For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14
When thinking about what God wants, about what thrills his heart—it is just love that drives us to His feet in a posture of listening and learning. It is an intimacy with Jesus—such a closeness with God that Jesus talked about it as being “one” with Him. So much of our craving for relationships, for community, for social standing has a deeper root of a desire for love and respect that is only found in true intimacy and vulnerability.
Once, a woman named Martha invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 10:41–42). While she was busy preparing food, Mary, her sister, was nowhere to be found. Martha was understandably upset when she found Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus with the disciples and listening to Him. Martha complained to Jesus asking Him to tell Mary to get up and help, But He said in response,
“…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.”
There it was. “One thing is necessary.” What was Mary was doing? What was that “one thing”?
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Luke 10:39
If that is true, that there is only “one thing necessary”, then we have to ask ourselves what that means for us and if we are really doing it. If Jesus is right, then the one thing necessary thing is choosing to take a listening posture in His presence. We ask Him to teach us and start sitting with Him face to face by faith, hearing His Word (both directly through His Spirit and the scriptures enlivened by His Spirit).
“ONE THING NECESSARY” LIVING
The only problem is very few of us have any idea how to do this. For me, there’s a lot of embarrassment in this for me because I didn’t actually learn to do this until about 3 years ago. I had studied scripture before. I had prayed a lot. I had sensed God moving and directing my life. But about three years ago when God showed me “one thing necessary” as a response to me hitting a wall with anxiety and panic attacks, I realized I had no idea what it meant to sit at his feet and listen to what He had to say.
So the first thing I did was sit on the couch and admit that I did not know how to do this with Him not physically there. He reminded me that He was actually there with me according to the promise in His word (Matthew 28:20). He WAS sitting next to me actually, just as real as He was sitting next to Mary. Believing that was the first step.
Then, I told Him I was ready to listen and asked Him what He wanted to teach me.
That first day, I sensed one word– “Peace” along with the impression that I needed to meet Him again. I asked him follow-up questions…”what about peace?” He whispered to my heart “Go and learn what it means that I give you peace not like the world gives.” I went back to scripture (via google because I could not remember where it was) and read his words in John 14:27. I wanted to know what the word “Peace” meant, and the other places it was used. I got curious, and it became like a treasure hunt and such treasure I found! His peace is not a shallow greeting, not an outer communal peace, but a deep pervasive peace of His rule in our hearts. It’s a peace that calms seas of our souls and that flows out in the Living Water of the Holy Spirit to the world.
It was in following God’s prescription for anxiety by doing “one thing necessary” that I fell in love with this Jesus, the peace-giver, and met Him all over again in the pages of the gospels, in the prophecy and promises of the Old Testament, in the letters to the early church. It was suddenly fresh again, after all these years following Him. It was different because I started to believe and trust that 1) He was actually there and wanting to talk to me; 2) Listening to Him in His actual presence was my ONLY necessary thing for the day–absolutely vital.
Just to be clear, He actually spoke words to me. Not through my ears, but in my Spirit—discernable words. At first, I could only hear a phrase at a time. Like the word “Peace” or a fragment of scripture I was supposed to read. At the beginning I asked Him a lot of “yes or no” questions because it was easier to discern that. I would sense a still small voice of the Spirit guiding and teaching me. The Holy Spirit enlivening scripture took me to Person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit of Jesus led me by His voice to scripture.
I started sensing Him correcting me moment by moment just like He lovingly showed Martha, “You are anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42) He was so gentle with me. Along the way, I just simply stopped trying to fix my life and decided to seek Him and His kingdom instead—to take all the energy and time I was using for self-preservation, self-analysis, and my own reputation and glory and honor (the seeking of which strangely results in mostly shame and fear) and put all that into being with Him and in pursuing the kingdom.
This posture is the posture of a disciple—sitting at His feet, listening, learning from Him, hosting Him, being with Him, knowing Him more, asking His opinions, getting to know His heart, coming closer, walking out life with Him! The solution to striving, hustling, and over-production and the pressure of life, is to do the “One Thing” necessary—what Mary chose—sitting at His feet and listening to what He has to say. It’s loving, restorative time spent at the feet of Jesus, resulting in a joyful, intimate two-way relationship of continuous authentic connection to Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). I usually ask Him two things when I spend time with Him
+ Jesus, what do you want to teach me about my own heart?
+What do you want to teach me about yourself?
