by Nick Crawford, Executive Pastor
I’m full of it. We all are. We’re all full of something. What is it?
When the Apostle Paul said his final farewell to the Church at Ephesus, he left them with a quote from Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).
How do you give when it seems like all you do is give yourself away?
You can't pour from an empty bucket. We can’t give ourselves to our families, friends, and neighbors if we have nothing to give. When I’m empty, the people closest to me wind up getting my leftovers. That is no way to live, and it surely doesn’t sound like the abundant life that Jesus came to give. (John 10:10). When I feel my bucket getting close to "E," I try to slow down and ask a few questions that help me diagnose what's really going on. Why am I filling my bucket? How am I filling it? What am I filling it with? These are the sort of questions that help me diagnose my own spiritual health. Many times, the answers lead me to a few subtle shifts that help me replenish the tank. So how do we fill ourselves with life, so we can give ourselves away?
Here are a few shifts that have helped me:
Shift your perspective.
Why we fill ourselves is far more important than what we use to get full. We need to stop and ask, "Why do I want to be full in the first place?" I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that the more I seek fullness from my own accomplishments, the emptier I become. I’ve won a few trophies, but they only filled me up for a day or two at most. Then, it was on to the next thing. When I'm chasing personal trophies, I spend my best energy on things that are currently gathering dust in an attic somewhere in the Mississippi Delta. But, when I run with the right motivation and pursue the things that are eternal, I gain life and energy. God changes people from the inside-out, and He does this for His own glory. (v. 21). He fills empty people to display His power to the world because His glory is His motivation.
So stop and ask the "why" questions. Why do I need more energy? Is it to accomplish my thing, or God's thing? Shifting your perspective will help you fill your bucket with the right motivation.
2. Shift your focus.
When it comes to "getting full," there's a difference between what and who. And this makes all the difference. Too often, we go to the what. We fill our buckets with things that can't satisfy. But what good is a bucket full of emptiness? There's a better way. We need to go to the Father, and we need to go to His people. Paul points out that it is a who and not a what that fills us. It is the "fullness of God" that fills us! (v. 19). Elsewhere, Paul says that the "fullness of God was pleased to dwell" in Jesus. (Col. 1:19). And here in Ephesians 3, Pauls says that Jesus dwells in our hearts though faith. (v. 17). Jesus is how we get full, and Jesus is in His Church. He works beyond our imagination "according to power at work within us." (v.20). Us. Let the plurality of that little word sink in. God works through the Church. He intends to shape us through community as we reflect on the gospel.
So, ask yourself, "How am I expecting to fill myself?" If your plan for living life to the fullest involves anything other than following after the person of Jesus in community, then you need to change your plan. Shifting your focus from what to who will help you fill your bucket with the right people.
3. Shift your practice.
What is the purpose of being full, if it's not for overflowing? Truth is, we all want to be able to do more and to give more of ourselves. But our great aspirations need to translate into great actions. Maybe you're like me here. I often wonder if I'm working in my own strength? If, after a stretch of days, I find myself feeling empty, you can bet your bottom dollar that I have been. God changes people by His own limitless ability. Paul says that God is "able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think." (v.20). God can do more in response to one prayer than we can do in a thousand years of planning and plodding. So, what are you doing to fill yourself? Make a practice of pouring out your heart to the Father in confident belief that He is able to do more! Shifting your practice to a greater emphasis on prayer will help you fill your bucket with the right Source.
Take it slow. Don’t try to shift everything around at once. Pick one of these shifts that you don’t have in place yet, and commit to slowly implementing it into your life overtime. Fill yourself, so you can overflow with life to other people. No more leftovers.