This week, I overheard my husband talking to someone about a book he had read called “The One Thing.” It focused on the results you could get from being focused on one thing instead of many in a certain area of life. It’s a book that gives readers the challenge to focus on one thing in their finances, or one thing in their relationships, or one thing in their work, etc and to watch how that single focus, that one-thing, that one practice, will produce dramatic results in their lives. Health experts will encourage you to make one change in your diet like giving up soda or to add one thing like a half hour walk every day and that over time, and if you do, you will see a great benefit. I think the one thing it might take for me is to have my jaw wired shut, but I digress. Sometimes, because we are involved in so many things or so many things are clamoring for our attention, just focusing on the one thing that could really help us, becomes difficult.
As I thought about the one-thing concept, I remembered there were some Scriptures that encouraged “one-thing” thinking, so I googled them. There were five that I saw, and I want us to look at them together.
The first one is found in Psalm 27:4, and it is a prayer of David. It’s a “one-thing” prayer. 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.
Have you ever found yourself in a place there you didn’t want to leave? Maybe it was a special vacation. Maybe it was a resort with a lazy river! Maybe it was just a special moment like a wedding or celebration of an accomplishment that you wish would never end. Can you think of a place or a time like that? Somewhere or sometime where you were just lost in the experience or moment, and it was a wonderful, satisfying or comforting feeling? A place or time when everything seemed right with the world or at least the cares of the world seemed far, far away? Maybe it is that moment that you are in the middle of a donut with chocolate filling? Just a hypothetical scenario. For David who wrote this verse, that place, that experience, was in the presence of the Lord.
To understand what the Lord’s presence meant to David, you have to read the whole chapter. Verses one and two say, The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
We live in a dark world. We need illumination. We need to be able to clearly see what is really happening around us. We need to understand where God is in the midst of the darkness. Seeking the presence of the Lord means seeking light. He went on to say the Lord was his salvation and that he didn’t need to fear anyone. Something about the presence of the Lord gave him confidence and peace. It wiped away fear and anxiety.
Verse 3: Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. I don’t know what has come against you or your family. I don’t know what war is raging in your life, but if you need confidence that all will be well, the ONE THING you need is to seek the presence of the Lord. He went on in verse 5 to talk about how the presence of God would protect and keep him safe. In verse 13 he talked about experiencing the goodness of God in his life and circumstances. Listen, you will recognize God’s goodness, His work, His miraculous power more and more if you are singly focused on His presence in your life. A preoccupation with the presence of God enables you to see what He is up to.
In the time in which this was written, the temple, the place of worship, was where God’s presence dwelled. To experience God, they had to get to the temple, and even then, only the priests could get into the holy of holies to truly encounter God. Praise God, we no longer have to go to a specific place to seek the presence of the Lord. The Lord dwells in His children. WE are the temple of the living God. I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19 and II Corinthians 6:16b. We live and work and rest in the presence of God every day, everywhere we go. We just need to live with an awareness that He is with us, in us, for us.
I would say one thing to pray is, “God, help me experience Your presence in my life so that I am confident, am at peace and can see Your goodness in every circumstance.”
Prayer can be daunting. It’s like, “Where do I start,” right? The needs we have are overwhelming, or they can be if you feel alone in the prayer process. To streamline things, maybe consider this one-thing prayer this week.
The second “one-thing” thought comes from Mark chapter ten where Jesus was having a conversation with someone who was powerful. We learn from another Gospel writer that he was a Ruler of sorts. We also read from the story that he was wealthy. He asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life. He was coming to the right Person with that question, wasn’t he? Here is Jesus’ response in Mark 10:21. 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.”
I love that the text says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. A look says a lot, doesn’t it? You know when someone looks at you with a genuine interest. You know when someone truly cares about you. You can tell by the way they look at you if they love you, and feeling loved goes a long way in our ability to trust the person who is sharing something with us. There was no doubt in the Rich Young Ruler’s mind that Jesus was coming at him from a place of love. Jesus was giving him the honest and direct answer to his question.
