Do I Pursue Goals More Than God?

Do I Pursue Goals More Than God?

February 22, 2016

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Today I have a confession, one that is hard to admit. Many times I want the satisfaction of completing a goal more than I want to experience God.

This is a battle every morning, knowing my to-do list beckons, tasks await, people expect, emails ding.

All the while my Bible sits on the table with a silent invitation. It’s not demanding, simply a peaceful promise. Sadly, it’s easy to pass by as I move on to things I “need” to do.

I’m wired like Martha — maybe you know her from the Bible? She was concerned about her to-do list too.

Luke chapter 10 records a day when Martha was the hostess and Jesus was the guest. It’s a short story, but we know Martha fussed at Jesus because her sister wasn’t working hard enough. Rather than helping Martha fix the food, Mary was sitting listening to Jesus.

Jesus loved both Mary and Martha. But in that moment, as the story records, Jesus was more delighted with Mary’s heart to be with Him than in Martha’s heart to serve Him.

I can be a fusser too. Too busy with the details, too worried about planning for what’s next, too preoccupied with my to-do list. Sometimes I even worry about other people’s to-do lists.

Yet, I want a heart that pursues God more than goals. I want to long to spend time in Jesus’ presence more than I long to spend time on my computer or phone.

It’s not that I don’t love Jesus. I do. I’ve devoted my life to serving Him. I’m aware of His presence and talk to Him throughout the day.

But so did Martha. She loved Jesus. And I’m sure she loved having Him as a houseguest, where she could hear Him talk as she went about her daily tasks. Maybe she asked Him questions and served Him lunch. Touched His shoulder as she walked by and picked up His plate.

But she didn’t stop to sit at His feet. She didn’t pause her preparations to give Him wholehearted attention.

Jesus so gently and lovingly corrected Martha and gave her advice on the right way to go about her work:

“Martha, Martha,’ the LORD answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV)

Jesus loved Martha’s heart of service, but He wanted her wholehearted devotion first.

This was a message Jesus consistently taught in His ministry. Get your heart right first; that’s the most important place to start.

In fact, our key verse is from Jesus’ teaching recorded in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I wonder if Martha changed her habits. Did she check her heart and consider where Jesus fit? Did she review her priorities and put Jesus before cleaning up?

We don’t know the answer. The only thing we can know is what we decide to do with this story.

It’s so compelling to jump into our days — whether it’s carpooling children or leading a meeting at work — without ever pausing to sit at Jesus’ feet. It’s so much easier to whisper a prayer while driving or listen to the Christian radio station and consider that time with God.

And we can be sure that God loves to hear our prayers and songs of worship. But Martha’s story challenges me to do a heart check. Why haven’t I carved out time every day to just enjoy the presence of the Lord?

It’s a challenging question, and one I’m determined to answer. But more than that, I’m committed to putting God before my goals in a very practical way … to stop being worried about my “many things” and choose what is “better.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for welcoming me into Your presence no matter how I approach You. You never shame me for my selfish choices, only love me. Help me re-order my heart and my schedule to put You before any task or goal. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (NIV)

Luke 10:41-42, “But the LORD said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (NLT)

If you feel overwhelmed and need help managing your schedule, Glynnis Whitwer’s book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, offers spiritual truth and practical tips.


Goals aren’t a bad thing; we just need to have our hearts right with the Lord before pursuing them. So if you sense God has called you to write or speak, we’d love to help you gain a fresh vision and get the tools you need at our annual She Speaks Conference this summer, where we offer professional training grounded in having a right heart before God.

Take a look at your calendar this week. When can you schedule 15 minutes to sit at Jesus’ feet? Write it in and consider it an appointment you can’t break.

© 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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  1. I’ve read this blog before but it always speaks to me. I am Martha too! I need to seek God before all the husslebussel starts!!

  2. Thank you for this gentle reminder. In the day to day life of being a busy mum who works it is so easy to get caught up in the to do list and make sure everyone else is ok. I see my bible sitting there and this has taught me yes it’s ok to not worry about doing the dishes now, but to spend time with our Father which is so much more precious. Thank you.

  3. Jesus as a welcome guest in my home as I do the dishes….
    What a peaceful thought….

  4. Sheena Stark says:

    Thank you I needed this! Please keep me in prayer as I strive towards this goal. I am overwhelmed and stressed out daily. But I know I serve a good and great God!

