A NEW YEAR - Hold Nothing Back and Maintain Your Sanity!
I hope the title of this blog piqued your curiosity, especially the part about maintaining your sanity! Crazy days are inevitable, and there may come times this school year when you will feel like there is nothing left in the tank to give. However, to hold nothing back doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our physical or mental health. In fact, I’m going to make a case for just the opposite. Holding nothing back can actually help us stay sane when we follow a little formula modeled for us by Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 12:1-7).
Mary is best known for sitting and listening at Jesus’s feet while Martha was busy working in the kitchen, but the story I want to focus on isn’t that one. To be honest, I actually forgot about this particular incident until I recently read through the Book of Mark (14:3-9). Some scholars believe this may have been another woman, but most believe this was the same Mary described in the Gospel of John (12:3). In Mark’s account, Mary’s actions were significant enough to get an eyebrow raise and critique from most of the men in the room (sorry guys). I say “most” because Jesus responded quite differently, as you would imagine.
Let me give you a quick refresher of the account I am referencing. The Passover was a few days away, and Jesus was on His way to the cross. Jesus was having a meal in Bethany (two miles from Jerusalem) with friends which included Simon, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the disciples. At the dinner Mary made a bold move. She entered the men’s domain, approached Jesus, and proceeded to pour an expensive bottle of perfume over his head. This is not to be confused with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’s feet in the Gospel of Luke (7:39-50).
For quite some time prior to this incident Jesus had been telling His followers about His pending death and resurrection. I’m not certain if most were in denial because they didn’t believe Him or because they didn’t want to believe Him. You know they didn’t want to imagine life without Him. Sometimes it is easier to ignore the truth than embrace it! Whatever the reason, Mary believed Jesus so much that she decided to anoint Him for burial right there, right then. She held nothing back. She didn’t care how much it cost her. She didn’t care what anyone thought. She believed what Jesus had said about His future, and she acted on that belief with abandon.
What is interesting to me is we don’t hear anything about Mary stressing out over what Jesus had shared; in fact, her response stands in stark contrast to the response of some of the disciples. For example, Peter reprimanded Jesus for predicting His own death (Mark 8:31-33)! Maybe remaining calm and sane in stressful, unpredictable times requires a deep-seated faith in the ONE who is faithful. Maybe holding nothing back is second nature when our eyes are on Jesus instead of our circumstances. We may never know what Mary was feeling or thinking, but one thing we do know. Mary was blessed when she held nothing back. Listen to the words of Jesus.
“She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” Mark 14:8-9
And here we are, remembering her today.
I’m so inspired by Mary’s actions. She couldn’t control or alter the circumstances. In fact, I doubt she fully understood what was coming; no one did. However, this didn’t seem to matter. Her love for Jesus and her faith in Him gave her the boldness to hold nothing back.
What was Mary’s formula? How can you and I approach a new year with abandon and still maintain our sanity? As I read and reread over Mary’s actions, three main thoughts emerged. Perhaps these three ideas will hold the key to a hold-nothing-back kind of year for you!
Every time we read about Mary in the Gospels, we find her making it all about Jesus. She was often found in a posture of listening (Luke 10:38-42). For some of us, this may be where we need to start. Spending time in prayer and God’s Word helps to drown out the noise of the world so we can listen to Him.
I noted earlier that I recently decided to read back through the Book of Mark. My sole focus was to hone in on the words of Jesus. I wanted to imagine His tone and His facial expressions while listening to His intent and the purpose behind His words. I’m envious of Mary. In my life I can only infer what the Holy Spirit allows; Mary actually spent time with Jesus. I have to imagine she hung on His every word, and as she listened, she believed.
The more focused we are on Jesus, the more we listen, and the more we experience His faithfulness, the more we will come to believe what He says. I want to believe like Mary. Sometimes I go into “over-analyzing” mode, but I think God wants to say, “Quit thinking and just believe!” This isn’t to say we are not to use our brains. We are, but when it comes to God’s promises, we must choose to believe if we want to be able to hold nothing back.
Mary was all in. Her love and confidence in Jesus gave her the boldness to give all she had. Mary’s actions were an extravagant display of devotion to Jesus. Mark noted, ”A woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.” (Mark 14:3 ) This doesn’t make much sense to us today, but in the first century the best perfumes were preserved in alabaster. Additionally, the reference to nard implies this was probably a family heirloom passed from one generation to another. In other words, Mary held nothing back, pouring out her most precious possession on her Savior. Nothing was too good for Him. After all, He was the anointed King!
We all have prized possessions—our families, our time, our finances, our jobs, or even our skill sets. When we hold tightly to our possessions, we often create more stress for ourselves because nothing we have is really ours anyway. Doing all we can, “pouring out” what we have on Jesus, is a bold move, but it is a move that acknowledges our ineptness and God’s greatness. Like Mary, we can forego the opinion of others and hold nothing back knowing God will take what little we have and multiply it for His purposes. Nothing given to Jesus from a pure heart is ever wasted!
If you and I could go to coffee with Mary, my guess is she would be shocked and humbled we were still talking about her. Yet, Jesus said her boldness that day would be a topic of conversation throughout the world in the future. I bet Mary would assure us that doing all she could was worth it, resulting in blessing and not regret.
Blessed is one of those terms frequently used in Christian circles that I’m not sure we fully comprehend. When Jesus used the term blessed in the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), He was describing an inner quality, a spiritual state of well-being, and a deep joy unhampered by life’s situations. God’s presence for the believer is in and of itself a blessing, more than enough to satisfy our soul (John 4:14). Fulfillment and blessing can only be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2). Mary was such a great example of the well-known phrase, Blessed to be a blessing. Her belief in who Jesus was and what He said propelled her to be bold, and as a result, she was richly blessed.
Do you know Jesus? Do you love Him? Do you BELIEVE what He says is true?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then I am encouraging you to BE BOLD! Hold nothing back this year as you serve others in your current position whether it be with kids or adults. It is the only way to maintain sanity, and I promise, you will BE BLESSED!
Have a great year!