One Thing Before All Things
By Virginia Brandt Berg
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We are going to talk about Mark 9:23 today. You remember the story of the father who had the afflicted son. This son had been brought to the disciples, but they could do nothing for him. Then you remember that the man said to Jesus, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us” (Mark 9:22).
And Jesus replied, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). Now this thought, “All things are possible,” seems to stir the heart with the grandest hopes, and the mind leaps to high visions of mighty miracles and great achievements and manifestations of God’s power.
“All things are possible.” That just opens such vistas of possibility, doesn’t it? I want to fully assure you that I believe that, because I’m going to say something that might appear to be contrary. I believe that all things are possible, and they are possible to you. But God’s Word also says, “But one thing is needful,” and the one thing needful has to come before the all things that are possible (Luke 10:42).
There are many disappointed people who have rushed into the presence of God and demanded the “all things” before they had met the requirement of the “one thing” that is necessary. This one thing is a humbling thing, in comparison with the vistas of power and possibility when the door of hope swings open on the all things.
“But one thing is needful.” You know that you can’t neglect the one thing that is needful and expect to climb up some other way to a God-blessed, empowered ministry.
There are some Christians who have sacrificed everything, but they have an unfruitful ministry because they didn’t realize that it takes the one thing needful to make the all things possible. I say again, you can’t neglect the one thing needful. Unless you first do the thing that Jesus referred to when He spoke to Mary and Martha.
You remember He said to Martha, “Thou art troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). And then He spoke of Mary in this way: “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
Jesus said that of Mary, not because Mary was any better than Martha; we don’t believe that. We believe Martha loved the Lord dearly. But Mary had chosen eternal things that never disappoint, that never fail. Martha had her mind on different things. “What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matthew 6:31).
What is your choice today? Some will say, “This thought of all things being possible, that just thrills my soul. I want more faith so I can grasp for the all things. Faith is so wonderful.” Some people will say, “Think of what faith can do! All things are possible.” You can hardly comprehend the truth that all things are possible to him that believes.
Well, I believe it, too. Many times, my own heart has been lifted up and thrilled as I’ve seen faith bring to pass the “all things.” I’m ashamed to confess, however, that numbers of times I’ve reached for the “all things” and grasped only emptiness. My plans were frustrated and hopes were blasted because I didn’t put the “one thing needful” first—to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn of Him.
That is what this whole meditation is about: Don’t reach out for the “all things” until you first sit down with Jesus and partake of the one thing. If you had asked Martha if she took time to pray and talk to her Lord, she might have answered, “Why certainly, a few minutes here and there.” Like so many of us, she would offer Jesus just the ragged minutes that are left over in the day, not time that is definitely planned, when there are no distractions. In these days, we too try to crowd so many things into the space where we should fit just the “one thing.”
Mary didn’t. She took the one thing that is needful and put it in its rightful place, and that’s first.
I do say, beloved, that it’s true that this opens a door of hope to everyone, and that includes you and your need at this time. Don’t let me hurt your faith. Don’t exclude the thing that is your particular need, no matter how hopeless it looks, because God’s Word says, “All things are possible to him that believes.”
So often I think of those who have had some chronic illness for many, many years, until they’ve sunken into a state of conscious helplessness, and they just simply endure. They’ve no real expectancy at all, just no fight left in them. They’ve accepted their affliction as just part of them, something they have to live with. But God says, “All things are possible.”
How many times have I seen this verse bring release and victory when the conditions have been met! What are the conditions? “If thou canst believe.” How are you going to believe? You’ll only believe by living in God’s Word. I’ve seen miracles. I believe it, for my own life has been a miracle of God’s grace and healing power. But there has to come this “first things first.” You have to live before God in the one thing that’s needful before the all things that are possible.
Do you have a need today? God wants to supply that need. He says in Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
God will not fail you. Your door of hope swings wide open with this wonderful verse. Do you believe? Is your faith strong to take hold of God’s promise for your need? Your faith will grow strong only as you learn of God and read His Word. Give more time to prayer and seeking Him—the one thing that’s needful.
Beloved, we are living in dangerous times. Live in prayer. There is a great ministry for you there. God bless you and make you a blessing. Amen.
From a transcript of a Meditation Moments broadcast, adapted. Published on Anchor September 2023. Read by Carol Andrews.
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