, among friends, or in your community then you have capacity to lead. To the extent that your influence helps others to grow in their relationship with Christ then you are a spiritual leader. God determines and enables your influence however you impact your effectiveness by embracing your calling as a spiritual leader.
One of the challenges for spiritual leaders is the awareness that there is so much to do for the kingdom. There rarely seems to be sufficient time to accomplish all that we feel that we need to get done for Jesus. There is a battle against the clock every day, and every week in the spiritual leader’s life. And the first casualty in that conflict is often the leader’s devotions. Devotions include but are not limited to prayer and reading the Bible for spiritual growth (as opposed to sermon preparation).
Martha of Mary and Martha fame knew the struggle well. She earnestly wanted to bless and honor Jesus with her service:
38Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” [Luke 10:38-42].
No one really questions whether Martha loved Jesus but there was a problem, Martha was distracted with much serving. The idea is that she was pulled in different directions. You sense Martha’s frustration that her sister Mary is not serving Jesus as she did, and that she feels alone in her level of service to the Lord. We might even relate to Martha’s unbridled command of Jesus to order her sister to get to work, tell her to help me. We may not even blink at the audacity of her ordering her Lord; nor are we likely to shudder and think that this is Martha’s “prayer request” of Jesus. Nonetheless many of us can relate to the distraction and frustration. We have even prayed for God to mobilize His people to serve, an understandably good notion but perhaps uttered to the Lord with the same spirit of Martha.
Then Jesus brings clarity and wisdom to the conflict – not only the conflict between Martha and Mary but also the conflict regarding our desire to do for God and our need to be with God. First, Jesus assesses the situation and identifies Martha’s struggle, you are worried and troubled about many things. I can so easily relate. There are many things on my to do list for Jesus. Arguably many of the items on the to do list are inspired by Jesus, and in an ideal world all of them are. Yet, my desire to do them for Jesus and the tension that exists while they are not done can cause me to worry and be troubled and distracted from Jesus.
Then Jesus provides the solution, but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. Mary made the choice to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word. You have to choose to engage in the discipline of devotion. You have to choose to prioritize time with Jesus through prayer, reading the Bible, reflection, and worship in order to hear Him. Jesus described the practice of prioritizing time with Him as that good part like the giving of first fruits – an acceptable and pleasing offering to God. And He assured us that if we choose it would not be taken away. In essence God will honor our choice to honor Him.
I must confess that my tendencies are more closely aligned with Martha than Mary. Nevertheless, I yearn to be like Mary. However, it seems that Martha accomplishes more for Jesus and I admit that I find that attractive. At times I wish there was a third sister, Marsha who was the best of both. That’s the type of follower of Jesus that I would want to be. But Christ in His infinite wisdom reveals only two sisters. So I need to choose, and the wise choice is to be Mary and sit and Jesus feet, hear Him, and then respond to what I hear. Then I can go about my Father’s business and seek to keep listening to Jesus.