“But One Thing is Needful”


Sitting at Jesus' feet

By Virginia Brandt Berg

 God’s Word speaks of this “secret place,” the inner chamber of prayer within the secret of His presence, where Mary found rest. We read the story in Luke 10:38-42, where she sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of Him, while others rushed about, bothered with much serving. That’s why Mary’s name has gone down in history as a wise women, because Jesus said, “Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42b). At the beginning of that verse, Jesus said to Martha, who was distracted with the things that can be taken away, “But one thing is needed” – one thing!

I believe with all my heart that all things are possible with God. And I mean all things. “All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23). It makes no difference what it is. – God says “all things” and God’s Word is true! That includes your present need. Don’t say “except this” or “except that” – God says “all things!”

What vistas of hope! What possibilities this word “all” opens to every one of us! And what power and privileges lies at our command! But as we meditate about this, and read what Jesus said, we see that there’s something that is in contrast to this, and it is the only thing that’s really needful!

“All things are possible” but only “one thing is needful.” This verse is a real tranquilliser. It’s so restful in its sweet simplicity, it’s humble requirement: “But one thing is needful.” Many things are worthy of our effort; some things are worth sacrificing and striving for, but only “one thing is needful.” Jesus said to meet Him alone like this, in the secret place of prayer, and learn of Him. This one needful thing, as we sit at His feet, transcends all else. Mary’s sister Martha, was fussing over the big dinner, and Jesus said she was troubled, distracted, and anxious about many things.

She wanted to please the Lord with the work of her hands, but He wanted the worship of her heart. She didn’t realise that before the “all things possible,” that “one thing is needful;” that she couldn’t possible expect the “all things” until she had practiced the “one thing.”

There are professing Christians today who are neglecting the secret place of prayer, the one thing needful, and they think they will, by their works, their “much serving,” please the Lord and gain a higher place in His Work and in His Kingdom. They don’t seem to understand that the surest way of being lifted up into the “all things” and the place of responsibility and power is to first take the lowly place in the “one thing,” for God’s way up is down.

A pastor once came to me for counselling. He had been a pastor, but was crowded out of his field and replaced by a more successful, sincere pastor. He had been himself an untiring worker, and had often written to his Home Board that there was too much work, to send others to help him. Like Martha, his cry was, “Lord, bid someone come and help me!” But with all his work, which was constantly rushing here and there in a feverish flurry, he bore no fruit. And now defeated and with frustrated plans, he was back in his home field, laid aside.

If only he had stopped in his mad rush each day and sat at Jesus’ feet and learned of Him Who is meek and quiet in Spirit, he would have gone out there on the field in due time, to speak, to speak with gumption, and laboured with power, and to work with the Lord. Not just for Him, but also with Him. If he had gone to the secret place and sat at Jesus’ feet. It isn’t a crowded place!

But there he sat, an unfruitful, disappointed servant, because he hadn’t realised that “one thing is needed” in order to make “all things possible.”

He was distracted with so much serving, serving, that he neglected the better part, his prayer life, the sitting quietly and learning of Christ. He had tried to climb up some other way (John 10:1).

Have you done so? Or have you chosen the better part, which can never be taken away? Have you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time? (1Peter 5:6). Or do you fret yourself, and become troubled over “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31).


Martha was busy and hurried,

Serving the Friend Divine,

Cleaning the cups and platters,

Bringing the bread and the wine.


But Martha was careful and anxious,

Fretted in thought and word.

She had no time to be sitting

While she was serving the Lord


For Martha was “cumbered” with “serving,”

Martha was “troubled” with “things” –

Those that would pass with the using –

She was forgetting her wings.


Mary was quiet and peaceful,

Learning to love and to live.

Mary was hearing His precepts,

Mary was letting Him give –


Give of the riches eternal,

Treasures of mind and of heart,

Learning the mind of the Master,

Choosing the better part.


Do we ever labour at serving

Till voices grow fretful and shrill?

Forgetting how to be loving,

Forgetting how to be still?


Do we strive for “things” in possession,

And toil for the perishing meat?

Neglecting the one thing needful –

Sitting at Jesus’ feet?


Service is good when He asks it,

Labour is right in its place,

But there is one thing better –

Looking up in His face;


There is so much He can tell us,

Truths that are precious and deep;

This is the place where He wants us,

These are the things we can keep!

Annie Johnson Flint

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