Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
It is the ultimate buzzword lately. Everything is so focused on what you need to do for you; how you need to make more time for you; where to go to find you.
One of the things I have said to friends a million times is "you can't pour from on empty cup." If you spend all of your time and energy on everyone else's problems, you will run out of steam. If you are only functioning at 40%, you will only have 40% to work with when helping others. It is critical for our mental and spiritual health that we don't run dry. Our cup needs filled.
This morning as I was reading Philippians 2:3-4, I had some questions for God. If I am never supposed to be the point, where do I get filled up? How can I keep continually pouring into others if my gas light is on more often than my car's? (those who know me and my affinity for letting that little light shine, know that is saying something)
He brought me to a story in 1 Kings 17...
"The Widow at Zarephath
Then the LORD said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”
So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
But she said, “I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the LORD sends rain and the crops grow again!”
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the LORD had promised through Elijah." (1 Kings 17: 8-16)
Guys, I can identify with that woman on a spiritual level. I know the spiritual exhaustion that comes from pouring out the last little bit of mental and emotional energy I have left in my body, only to turn around and find someone with another need waiting. I have felt the frustration of, "fine! but just so you know this is literally all I have left in me. After this, I am empty. I am done. I have nothing left to give."
It is when we get to that point, the world tells us it is time for "self care." Ignore the needs of everyone around you and focus on you. Do something for you. Take time for you. Fill yourself up. That feels right, and necessary....but is it scriptural? We are called to examine everything (1 Thes. 5:12). Does it hold up?
Yes and no.
Philippians 2 tells us that we are to put others before ourselves. In an ideal scenerio, everyone in the family of the Kingdom of God is doing that. You know what that means, there is someone around you putting YOU before themselves when you are hitting your empty. The best piece of advice I ever received was during my marriage counseling before Joey and I got married. "If your number one priority is his happiness, and his number one priority is your happiness, you will have a happy marriage." This is so true. If we are always putting one another first, not out of selfish ambition or vanity, we are all by default cared for. But what happens when the teeter totter feels lopsided? Not just in your marriage, but in any relationship? Does that give us an excuse to fill our own cup?
We can. We can keep striving and ignoring the needs of others to focus on ourselves. We can shut everyone out and say, "right now it is all about ME!" It will even work for awhile. The woman had enough oil for one more meal. Eventually, that which we build on our own will run out.
So who should fill our cup?
God promised Elijah, and by proxy the woman, that her flour and oil would not run out. She kept pouring and pouring and the oil never ran out. She had everything she needed to keep feeding not only herself and her family, but the people God put in her life for her to care for in their time of need. God made sure that if she was obedient to put Elijah before herself, she would never starve.
Do you feel like you are starving spiritually? Like you have poured out everything you have and there is just nothing left? Now is not the time to take matters into your own hands. Now is the time to turn your face up. The needs will not stop, your own or others. Let God fill your cup and you will never have only enough for one last meal. As long as your faith remains in Him and not in yourself, in the face of any mountain, you will always have everything you need to move it. (Matthew 17:20)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows
Psalm 23:5 (emphasis added)
If you are feeling like you are empty today, who are you looking to to fill your cup?