  5. God is so good. I’m up in the middle of the night with so much worry and conviction, and this devotion speaks directly to the situation that I’ve put myself in, I’ve put my goals before God. Glynnis thank you for your honesty,after the first few sentences I was sobbing:) God is so good & He doesn’t ever shame me for my selfish choices. I’ve continued to over commit myself, slowly feeling myself fade away from having my daily time with Him, telling myself I’d do it tomorrow and it’s turned into weeks and now months. My heart hasn’t been in the right place, which makes all of my work, goals & efforts useless, but God is so good and always faithful and forgiving.

  6. This really speak to my heart . I watched a video yesterday call War Room which gave practically the same advice. Keep on keeping for God.

  7. So very true and very convicting, thank you.

  8. Gods timing is perfect. I am a Martha, but desiring to be more like Mary.

  9. Love this reminder to sit with Jesus daily. Lately I have been setting a reminder on my First Five app at 8:30 (a time when i am not busy) to devote to Him.

  10. This just what I needed today.. since we are moving several states away an less than 1 month my to do list is very big. I can so easily get caught up in it and not take time for Jesus. Thank you.

  11. This article has made an impact on me. It has touched me deeply. What our Lord Jesus said to Martha about Marry, is what troubles me every day of my life. Like it has been articulated nicely in this article, that “It’s not that I don’t love Jesus. I do. I’ve devoted my life to serving Him. I’m aware of His presence and talk to Him throughout the day.” These are my words too. I always find myself being too busy with things that I feel ‘God has send me to do’ but also having a feeling that I do not give Jesus time enough to sit at His feet and give Him all my attention.
    Perhaps I am confused by saying that there are some responsibilities that really demand you to perform – and knowing that after performing such goals; you thank God for making you to have achieved them. I always consider that God has plans for us all, and He has schedules for us to complete within certain time frame. For us to meet the demands, we run after time, and that’s when we give Jesus a very small percentage of our time. I am really worried.
    Thanks God for letting me today, to share what has been haunting me – I always feel I do not give back enough to Jesus to compensate what I get from Him.

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Hi Emma, I’m praying you feel God’s pleasure at your heart to serve. I’ve learned there are some things God wants to give us, that we only get when we spend time with Him. You think that would be enough for me to stop everything and spend time in His presence! Please know I’m with you in this struggle to rest in God’s presence.

  12. It is good to devote Mary time to Christ in the midst of our Martha days. But God also designed us to set aside a Mary day out of our Martha week. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work (Exodus 20:8-10). I gave up cleaning and shopping on the Sabbath, and my house is no dirtier and my cupboards no emptier. But I am more rested, more patient, less stressed. Surprise! God’s plan works.

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      What a beautiful reminder of the importance of the Sabbath. For the past few years I’ve been practicing honoring the Sabbath. There is a joy in my heart knowing I’ve got a day of rest and guilt is NOT invited.

  13. Thank you so much! I have really struggled with my to do list and judging others for not doing the same… Thank you for sharing Martha’s story and helping me to remember true priorities! I am currently reading your book too and it is proving to be very helpful and making me always think!

  14. My husband and I have been trying to read a chronological Bible before we sleep at night. We have fallen behind by about s month. Last week we talked about that maybe we should change the time we set aside to get in The Word. We barely lay down and one of us is out! After seeing War Room I carved out a prayer closet, but it is getting increasingly harder to get there early in the morning. We are struggling in a new business because we are overwhelmingly busy. Today’s devotional brought it into focus that we have our priorities askew!

    Thank you, God, for bringing us First5 and Proverbs31 to bring us the messages we need to hear to grow. We thank you for every tool you give us to cultivate the gifts you give us. I ask that my husband and I clearly understand your will and give you ours! I ask that we are able to make the right decisions in order to receive your gifts and succeed as you wish. Amen

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Dear Theresa, I’m praying God shows you and your husband how to carve out time in your busy day to spend time with Him. As we see from Scripture, Jesus choose to spend time with His Father at many different times of the day. So don’t worry too much about the time. I think it’s our heart motivation that pleases the Lord most.

  15. Amen!!

  16. I loved this! I tell myself “God first” each morning but sometimes end up studying or getting distracted and then my God time gets missed! Thank you!

  17. Great reflection, thank you so much for this reminder.

  18. Thank you so much for this devotion re- Martha and Jesus. I suffer from “to do syndrome” as well! 🙂 I am going to take your challenge and set my alarm to go off earlier so I have dedicated time to spend with Our Lord.

