One Thing

Our weekend agenda was ambitious to say the least. Another trip out of state, air travel with three kids, destinations in three different cities in three days about 2-4hrs of drive time apart. In the end, I’m glad we pulled it off. I’m thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities it afforded to officiate a friend’s wedding, to re-connect with old friends who feel like family, and to celebrate Debbie’s and my grandfathers’ 98th birthdays (remember them from last year?) But I’ll be honest, I’m also glad we don’t make that kind of rhythm and pace the norm. Now that I’m finally catching up on sleep from that quick trip, I can say that I’m usually better off focusing on one thing at a time. Hats off to those multi-taskers and mothers who are champions of getting things done and keeping all the plates spinning so to speak. But I wonder if more of us would benefit from stepping back at times, letting less be more, and refreshing a vision for one thing that really matters…if there is such a thing?


David’s simple shepherd’s life eventually morphed into a seriously complex drama over time. From shepherd to king, from in-law to outlaw, from taking life to running for his life, David’s attention and efforts were often spread thin. But in his heart, there was one desire that trumped all others:

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, NIV

Undoubtedly, David prayed for many things, but THE thing he desperately “desired of the LORD” (NKJV) was to simply dwell, abide, and remain in the presence of his God. Being with God, knowing Him personally and deeply was what matter most to him. For this king, it was keeping company with the King of Kings that generated in his life the “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV).

And this wasn’t just a unique quirk of David’s. Growing out of David’s love for the Lord, the temple services eventually organized not just around sacrifices but also songs and musicians. It was one of these musicians who routinely stood and sang in the presence of God that penned this confession:

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere…

Psalm 84:10, NIV

The best life has to offer pales in comparison to being in God’s “courts,” dwelling in "the house of the LORD,” abiding in the presence of the living God. Life may consist of many good things, but the best thing, the one thing is being with God.


And this one thing isn’t just a preference. According to Jesus, it’s the one thing we need. While enjoying the hospitality of His good friends, Jesus slows down Martha who is dutifully preparing and hosting, but has somehow missed the “one thing.”

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But 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.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “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 10:38-42, NKJV

Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn from Him, to give undivided attention to Him and enjoy His presence. Martha, on the other hand, invested her greatest energies into making things ready for Jesus that she neglected the ultimate necessity of being with Jesus.

Apparently, this is not just one thing to desire. It’s the one thing we need.

And we can choose “that good part” every day, to approach life with an ambition not just to do things for God, but to live life with God — attentive to His presence, mind immersed in His Word, heart wide open to the promptings of His Spirit.


Do we live with one desire and one need in mind? This may require some rewiring of our habits and a transformation of our hearts, but I believe it’s what allows us to experience eternal life presently (cf. John 17:3) and prepares us for life with God throughout eternity. Consider how the apostle Paul takes this principle of “one thing” on the everyday level and scales it up to his eternal, heavenward ambition:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...I want to know Christ…

Philippians 3:8-10, NIV

And then just a few verses later…

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, NIV

Paul’s enthusiastic hold on the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ return someday (Titus 2:13) was daily fed by his supreme aim to know Jesus day by day. Could it be that the more we accept this one priority as our one necessity, the more we’re prepared for relationship with Christ throughout eternity? If that’s true, then pause for a moment and consider the sobering converse: The less our lives are fixated on the necessity of relationship with Christ, the less we’re prepared for eternity with Christ. What are the many things that pull and tug for our attention and affection? What are the many things we’re distracted by? Even the many good things? May the Lord lead us to a life of letting less be more and finding fullness of joy in the one thing that really matters.