3 Signs that You’re Missing God’s One Needful Thing

021: 3 Signs that You’re Missing God’s One Needful Thing


Shownotes: 3 Signs that You’re Missing God’s One Needful Thing

3 Signs that You’re Missing God’s One Needful ThingOnly one thing is needful. This phrase comes from that well known story of Jesus, Mary, and Martha in Luke 10:38–42. It’s in verse 42 where Jesus tells Mary that only one thing is needful, or to put it another way, there is only one needful thing.

It’s so easy to forget that. The truth is we are programed to believe and act as if many things are always needful. We push ourselves into a frenzy, trying to do everything, be everything and be everywhere.

What would life be like if we embraced this as a principle by which to live—one thing is needful?

  • It goes like this.
  • For this season of my life, one thing is needful.
  • For this day, one thing is needful.
  • In this moment, one thing is needful.
  • For life, one thing is needful.

Wow. Can you imagine the difference for our health, our sanity, our relationships, our ministries . . . ? The list goes on.

Just thinking of it brings a sense of calm and peace.

Now, it’s not that we do only one thing in the season or year or day. Rather it is about knowing what the main thing is and anchoring everything around that. It brings you to living from God’s center.

What is the main thing, what is the needful thing for your life?  John 17:4 and Jesus is praying to God and says, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” This is one of those go-to life verses and in it is the clue for the needful thing for our lives—glorying God, bringing glory to God. That should be our life purpose. At the fundamental level, we do so by completing what God has given us, which brings us back to, one thing is needful.

We need signs to know when we’ve shifted from God’s one needful thing because as human beings, we are experts at self-deception and self-delusion. We go along happily convincing ourselves of a reality that’s just in our heads. So we devise “necessary things” that shift us from God’s one needful thing without even realizing it.

Sign #1 that you’ve shifted from God’s one needful thing: overwhelmed and confused

God is a God of peace and harmonious order. When you are in a state of overwhelm and confusion, you must take a check. Most likely, you are missing that one needful thing.

What do overwhelm and confusion look like?

You’re looking at your calendar/schedule and you realize that you’re in over your head or you just feel like screaming. Maybe you do. Maybe you throw up your hands in the air and say, “I can’t do this.” Or, you sit at your desk and hold your head in your hands.

This overwhelm lies in unrealistic expectations leading to unrealistic schedules because of confusion. This is confusion in terms of who you are in God and therefore what God requires of you in various seasons and situations.

What is the word God has given you about who you are that distinguishes you from Tom, Mary, Jane and Harry? Then, knowing who you are, in which season are you and what is God requiring of you? Fast forward to today, this moment, what is that needful thing? The absence is this knowledge is what leads to confusion and overwhelm.

You are also in confusion because you are trying to hold together many unrelated things that do not move you towards God’s desired end for you; do not move to fulfill God’s purposes for you.

What good is it if you please many, displease some and do not do what pleases God?

Sign #2 that you have missed God’s one needful thing: The rut, the spinning wheels, and the burnt out engine

Help! I can’t gain traction! Of course you can’t. We spin our wheels in the mud when we dig into the unproductive activities that we do because . . ..

What is a productive activity? A productive activity is one that is God-ordained. The one needful thing is a productive activity.

In a truly productive activity we may have the accolades, large attendance, everyone feeling, leaving on a high. But, again, if it is not that one needful thing from God, it’s not producing the harvest God desires and so, it’s unproductive.

That’s why sometimes even though everything looks good on the outside of our ministries, of our lives, deep within, we know that we are stuck; we are in a rut; we are not gaining traction and our engines are burning out.

But, what about when it doesn’t look good on the outside? Sometimes it is evident to anyone who is looking on that we are in that rut. That things are not moving.

Stop right there in the middle of that wheel spinning and recognize that you are dealing with a sign that you have missed the one needful thing that God has for you.

Sign #3 that you have missed God’s one needful thing: A word without the Word

Here is another one of those go-to life verses, particularly for those in ministry whether as preacher or teacher or both. Jeremiah 23:21–22 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.”

If you’re the main pastor, each Sunday you have to get up and preach, give a sermon. However, you’re very busy. You may hastily put something together. You may rely on a study someone else has done. You may turn to notes that someone has put together. Or, you may spend a lot of time preparing. Those methods are between you and God, but here is the question—did you stand in God’s council? Are you proclaiming God’s Words to God’s people?

It’s the same question for those of us who lead studies, teach classes in churches and other ministry settings.

Whatever you use, get the okay from God or you’ll miss that one needful thing. If you use them without allowing God to give you a particular word for the particular people to whom God has sent you, in the particular moment in which you preach or teach, a word that comes from standing in God’s council, then you have missed one needful thing.

There are some things that only God knows. God will only show you when you stand in God’s council. Of course, without that, God in God’s mercy may still use you. But that deep, abiding transformative work that happens within will only come when you take the time to step back and stand in God’s council.

Without that, you are giving God’s people a word without the Word from God. In other words, you are giving our words which, between you and I, have no life, have no eternal significance.

One of the tragedies of our day is wordless words. What do I mean? Back to the word without the Word from God.


It’s time. It’s high time to live by the principle, that only one thing is needful and when we are overcome by overwhelm and confusion, when we are spinning our wheels in the rut and our engine is burning, when we are giving words without hearing from God, it is time to live from God’s center, to stand in God’s council and hear again from God what is the one needful thing for this season, for this day, for this moment.

Can we do that? Can you right now say, “God if I am not doing the one needful thing you have for me in this moment, please show me what it is so that I can do it.”

3 Signs that You’re Missing God’s One Needful ThingPractical Tip:

Commit to begin each day by asking God and waiting for the answer: What is the one needful thing you have for me today?



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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Music:A True Friend” by Josh Molen

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