Verse 22 gave us the man’s response: At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. He had come for eternal life, but he left dejected. He left sad. He rejected the love of Jesus for the love of position and money. Following Jesus would mean stepping down from wherever he was ruling. Following Jesus would mean a liquidating of his wealth in order to bless those less fortunate. He loved them too much to trade earthly riches for Kingdom ones. Now, the problem wasn’t that the guy possessed power or riches. That wasn’t an issue. The issue was that the power and the riches possessed him.
Jesus had said to him, “One thing you lack.” In the world’s eyes, the Rich Young Ruler had it all. Jesus didn’t see it that way. Jesus told him he lacked the most important thing, a heart for Jesus above all else. My takeaway from this story about the Rich Young Ruler is that we need to be sure that Jesus is first in our hearts. We all will have many things in life that we will pursue. I hope you have hopes and dreams for every day and that your bucket list keeps growing, but Jesus wants us to understand that the pursuit of earthly things can never take the place of the most important thing, knowing and following Jesus. In order for the Rich Young Ruler to learn what it meant to have a heart devoted to God, he had to let go of the things that were occupying a preeminent place in his heart. He wasn’t willing to let go of the idols in his life, to release his power and wealth. They were more important to him than eternal life, more important to him than Jesus’ love, and he left Jesus’ presence, powerful and wealthy but sad.
If we want to live satisfied, fulfilled and content, instead of sad and dejected, we need a one-thing passion for Jesus above all else.
Our third “one-thing” thought comes from John 9. We read there that Jesus healed a blind man. The blind man who was healed was questioned by his neighbors and others about his healing. He told them Jesus healed him by putting mud on his eyes and telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did, and he was healed, but they didn’t believe his story, so they took him to the Pharisees so they could “investigate the healing.”
Well, the Pharisees questioned the man and found out he was healed on the Sabbath. That was a problem for the Pharisees who held to the letter of the law about not doing work on the Sabbath. Listen, the work of God is good on any day of the week, and healing should have been at the top of their list of good things that could happen to a person. Anyway, they questioned the man again. They weren’t satisfied with his answer about what happened, so they then questioned his parents about the situation. His parents basically said they needed to ask him. So, they went and found the newly-healed man again and put him through another interrogation session.
It reminds me of a time when our son was maybe three and a half. He jumped off a bed, hit a dresser and dislocated his elbow. Thom took him to the ER and there was quite an interrogation session to try to discern if Thom had yanked his arm or if someone else had abused Josh in some way. They asked him question after question in a variety of ways, and Josh’s story always lined up with Thom’s. Finally, Josh had enough, and that three-and-a-half-year-old little boy said, “You have asked me and asked me, and I have told you and told you, and I’m not telling you again.” I can only imagine this was where this guy was about now.
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
What a stunning response! One thing I do know! Jesus made the difference. That is a one-thing proclamation that will change the world! What one thing do you know about what Jesus has done for you that you can share with someone else? We make witnessing difficult in our minds sometimes. Witnessing is just telling people what Christ has done for us. Thom was on a fishing trip with another Church of God pastor one time, and the person who had taken them out, a non-believer, asked some spiritual questions, namely what the Church of God was about. The other Pastor started with End Time Theology and used all kinds of language that the man had never heard before. The man was thoroughly confused, and the conversation ended. An opportunity was missed to say one clear thing that could have helped the man turn his life around. How about we boil our witness down to one thing. How about we share one thing that Jesus has done for us? Maybe you are thinking, “How can I boil it down to just one?” I’m right there with you. I could talk for days, but this week, look for a way to share what you know, what you have experienced because Jesus has touched your life.