  19. Please pray for me. I definitely have “Martha tendencies” but as a teenager I had wonderful youth leaders who stressed the importance of daily time alone with the Lord. Therefore I have been in the habit for many years of getting up before everyone else so I can have quiet time with just God, my Bible and a cup (or two) of coffee. However, our 3 year old granddaughter lives with us now and my feet on the stairs seem to be her alarm clock. No matter how quiet I try to be, she is typically up as soon as she hears me and her hearing is EXCELLENT!! I love her & love snuggling with her, but if she’s up, she is UP. It’s either a lot of activity or she wants to watch a show or play a game on the iPad. Even with volume low, it is still not my quiet time anymore. (I don’t even like it when my husband gets up during my God time whether he talks or not – he’s breathing my air!) Our house is not set up so that I can just choose another room to hang out with God and it’s too cold to go outside, besides the sun isn’t up at the time so I wouldn’t have light to read outside. And, I’m certain the door would wake my granddaughter too! I know it’s just a season that she’s here, but I REALLY need my alone time with God! So, please pray. Thank you!

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Dear Shadra, I remember those days so well when my children were little. It just didn’t matter what time I tried to get up, I always had company. I’m praying God gives you creativity to find that time you desire in His presence. And the peace to know that He sees your situation, and is pleased with your longing to be with Him.

  20. Jennifer Brown says:

    Thank you for sharing this devotion. I am such a Martha too! I am a very active leader in my church, and I ALWAYS have “ministry work” to do! I often put that before my time with God in the morning. The word convicted my heart!

    Help me Jesus to put you first!

  21. Amen! I this devotion convicted my heart. Thank you

  22. Nancy Cooper says:

    I tend to Martha because it’s easier to focus on tasks than relationships. People are annoying and relationships are messy, but tasks are controllable. I struggle with it every day.

  23. Tommie Beth says:

    This is so timely! As I enter my office on Monday morning, I have been running through my mind my “to do” list for the day and week. Hoping that I do not miss anything. But I realize I am missing the most important thing of all…precious time with Him. Lord, I ask for forgiveness. I want you first in my life so that all other things will fall in line by your will. Help me be more like Mary and less like Martha.

  24. Lee Milstead says:

    Beautifully said…..thank you
    So very true, as a mother and wife…..
    How my heart desires to dwell with Jesus and how our roles distract.
    When we do start in His Word it often seems as if our time is stretched out.
    Lord as we dwell with you expand our time to get through the to do list ….later.

  25. good morning….To Shadra…..hopefully you will see this if you ck this page periodically today….you mention…youa re trying to find quiet time early early in the am…just a thought…retreat to the bathroom if necessary…just for a quick 5 minutes
    w/God…then possibly go to the coffee mode & more indepth conversatuon after that…
    just a thought…w/the little one & her very good hearing……just an idea…

    have a blessed day………………….kathy wyg

    let me know…what ends up working out best for you…..Shadra…thanks…

  26. Ouch! Thanks for sharing this I too get so busy with other task I look at my Bible laying on the night stand and think Ill spend time in the word. (But First) Other things rob me of that precious time with Him.

  27. Good morning,I love opening these up and how they always apply to my life and God speaks to me! Just like today, I have my Bible setting here to read even open and next thing I no I am consumed with money matters cause I got let go of my job last Friday so Instead of going to him for help as usual I try and figure it out on my own.
    Thank you for this message

  28. Krisinda 5 says:

    Thank you so much . I needed to hear that today!

  29. This is the third time today that Matthew 6:33 has been placed before me and its only 8:43 am! Yeah, looks like I need to take heed – now :o)

  30. Susan Heimbigner says:

    Oh, I found my “twin” in you. My goal for quite awhile has been to start my day with God, and I do through prayer before I even get out of bed. BUT, I want to start my day in HIS word. I have been aware that my days go much better when I make that time. Last night, I just could not justify NOT turning the TV off, so I did. I got my Bible and “Jesus Calling” and had an intimate visit with God. Now I am off to do the same to get my spirit in alignment with God for this new day of blessings and adventures.

  31. Thank you for the word today, Lord knows that is what I needed to hear today. I also tried to get info on the “She Speaks Conference” that is being held this summer. I seem to be getting an error stating the webpage is not working, may you please forward info to me on my email.

    Thanks again and God Bless! 🙂

  32. Today’s subject was perfectly-timed as this has been an on-going struggle for me, and, I am sure many of us. I realize that I put my items of concern or worry before my time with God sometimes, when He deserves the first of the time He has gifted me in each day. He is the One I call on to guide me and hear my prayers, and most of all, He is the One who saved us all and He deserves to be first in everyday. Thank you for a wonderful message!

  33. I needed this today. What a great way to start off the week. Thank you for sharing!

  34. Fabulous! I get up every morning wanting to read your emails there what get me through the day they are always so real and i connect with them on a daily basis your ministry has changed my life and I just hope you all know that this service is very appreciated God bless you 😉

  35. I needed to hear this reaffirmation today. I also struggle with finding that quiet moment to have with God. I always think once I get all my “to do” list completed I can sit and enjoy Him, but it never works out that away. Thank you for your message today!

