“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'” (Luke 10:38-42).
Before I Met Martha
Several days ago I received an email from a major shipping company. The email indicated a package was to arrive at our new home. No packaged arrived. The company indicated that no one by my name was at the given address.
Tuesday, a technician came to our home to install cable, Internet, and phone services. During the installation, the technician asked me what seemed a strange question. More about that later.
Friday, which did not go at all as planned, I spent part of the morning trying to track down this mystery package. With the online help of a company representative, I learned my package was at the shipping center and I could pick it up there.
The shipping center is in the north end of town–about a 15-minute drive. I arrived at and entered the shipping center.
“The Providence in an Unwanted Package”
Standing behind a stainless steel counter was a middle-aged woman by the name of Martha. I said hello and handed her my California Driver’s License. She gave me a curious look.
“You don’t have any local identification?” She asked. I immediately felt like I was on the wrong side of the table, in an interrogation room.
“No. Sorry. My family and I recently moved here from Southern California. We took possession of our new home just a few days ago and we’re working to establish documented, permanent residency.” I answered.
“You moved here from where?” She asked with a tone of incredulity.
“And why would you do that?” She asked as she walked into an adjacent room to retrieve my package.
Martha quickly returned with a large box. And this is where the cable technician’s question comes into play. The box was from the cable company.
The cable technician who had come to my home a few days prior asked me if I had received the necessary cable and Internet equipment in the mail. I told him I had not received anything from the cable company. He said I should have received it prior to his arrival to our home.
I explained to the technician that I had made the installation appointment just a couple days ago. His recommendation: should I receive the shipment from the cable company simply return it.
“I drove all the way over here just to send this package back to the cable company.” I said to Martha, with a chuckle.
“Oh. No problem. Just write ‘RTS’ (initials for “Return to Sender”) and ‘Duplicate Order’ on the box. We’ll ship it back for you.” She instructed.
“Okay. Thanks.” I replied as I wrote the note on the top of the box.
“Why Did You Move to Iowa?”
“So, why did you move from California to Iowa?” Martha asked.
I told Martha that my family and I moved to Iowa to be part of church here, in Davenport. Like other strangers with whom I’ve had similar conversations, Martha tilted her head and had a slightly perplexed look on her face.
“Really?” She asked. “You moved to Davenport from Southern California to be part of a church?”
“Oh. Then you must be the pastor!” Martha reasoned. Again, like others before her, and I’m sure others yet to come, Martha was trying to make sense of it all.
“No. I’m not the pastor.” I’m simply a member of the church.” I answered.
“Then what do you do?” She asked.
“I’m a street evangelist.”
“And what does a street evangelist do?”
“Well, I preach the gospel on the streets, distribute gospel tracts, and engage people in gospel conversations.”
Martha looked at me with a very serious and determined look.
“Then I need to ask you some questions.” Martha said.
“Fire away!” I replied.
“I have a son who has been an alcoholic for 22 years.”
No sooner had Martha said that difficult sentence when she began to cry. As tears flowed down her cheeks, she told me her story–a story of years of hardship with an alcoholic adult son who has repeatedly turned to her for help, only to bite the hand that feeds and houses him.
“I need to find a church.” Martha said. “I’ve been to the Catholic Church. I pray the Rosary. I read my Bible every day. Where is your church?”
“I’m a member of Grace Fellowship Church, here in town. And this is our message.” I said as I wrote my name and cell number on the back of one of our church’s gospel tracts. I handed Martha the tract.
“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?” She asked.
“No, we’re not. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe the gospel I just put into your hand. We are Christians–Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, Jesus-loving Christians.”
For the next several minutes I provided Martha with counsel regarding the situation with her alcoholic son. And then I asked her, “Martha, have you ever truly repented of your sin and received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
Martha began to cry, again.
“Martha, You are Anxious and Troubled”
“I’ve tried and tried to do what God wants me to do.” Martha explained.
“That’s your problem.” I said.
Martha looked confused. So, I proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to her–the gospel of salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, apart from works. It was obvious to me that she had never before heard the gospel.
“Are you familiar with the Bible story about two sisters–Mary and Martha?” I asked.
I told her a paraphrased version of the story, which is found in Luke 10.
“Wait!” Martha exclaimed. “I thought Mary was the one who was busy at work and Martha was the one who wanted to spend time with Jesus.”
“No. It was Martha who was anxious and troubled. And Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, too.”
“Martha, Jesus said: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-29).
“Stop trying to work your way to God. Stop believing in Jesus plus Martha, Jesus plus church, Jesus plus good works. Believe and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation–for the forgiveness of your sin.”
I assured Martha that genuine faith in Jesus Christ is no guarantee of her “best life now.”
“Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior does not mean your son will get sober. It doesn’t mean all of your problems will go away. What it means is that no matter what this world throws at you, you can experience joy in the midst of your trials (James 1:2-4). It means that your hope is not in this life. It is a future hope (1 Peter 1:3-9). It’s the hope of one-day spending eternity in heaven with the God who saved you–with the One who died for you so that your sins can be forgiven and so that you can have perfect reconciliation with God.”
God’s Providence in My Time with Martha
Early in our conversation, Martha told me she had prayed for God to give her some indication that he was hearing her cries. After I shared the gospel with her, I explained to her the providence of God in our meeting and conversation.
“Martha, it’s no coincidence you and I met today.” I said.
“I know!” Martha exclaimed.
“I came here to pick up a package it turned out I didn’t need. This is a place of business, and we’ve been able to talk for almost an hour, without interruption.”
“That never happens!” She said.
“You’ve wondered if God has been hearing your prayers. Could it be any more obvious what the answer is? Today you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, from a stranger–from a man who came in to pick up a package he had to return to sender.
“Please, Martha. Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone, for your salvation. Receive Him as your Lord and Savior. Turn to Christ and live.”
A Hug and a Prayer
“I need to give you a hug.”
Martha came out from behind the counter, with outstretched arms. She hugged me and said, “Thank you.”
“Can I pray for you?” I asked.
“Yes. Please.” She replied.
I took Martha’s hand. No sooner had I begun to pray when I heard the familiar sound of the doorbell, of the front door to a business opening. It was the first customer in an hour.
I stopped praying to allow Martha to tend to the customer. Once he left, I tried to pray with her again. And once again, as soon as I started to pray, the doorbell rang. But this time I continued to pray, keeping it short and to the point. I prayed for Martha’s salvation and that she would find rest and peace in Jesus Christ.
I said goodbye to Martha as I made my way out of the business.
My feet didn’t touch the ground as I walked to my car–I’m sure of it.
I drove back to our new home where Mahria, Amanda, and about ten other ladies from our church were painting the interior. We gathered together in one of the rooms and I shared with them the testimony you just read.
I share this testimony for the glory of Jesus Christ, for the edification of His people, and for the salvation of the lost.