Our fourth “one-thing” passage is in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s house. Mary is at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teaching. Martha, it says, is distracted by getting a meal ready. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t even lunch or suppertime. Anyone know someone who wants everything to be just so, and they create extra work for themselves to get a meal ready? Maybe they start prepping at 8 am for dinner at 6? The two sisters clearly had different priorities. Well, Martha was upset that Mary wasn’t in the kitchen helping her, so much so that she came into the room where Jesus was teaching Mary and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary had chosen the one thing that mattered most in that particular situation. She had an opportunity to sit and learn at Jesus’ feet and she took advantage of it. In that moment, there was one thing to pursue, and it was learning from the Master. Dinner prep could wait. To sit at the feet of a rabbi was the posture of a disciple. Mary wasn’t just trying to get out of work; she was seeking to learn from Jesus as a disciple would. Pursuing the knowledge of Christ and pursuing knowledge from Christ should be our highest pursuit. Mary did, and she wasn’t the one worried or upset about many things. Perhaps a one-thing, intentional pursuit of Jesus, will keep us from unnecessary worry and fear. If we didn’t focus on any of the other one-things I am sharing today, I think if we did that one thing, if our hearts were devoted to Bible study, to learning about Jesus, I somehow think everything else that needs to get done, will be accomplished. (Matthew 6:33)
Maybe you move through the day and feel like even though you have been busy all day you haven’t really accomplished anything. I’m telling you, if you spend time at the feet of Jesus, you have accomplished the most important thing. There are lots of things we can do in a day, but there is one thing we must do. We must find a way to spend some quiet time with Jesus to intentionally learn from Him.
Our last “one-thing” Scripture is found in Philippians 3:12-14. Paul had just said he wanted to know Christ in order to replicate Jesus’ life on earth. He went on to say this:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
First of all, Paul said he was doing one thing, but then he said he was forgetting what was behind and that he was straining toward what was ahead. That sounds like two things to me. I would say that the two things are really one thing. Paul decided to live a future-focused life. His one thing was a forward press toward the things of Heaven. Paul said he wasn’t going to let who he was before Christ or what he had done or even his reputation for doing those things deter or distract him from a call toward victory in Christ. He was going to Heaven, and he was going to take as many people with him as possible.
Paul had spent some time thinking about what could get in the way of his life with Jesus. His past could easily be thrown up in his face and become a stumbling block to his new mission. Paul wanted to accomplish the will of God, to plant churches and win souls for Heaven, and to do so, he knew he couldn’t let the past define or disqualify him. Jesus had qualified him by his blood. Paul’s past was proof that Jesus had changed his life because his past was now his past! If you have a past that you aren’t proud of, but now you are walking with Christ, your past is a trophy to point to God’s grace. Your past is your testimony. Your past is a black eye to the devil because he has lost his grip on you! And if you past still has a grip on you, you can put your past in the rear-view mirror by adopting this one-thing of Paul, the forward press.
Listen, if you are a Child of God, you need to be moving in one direction…upward. Life with Christ is an upward life. It is the high life. And if you aren’t making spiritual progress, if you aren’t living with a mindset of victory, you need to evaluate what is keeping you from doing so.
Paul had a very bad past. He had been a persecutor of the church. He had murdered Christians. He was meaner than a junkyard dog. He had to live with what he had done when he came to Christ, yes, but he now had something new to live for…He had Christ to live for. Maybe it isn’t your past, but it is something else that is keeping you from growing in the upward way in Jesus. What one thing do you need to put behind you in order to move forward? Is it some friendships that need to be put on the back burner? Are there some habits or hangouts that need to be done away with? Is it a job that has become all-consuming and keeps you so tied up there isn’t any time to seek and do the will of God for your life?
I have learned that as I attempt the one-things that have been shared with you this morning that I am given new reasons to live. There are heavenly assignments to accept, and as I do, there is a deep peace that is gifted to me, almost as if God has put a “do not disturb” sign on my soul. There is a joy that is better than any earthly high. There are purposes beyond what I could imagine that are so satisfying. The “one-things” to which Jesus invites us, to which Jesus calls us, result in a many-things blessing from Him back to us.
If you had to pick one of the five “one-things” today to focus on in your life, which one would it be?
Would you choose the One-thing Prayer to actively seek the presence of God on a regular basis?
Would you seek to cultivate a One-thing Passion for Jesus above all else?
Would you try to find ways to share a One-thing Proclamation, a one thing testimony about what Christ has done for you?
Maybe you would choose the One-thing Pursuit of spending regular time sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Or perhaps you have gotten stalled in seeking to do God’s will, in growing in the upward way with Jesus, maybe you need to focus on removing any hindrance so that you can make on a one-thing Press, the Press toward the things of Heaven.
Pick one, “one-thing” today, and ask God to help you accomplish it!