I had been leading worship and pastoring the worship ministry at our church for about two years. During this time I had put myself under a lot of pressure. I was new to both leading and pastoring, and although I had a lot of confidence musically, I felt pretty green in worship leading and totally overwhelmed with the people leadership aspect.
I got so busy and focused on doing the work, that my personal connection with God suffered. People wonder how this can happen to someone in ministry, but this situation is all too common for church leaders and believers in general. When we come to know Christ, we arrive acutely aware of our brokenness and praying for personal transformation. But then we get “better” and learn how to “do” church, “do” scripture reading, “do” prayer, “do" good things for others, and “do" anything that is considered a good thing for a Christ-follower to do. And sometimes living the "Christian” life becomes more focused on the doing rather than on the relationship with Christ and in being in community with others.
This reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was working in the kitchen preparing the dinner for Jesus and his disciples while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to what he was teaching. Martha was frustrated at Mary’s lack of help doing the “women’s work”. She tells Jesus, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come help me.” Jesus replies, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 40-42 NLT). In a different translation, Jesus tells Martha, “Mary has chosen the greater thing.”
I refer to this story not to say that doing the works of the Kingdom are not important. What I am saying is that if the doing is all we are focused on, then our relationship with God suffers. And this happens to all of us when we get too focused on “works”. And it definitely happened to me.
One Sunday in January 1994 I came home after leading worship music at my faith community and felt tired and down. I sat down at the piano and the song just started pouring out of my heart. I realized that I wanted to know Jesus more than I wanted to do good works for him, and that somehow I had lost connection with him. When I spontaneously sang “I give it all up again to hear you say that I’m your friend”, my heart melted. I later rewrote this line to be “I lay it all down again…” which is how it’s known today.
The story doesn’t end there. This song has a universal application of daily surrender. Do we lay down our own agendas for the “greater thing” of following Christ and asking what he would like us to do? Is that something we are willing to do daily?