(these two questions were always intertwined—isn’t that sweet of Him!?)
WHAT IF EVERYTHING MOVED THROUGH THAT ROOM?
Many of us have experienced those moments of intimacy with Jesus before. Hopefully you have. Now imagine that you were not only in this posture for a few minutes of quiet time, devotions, chair time, whatever you call it (these secret place, desolate withdrawn moments times are is definitely important—Jesus even modeled that), but what if you were able to extend this posture of “sitting at his feet” to the rest of your day and into every moment of your life?
What if you did not get up and leave His feet ever, but every situation had to come into His presence before it could get to you? How would that change your life?
CONSTANT RELATIONAL RELIANCE ON THE SPIRIT OF GOD
This is very different than what most people know as Christianity. For years I thought the Holy Spirit’s job was to basically keep me obedient, to keep me pure, to help me live in the image of Christ, and to empower me to witness to others. He does do that, but I was still missing something crucial to Life in the Spirit here.
The role of the Holy Spirit is to actively teach us; to guide us; and to make us like Jesus by allowing us to live how He lived—in intimate, reliant relationship with the Father. We spend time at the feet of Jesus, we spend time in prayer, because we want to be able to know Him better—that’s the reward. We hear his voice often because we’re used to listening for it. We know the difference between our voice and His voice and the enemy’s voice the way I can distinguish my husband’s spoken voice among a whole house of other people. I know it because I hear it often. When he talks, I tuned in immediately. It’s not fuzzy or confusing. It’s clear because I am used to hearing it. I have trained my ear.
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Psalm 40:6
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Isaiah 55:2b-3
God’s offer has always been to speak to us, in the Old Testament that was though prophecy and teachers, but now we have the Holy Spirit (and also apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, according to His gifts).
THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES US, GUIDES US, AND MAKES US LIKE JESUS
Jesus said that the role of the Holy Spirit will be to teach us and remind us what Jesus said, and even tell us what He did not tell people while on earth! He will speak to us what He hears from Jesus, tell us what is to come, he will make things known to us, he will remind us of what Jesus said.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:12-15
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26
If the Holy Spirit is going to teach me and make known to me all Jesus wants Him to, then I have to be able to understand Him. He has to communicate actual ideas, words, corrections, principles, and thoughts to me, not just vague impressions. Jesus makes the analogy to shepherds and sheep. He said, “My sheep know my voice and follow me.” John 10:27
I want to just go over some of the scripture on relying on the voice of God:
He humbled you, and in your hunger He gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had known, so that you might understand that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3 (quoted in Matthew 4:4)
“You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:20
Note: These two scriptures are about eating through the ears! God’s words proceeding from His mouth by His Spirit are connected to manna, which was reliable, needed daily for that day only! We rely on His word for daily guidance and instruction and life sustenance.
My sheep know my voice and follow me.” John 10:27
For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:7-9
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:7-8
49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:49-50
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. John 14:10-11
“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (this one is related to hearing teachers, but read the next one!)
“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27
Isn’t this exciting?
This means I can ask the Holy Spirit to teach me things! Not only that, but I follow Him because He is a really good leader–a good shepherd, a good king. I follow Him because when He leads, I get to lay down and drink from cool rivers of life. When He leads, I see people around me set free!
But when it comes down to it, I follow Him just because I love Him. The sound of His voice leads me to more experiences of his love. So obedience to that voice isn’t by obligation; it’s out of love and joy. I believe that where He is taking me is actually the best place. And now I understand what He means when He says if you love me, you will obey my commandments. It might be hard sometimes, but it doesn’t feel heavy anymore, because it’s so joyful under His gentle leadership. The law has been written on my heart, and my heart of stone has been turned into flesh by the miracle of his gaze. My heart is soft toward Him now. I actually want to follow Him. I always said I did before, but now I believe He is capable of leading me really well. And I truly trust Him. I sit at His feet. That’s my only strategy.
ONE THING NECESSARY IN COMMUNITY
So you make ask “how does this relate to building a house church or small group worship community?” Well, when we are in community together, we take this same posture of asking God what He has to teach us together. We sit at His feet and listen.
That’s our “model.”
And He speaks every time. One of us will feel led to bring a song to sing, a scripture to share, a person to pray for, a message of encouragement (1Cor. 14:26). And one of the most common things we say after we meet is “Wow! Look what God gave us together today! Did you see how He put all that together?”