  36. Each time I read this I am reminded of the difference between the two women. I am so much a Martha wanting to be a Mary. I remember going to school a few years ago and vowing when the semester started to spend the first moments reading my bible and seeking Jesus’ guidance. As the semester continued and the study pressures grew, I fell away from doing that. After a month or so I noticed a huge difference, the time I spent in the am with Jesus I noticed how smoothly my day and studies went. I was not stressed or rushed or confused over assignments. I felt confident and sure of what was happening.

    But when I stopped spending time with Jesus in the am I feel behind with assignments, I began to see my grades fall, I was unable to understand the assignments even though I had done them just days before. It was like I was in a void where things left my memory as fast as they entered if that makes sense. I was falling behind and getting frustrated almost to the point of dropping out.

    The circumstances hadn’t changed, I was still the same person and still going to school but my morning routine had. It’s funny when we look back we can see where things went wrong..

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Hi Debra,
      There is something supernatural that happens when we spend time with the Lord. Maybe it’s just being more aware of His presence that makes a difference. I love how you can look back and see it clearly. I’m praying that helps you going forward.

  37. Thank you.
    Exactly the reminder I need…every day.
    I used to be a Mary.
    Yet ever since we moved south, to an intense Christian bubble, with a large Christian University in our backyard, slowly, over the past few years, I think I do now want to pursue goals more than Jesus.
    More like Martha.
    Yet also adjusting to working outside the home after staying at home schooling Mama…well, I need to show myself grace, just as He does.
    So, I am going to get off the computer, let the dishes, laundry, dinner prep, shower go for now. And, go be with Jesus. I miss Him.
    Thanks again for the reminder and being honest, humble and hopeful.

  38. I sure did need these verse and devotion today. Lately, my schedule seems so packed, and I do know that God does not get my best. I feel awful about it. I have let my busy ways cloud my vision of seeing this matter. I love God! He is my first. I need to show that. I love the idea of making an appointment with God. That will be our time together. How luck am I that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me in spite of my weaknesses and sinful way. He is faithful. His love endures forever. Praise Jehovah!!

  39. I really needed this today. Every morning I read the #First5 on answer the experience guide. Then I get ready for my day. I have a little quiet time with God but not like I should have. I am going to reschedule things so I have time every day not just a few minutes.

  40. My hand is up??–I’m a Martha!

    Not too long ago the Lord gently yet bluntly confirmed this fact and challenged me to change. Trust me–I’m still a hot mess, but I can say He’s taught me to better detect my Martha moments and control my tizzies. I’ve also realized it’s ok to be a Martha as long as I have the heart of a Mary.

    Here’s a link to read my story–there’s so much more than I can tell y’all here! Though embarrassing, the Lord challenged me to share my Martha-ness. Admitting you’re a Martha isn’t easy or fun, but it’s the first step to having a heart like Mary…So own it, girl!?

  41. One thing is needful.
    One is better.
    “Before I bring my need, I will bring my heart.
    …and keep You first.” Lauren Daigle
    Who’s first?
    That’s for me, too busy, overwhelmed, I had followed Brother Lawrence in the noisy kitchen without realizing that his discipline had begun with the total focus on God in still and quiet BEFORE starting action. Well, I knew, but I got too busy, thinking that God was ok with that because I stayed in communication.
    My design REQUIRES REST AND STILLNESS WITH GOD ALONE, alone with God, still and quiet. Did I say alone? Well, that’s it! I can be spiritually still by the practice even in chaos, but alone requires the discipline of purposeful separation WITHOUT action, distraction or reaction, just being. Oops! Yes, my bad.
    Start right, God first.

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Well said! Yes … our design requires time alone with God … there’s something that only happens then. It’s kind of like the importance of shutting down our phones or commuters more often than most of us do. There are updates that only happen then. But we’d rather do life nonstop and then collapse in exhaustion. Such good stuff to ponder. Thanks for the comment.

  42. Your material, and especially this one, is talking about almost exclusively well to do first world problems. I doubt many of your editorials are written even by ethnically, or socioeconomic diverse background writters. I appreciate much of what I have read, but there are other voices out there that aren’t reaching all of your readers. Connect from other perspectives. Thanks for all you do!

