Humanity constantly seeks that One Thing that will change life forever. One investment strategy that produces an unprecedented rate of return and makes us rich. One scientific discovery that yields a medical breakthrough and eradicates a disease that ails us. One activity that generates a rush of adrenaline and the ultimate thrill, eliminating the boredom that plagues us. One person who meets our needs for acceptance and unconditional love. One pursuit that satisfies the soul and gives our lives meaning.
Sadly, many of us never find the one thing we believe will transform our lives and make everything better. And those of us who do often learn a painful lesson: the one thing we’ve spent so much of life chasing disappoints and fails to satisfy our cravings, our hopes, and our yearnings.
Interestingly, the Bible uses the phrase one thing on a variety of occasions and it is instructive to discover what it says about the term. The one thing that gives us purpose and satiates our souls. The one thing that changes our encounters with others. The one thing that draws us into a meaningful relationship with God. The one thing that might block our path to eternal life. Let’s examine a few and see what insights the Bible yields.
1] In Psalm 27, David declares, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4, NKJV). More than anything, David wanted to be in the presence of God and dialogue with Him. And as he pursued that desire David experienced such incredible joy he felt compelled to “sing praises to the Lord” (vs. 6b). In God, he found the source of true happiness – one that exists in all situations and which is not predicated on favorable conditions.
Moreover, he found strength to confront circumstances that had the potential to overwhelm him: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 27:6b, 13, NKJV). As David reflected on God and His glory, he acquired perspective and perseverance. Armed with those attributes, David defeated the enemy’s effort to discourage and distress him.
2] In Luke’s account of the gospel he describes two sisters who encounter Jesus as He enters a village. One of them, Martha, welcomes Jesus into her home, busies herself with acts of hospitality, and serves Him. The other, Mary, does nothing but sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. Frustrated, Martha brings this disparity in behavior to Jesus’ attention and asks Him to tell Mary to pull her weight and help. But Jesus does not respond as Martha hopes. He informs her she is troubled and distracted about many things. He then proclaims, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42, NKJV).
What an accurate metaphor for most of our lives. We busy ourselves doing good things, pursuing noble endeavors, performing honorable deeds. All this activity, we convince ourselves, reflects those things God wants more than anything. Like Martha, however, we misunderstand. God’s passion is for us, not our busyness. He yearns for us to sit at His feet and listen; develop a relationship with Him; experience intimacy with Him; and worship Him. Mary understood this truth. Do you understand it? Do you, like Mary, carve out time from your frenetic schedule of good activities to pursue the one thing that truly matters: listening to and spending time with Jesus? If not, consider making a commitment to prioritize that above all else.
3] In his gospel account, Mark tells the story of a rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. It is a question that has interested mankind since the beginning of time and is as salient as ever in today’s modern world. Jesus points the man to the Old Testament commandments and highlights a few in particular. In response, the man insists he has obeyed them all since his youth. In other words, he is righteous before the law.
Jesus recognizes the statement for what it is: a falsehood masking the true condition of the man’s faith. It is dead; yet he has no idea. The man is on the fast track to judgment but believes his place in heaven is secure. Because Jesus loves him, He makes one more attempt to reveal the truth. He says to the man, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:21, NKJV).
The man had an idolatrous relationship with the world. His love for the things of the world precluded him from having a genuine relationship with God. More than that, it prevented him from understanding how far removed from God he really was.
Like the rich young ruler, many of us allow something in life to distract us from God and compromise our relationship with Him. The world is filled with attractions, pleasures, and seductions that seek to draw us away from the Lord. Once it does, it can be difficult to recognize that a wedge exists between God and us, and that our faith is floundering as a result. What one thing in your life pulls you away from the Lord? If you’re unsure, ask God to reveal it. Then request He remove its influence and presence.
4] One of my favorite encounters in the New Testament occurs after Jesus heals a blind man. The Pharisees are enraged because the healing took place on the Sabbath and they are more interested in imposing Mosaic law on the people than seeing the captives set free. More than that, they want to destroy Jesus’ ministry because they perceive Him as a threat.
The scuttlebutt among the people is that Jesus might be the Christ. After all, who else has the power to heal a man blind from birth except the Son of God? The Pharisees want to eradicate this belief so they put out the word that anyone who confesses Jesus as the Christ (the Savior) will be excommunicated and kicked out of the synagogue.
They then contact the former blind man and insist he give an account of what happened. To influence his testimony they tell him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner” (John 9:24, NKJV). In other words, make sure you emphasize the fact that He sinned by healing you on the Sabbath. The man ignores their entreaty and replies, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25, NKJV). He refuses to debate the issue they want to discuss. Instead, he focuses on His encounter with Jesus and how that changed his life forever.
Similar scenarios play out around us today. Those hostile to Jesus demand we embrace their inaccurate view of Him: He was a good man but is not the Savior; He is not the only way to eternal life; He doesn’t care about people because the world is a bad place; He is judgmental and an egotist. And like the Pharisees from two thousand years ago they issue threats to anyone who disagrees with them: We will reject you from mainstream society; we will kick you out of the scientific and intellectual communities; we will sully your reputation; we will mock you as a hater, a fool, and a Neanderthal.
In such circumstances we would do well to mirror the example of the healed blind man. Avoid debating the merits of an irrelevant issue. Instead, focus on what Jesus has done in your life, what He means to you, and the miracles you experienced when you surrendered your life and called Him Lord. No one can argue with you on those points and often those are the most persuasive in drawing people to Jesus.