We actually see this principle in Acts with the early church, of reliant listening for making decisions and God’s positioning for the church’s and individuals’ ministries (Acts 8:29, Acts 16:6-7, Acts 20:22). Some call it “waiting worship,” some call it “worship-based prayer,” we call it “sitting at His feet.” We are not the first ones to come across this approach to church and life. But it’s so exciting that we could never go back. When we see God’s plans and purposes gradually revealed by the Holy Spirit in a meeting of the church, through the priesthood of believers and the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, it’s absolutely mindblowing.
When we live in the presence of God, He teaches us and guides us. We sit at His feet and listen to what He has to say. Jesus said he can do only what he sees his Father doing, and say what His Father is saying. (John 5:19, John 12:49-50). Do we have that kind of abiding relationship with the Father that Jesus prayed for us to have (John 14-16). See what Jesus modeled and walk the way He walked. Get it from God. Everything instruction. Every move. It is a counter-cultural way of life. But it is possible if you have tuned your ear to hear His voice by doing the “one thing necessary.”
This kind of relational reliance on the Spirit of God is only possible when we actually relinquish our own leadership and our own scheduling of our time, otherwise we would just get really frustrated when He speaks longer than we allot Him time to speak or tells us to move contrary to our plan. We go into corporate worship listening, humble, honest, and vulnerable, just as we are. And we ask God to encounter us, to continuously keep our spirits healed and freed up, so He can give us what we need to minister to others and to Him. We are usually small enough to not need sound support so there is no attention spent on production. When we meet in a larger group we just simply set up mics and kept the sound as simple as possible. He leads us in real time, in response to our obedience He takes us deeper into His presence, and into His Word, both spoken and written, where true worship happens.
IS HEARING HIM EVEN IMPORTANT?
Some might say, well, we have the Bible which is the Word of God…isn’t that enough? Doesn’t needing to hear Him imply that scripture is not enough? Well yes. I would say scripture is not enough because we don’t only need to know and understand scripture, we need to know direction and application of scripture in real-time if we are going to operate under the actual leadership of God to seek the kingdom here as it is in heaven. This active following requires a voice. So is hearing Him important?
Yes. Here’s why you need this:
1.Hearing His voice is proof of relationship.
Can you imagine if you were married to someone but you never heard their voice? That would not be much of a relationship.
We have developed a religious culture around busyness and service, but many of us don’t even know Him. We know about Him. We know the Bible. But some of us don’t really know Him as a PERSON that we are in relationship with. We use the phrase “relationship with God” too loosely and it has become church jargon for many who call themselves Christians.
2. Hearing His voice guards against false prophecy and stagnation.
Many people don’t realize they are supposed to hear the actual voice of God. Some have even been taught by church leaders that God has stopped speaking. Some are scared because they are worried they may become theologically off-based. But the Bible is very clear on this point. Hearing the voice of God is a discipline of listening empowered and made possible through the Holy Spirit and the Word (both Christ and scripture). We are to eagerly desire to hear God both for ourselves and for others. His Word never contradicts itself. It is always true. It never returns void. It always accomplishes what it set out to do. It always bears fruit (Isaiah 53-55). Knowing what His voice “sounds like” (in addition to knowing scripture) will help us discern against false prophecy from other sources.
Regarding false prophecy, false prophecy is always from a false source. We can know that we are not false when we abide in Jesus. As far as testing, we also need to know the voice of God which is actually called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). we know that one of the signs of false prophecy is anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God. But we can also recognize false prophets by their lack of fruit (Matthew 7:15-16) and by knowing that their voice is not aligned with scripture and what the voice of God has spoken to those abiding (can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:12).
If God speaks differently to those in the body of Christ who are abiding, we can trust that He always clarifies and brings us to unity, not the unity of our human ideas, but unity in Christ as a mature body (Ephesians 2:1-16). He never contradicts Himself or scripture. False prophecy is avoided by abiding in the true vine, knowing the true shepherd, and knowing His voice. Knowing His voice also open us up to the spiritual gift of prophecy, which the apostle Paul says we are supposed to eagerly desire (1 Cor. 12:31 and 14:1). It becomes easier to hear God’s word for others, so that we speak not out of human sympathy, but in a mutual building up of iron sharpening iron according to the word, will, and heart of God (this sometimes requires a gentle tearing down).
