The Main Thing: ‘Prepare Him Room’

Stuart McAllister is a big, burly Scotsman with a thick accent who previously made his living beating people up. If you know anything about me at all, you will correctly surmise that I took to him immediately.

I was first introduced to McAllister through the radio ministry of RZIM.org, where I heard him preach and teach. I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting him briefly at a mini-conference held years ago in Kansas City. The guy is tremendously likeable, but as he was speaking that day about the transformational work of Jesus in his life, I found my thoughts drifting instead to the sheer size of his upper arms: “Yeah, I’ll bet that guy probably could pick me up and break me in half…cool!”

Stuart McAllisterMcAllister earned my respect right away not only because he could capably manhandle Scottish drunkards, but also because he had thoroughly renounced that former life to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and work as an itinerant international apologist for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Happily for me, one of the themes to which I have seen him return again and again is the fallen and sinful inner workings of the heart of the outwardly-faithful Christian…and our pronounced tendency to drift away from Jesus. One of his favorite people to quote is Lee Iacocca:

Lee Iacocca once said, “The main thing in life is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” I don’t know about you, but I often find it hard to stay focused on the main thing; I often get distracted by secondary (and often good) things. As a follower of Jesus, my own distracted restlessness is challenged by words like John Piper‘s statement, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him” or Augustine‘s prayer, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” I am always learning to repose in God, always seeking to go further in the contemplative life by setting my focus on God alone. The Main Thing” by Stuart McAllister, Feb. 28, 2013

In my conversations with Christians, I am routinely appalled to find how much we all share the tendency to stop reading our Bible and/or become prayerless. Here, on the one hand, we all nod our heads in agreement by stating that there is nothing or no one more important to us than the Person of Jesus Christ – and that is certainly true – and yet on the other we throw ourselves into so much Christian ministry and other good, edifying activities that we look up one day to discover it’s been days since we prayed over anything other than supper…and weeks (or worse) since we actually picked up God’s Word and spent some time with it.

Consider this ESI post a confession. Mea culpa.

What is perhaps most appalling in these conversations I have with other believers is how little it takes to throw us off course. In my own case, for example, I caught a bad case of the flu (or whatever it is that is emptying out our schools these days) and had to sleep for the better part of four days in a row. When I “came to,” I found myself with ample time to review my “life of faith” these past few months and I was saddened to consider how long it had been since my wife and I spent time together reading the Word or praying as a couple. Perhaps, then, physical illness was the “unwanted blessing” that mercifully derailed my activities train such that I might reasonably be expected to “hear” the voice of God calling me back to Himself. Praise God for non-lethal influenza!

As we are all neck-deep in the busiest time of the year, rushing to and fro from parties and shopping and family gatherings – all of these things blessings in and of themselves – I want to issue a simple reminder to my own heart (and maybe yours) to remember to “Keep the main thing the main thing.” Christ is our “main thing,” and may He, in His mercy, give all of us the ability to create “room” in our hearts to welcome Him in. One of the best ways I know to repent of this perpetual busy-ness is to take a look backward over the last week and consider how I have spent my time, talent and treasure:

  • Have I worshipped God by giving Him freely of my time?
  • Have I worshipped God by using my talents and abilities to help others in His name?
  • Have I worshipped God by freely giving to my local church and parachurch ministries?

Prepare Him RoomMy own story is that I am spiritually blind, and it often takes a beating of one sort or another – verbal pummeling from a Scotsman, influenza, etc. – to get my attention. Had you told me 20 years ago that I would be praising God for bringing clarity to my heart through the helplessness and weakness of my body, I would have scoffed. Yet here I am thanking God for allowing me to weakly stare at the ceiling in my bedroom and to be given eyes to see just how far I had wandered away from Him.

My prayer for you is that you are not nearly so thick-headed as me, and that God will, in His mercy, use far-gentler reminders in your life to call you back to Himself. I know it’s Christmas. I know you have a lot of things to do, places to go and people to see. All that being true, the simplest of prayers are answered by Christ with great delight: “Jesus, especially in this season of celebrating your birth, have I remembered to make you my main thing?”

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “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.”

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