    • Glynnis Whitwer says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts TJ. We are so sensitive to the reality that our readers come from diverse places in life, not only enthic or socioeconomic. But seasons in life, married/not married, employed/not employed, and at different places on our spiritual journeys.
      I’m actually the senior editor of the devotions, and we try our very best to simplify our stories to what’s common to many. But I do know there’s a reality of diversity. We live with the impossibility of reaching all our readers as you say.
      I just wanted to you know we hear you, we agree with you, we make every effort to be sensitive to this reality, and we pray for God to bring to earth that which we will all enjoy in heaven – beautiful diversity yet one heart.

  43. Gracefully worded message of reminder. Make time with Jesus a priority… everything else will fall into place.

  44. TJ… I thought biblical principles transcend time and culture….first world or third world. Are you looking for examples of how following this God principle would play out in a third world country? I have noticed that many replies to the devotions are not from the well to do and yet the heart issues all have a commonality. I have had the privilege of conversing and communing with both first and third world. The situational responses and priorities vary but the heart struggles are the same and the same salve heals all hearts….a loving God and His living Word.

  45. I am amazed! This is the very scripture and thoughts that came into my mind yesterday during our worship service. How easy it is to get distracted with life: kids, husband, work, house, emails, facebook, twitter, etc. I believe we are to learn how to relax and breath in His presence and then to our attention to our daily “to-do’s”. Thanks for this great reminder. I too am modeled after Martha, I love, love crossing tasks off of my “to-do” list, but at what cost??????

  46. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for today’s encouragement! It is a balm to my soul to know others struggle with the same struggles I do. Also, being given “permission” to allot fifteen minutes a day instead of half an hour or forty five minutes makes it more of a do-able commitment. I’m feeling calmed and my commitment renewed! Thank you!

  47. I love this, Glynnis! I, too, am innately wired as a ‘Martha’, and it is so difficult to stop being so task-oriented! I recently read your book Taming the To-Do List, and it spoke to me so much. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  48. This touches me so softly so I know it’s God’s touch. I care for my disabled husband, take care of home, and work full time. I struggle to find time alone for Him.

  49. As I am wiping the tears away I know that I needed this reminder to put him first!! Yes it’s true, I do pray on my way to drop off my grandkids (which I am raising and just opened a new business) at school. when I’m frustrated or on my way home from picking them up is when I pray. There is a lot going on here I do need to pray wholeheartedly and have alone time with my “Father” but it never happens, even when I’m trying to go to bed I never finish I end up falling asleep because I’m so tired.
    Thank you for this reminder I think we all needed this, I know I did!!!

    In His Name,

  50. Thank You! This sums why God sent His son: that we may have His will and live a life of Holy love on earth.

  51. Thank you–do true

  52. Kathleen Van Middendorp says:

    Wow just what I needed to read today. I started my day without spending time with the Lord first and I couldn”t figure out why my day seemed off. Now I think I have the answer. Even though some days are hard as I am also a dooer I need to spend more time with the Lord.

  53. Great story. In my small group we are doing the study “how to be a Mary in a Martha world” Great study! And loved your devotion today 2/22/2016 thank You and God Bless!!

  54. This word fits me perfectly. I’ve been called a Martha many times. My heart is ti change and settle into His presence on a daily basis. Thank you for this well written and powerful truth.

  55. Even worse when you’re retired and you let unimportant things draw your attention away from sitting at Jesus’ feet. It is a battle I am fighting!

  56. Anna Watson says:

    I’m definitely a Martha. I pray to be more of a Mary.

  57. Thank you, Glynnis, for your transparency. Know that the Lord used it to prick my heart and draw me back to Him. I am overwhelmed by His grace and mercy.

    God bless you and your ministry.

  58. Truly a word for me. My heart is right especially when doing service. But i have been feeling guilty & have even been apologizing to Jesus in my prayers for not spending quality time with him. I love the 15min devotion idea

  59. Cindy Hooper says:

    Having recently retired from teaching, I realize how achievement/goal oriented I have been, and still am. Quality time with our Father restores balance to our lives. This devotional is the “spiritual vitamin” I need each morning. Thank you!

  60. Darlene Sala says:

    Oh, thank you, Glynnis. I needed that reminder!

  61. Thank you, Glynnis, for telling it like it is. I’m guilty of this, and I know that not enough time at His feet is is the root of my feeling so discombobulated, disconnected and distracted. Seek ye first…because everything else really CAN wait.

  62. Hi! I am a person who is not struggling how to use my time wisely. In fact, I have much time. When I am bored and doing nothing, I long to serve God but the problem is my situation. I live in a country where attending a church service is already a struggle due to language barrier. I am paralyzed with my desire to do things that pleases God as I used to do before when I was still in the Philippines. As of now, I am just contented reading spiritual encouragement through subscription so to keep my faith alive. Thanks God I have found your blog.

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