3. Jesus did it and so should we.
If we are being made into the image of Christ, then we should walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). How did He walk? He was led by the Holy Spirit and He obeyed His Father (Matthew 4:1, Matt. 12:28, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38). He made disciples by saying what His Father said and did what He saw His Father doing.
How would we know where to start?
We do it the way Jesus did–in complete reliance on the Holy Spirit. We have scripture just like Jesus did. We have the added benefit of the New Testament scriptures–the gospels and the letters to the churches. Jesus studied scripture, but just like Jesus in the wilderness, we need the Holy Spirit to know how to apply the truth of God’s word in the world around us. We need to know where to go and what to do! We need power! How do we know what our Father is saying and doing? We have to listen in quiet places so we can learn what His voice sounds like. We learn how to distinguish His voice from ours, (which happens as a result of sitting with Him and asking Him questions without any other voices around us). Then, in the moment of crisis or intense ministry, we don’t question when we hear His directions. We don’t question because we have learned His voice in the secret quiet places of intimacy. We know His voice.
BONUS OF “ONE THING NECESSARY” LIFESTYLE: NO PRESSURE
Every single day, we position ourselves close to Him so we can hear His word. This allows us to align with what He is doing and assures that we are living in His will, yielding fruit in every season as we just focus on Him through our whole lives, day to day, minute to minute. Living this way takes the pressure off. In this easy and light way, finding your calling is not something you need to really worry about. It is not a matter of you knowing yourself better or finding the right “fit” to a career or ministry activity. It is not a matter of developing your skills to perfection, because it is not about what you have to offer God. It is ONLY about learning to listen and remaining available to obey.
God’s kingdom work is done from a position of rest. Like God’s people in Isaiah 30:15, for a long time, I was unwilling to say yes to returning, rest, quietness, and trust. Yet, this exchange of my way of life for His, of my kingdoms for His Kingdom, has become my salvation. One Thing living is a lifestyle of constant reliance on the voice of Jesus—it is a constant, daily, moment by moment response to hearing him. I had heard the invitation spoken to my soul. Rest. Sit at my feet and listen.
Maybe it’s too passive sounding for you. Maybe it seems like a lazy way to live in our industrious culture. Maybe it seems too easy, like you should have to work harder or be “more sinless” for Him to be comfortable being with you or to be allowed to disciple others. Maybe you think you can’t do it, like Peter walking on the waves—you’ve tried and failed. You are too fickle to be trusted with other sheep.
Maybe you actually think God can’t do it, like when Israel asked for a human king. Maybe you don’t trust God as much as you thought you did.
But God actually really loves you. And He has made a way to be with you just as you are. He’s not waiting for you to be perfect first. Jesus always reached out to people who felt unworthy, unlovable, and full of sin. He also tried to reach the prideful and arrogant (though they rarely heard the offer.) And He sent the 12 out to announce the kingdom of God knowing that one would betray Him and all would desert Him before He died. He entrusted the message to fishermen (Peter, James, John) and tax collectors (Matthew, Zacheus), and murderers (Paul).
WHAT IF I HAVE NEVER HEARD GOD’S VOICE?
This is for you. Don’t doubt it. He promised us the Holy Spirit. He does not lie. You have to learn the voice of God by spending time with Him. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes this voice is a leading or a prompting, but there are words and instructions the Holy Spirit wants to speak to you. Often He will lead us back to scripture. Sometimes he will give us pictures. We will seek Him and find Him when we search with all our hearts. He will not hide from us (Jeremiah 29:11-13). But there are some things that can keep you from hearing His voice:
- Lack of faith that He still speaks or that He’s actually there with you. But He is. He promised.
- A broken trust between you and God. Sometimes His voice is blocked because we do not trust Him. Usually we do not trust Him because we are believing lies about either who He is or who we are. You can ask Him to reveal those things to you or you can ask a friend who walks with God to sit and ask God with you and help you identify the lies. Once you return to trust in Him, you will be able to hear His voice, and because you are confident in His love for you and His plan for you, you will be able to obey His voice out of love.
Listen and hear that there is “One Thing” necessary and then say “yes!”—get to know Jesus again, or maybe for the first time. I mean really. What do you need to know? What does your heart have questions about? Sit at the feet of Jesus—and just let Him teach you. He will absolutely speak to you. He promised He would (John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me).
Here’s a worship song that has meant a lot to our community. We sing it in Spanish but you can sing it in English too!