Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pour Out

If you have been serving in some role for a long stretch, you eventually realize the strain it puts on you personally.  Whether you serve in your church in some way, or in your neighborhood or community organization, serving is demanding and draining.  Why? What is it about serving that is demanding and draining? Is it the hours of work? Is it the manual labor? Is it the preparation? 

I have found what contributes most to the demand and drain of serving is having to work with people.  It’s a paradox, because people bring the most joy and the most meaning to why we serve.  People are the REASON WHY we serve.  Yet, interacting with people can be frustrating, hurtful, and draining.  It is not the long hours that discourage people to serve.  It is not the manual labor that frustrates people.  On the contrary, manual labor actually energizes many people and gives them a sense of immediate accomplishment.  It is the process of working with and interacting with people that drains our battery fast.

I have written many blogs on leadership because leadership is all about working with people.  And while there are many great insights in to how to understand people better so you can work better with them, this blog is focused on the sacrifice of serving.

Serving Takes Sacrifice

I have to remind myself that there is a personal sacrifice in me serving where God has called me to.  Serving is not about me.  Serving is not about fulfilling me, although the benefit of serving is that it does bless me and grow me.  Serving, by it’s very definition is about giving yourself to others.  Serving is about accommodating people.  It is about seeking to understand people and then attempting to meet their needs.  Serving is about denying your own needs and preferences for a moment so that you can take a lower position of a servant to attend to the needs and preferences of others.  

The Apostle Paul was one of the first Church Leaders in History who helped establish many churches.  Paul wrote letters to other Church Leaders to give instruction and counsel that were later included in the Bible.  Paul, with all of his proven experience and Church authority understood the serving mindset and the price of serving.  

One of the letters Paul writes is to a young, up and coming Pastor named Timothy.  Timothy was being faithful leading and caring for people in a church Paul established in the city of Ephesus.  The Apostle was in prison at this stage of his life because of sharing the message of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle by this time had traveled throughout the world preaching, starting churches with people who became new believers.  The Apostle had served people all of his life since his conversion to following Jesus.  Knowing that he would likely be executed by the Romans, Paul wanted to give Timothy and other Church Leaders one final letter on the essence of leading people.  The Apostle Paul gave this charge:

2 Timothy 4
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.  As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

What a picture of pouring our life out as an offering to God! If you have served faithfully, this will likely resonate with you.  When you truly serve consistently and faithfully, you literally pour out your life - your time, your gifts, your all to people.  You pour your life out at all times, not just when it feels good to you, not just when you understand the plan.  You serve when it becomes difficult, when it feels lonely, when it becomes heavy.  But you stay committed because you know you are called.  Like Paul, you are called to “fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

Jesus Himself also used this analogy of pouring out in describing His life mission to His inner circle friends.   When Jesus was having a meal together with His Disciples, He knew soon He would be taken and beaten and killed by His enemies.  Jesus had enemies, not because He did anything wrong or selfish.  On the contrary, Jesus lived to serve others.  Jesus came to love the unlovable, to touch the untouchable.  He healed hurting people.  He forgave sinners.  Jesus brought a message of life and love.  But people in powerful positions were intimidated by Him, because He was turning people from traditional thinking.  Jesus was bringing freedom to people, and that endangered their power.  Jesus understood that there would be a sacrifice for his serving.  He would experience suffering for his serving.

Jesus used the bread and the wine at the table to illustrate the meaning of His life, to show the essence of what serving truly should look like:

Luke 22:20
..after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

The pouring concept really describes what serving feels like to me.   It is a complete surrender of self.  It is giving your all until you have nothing left to give.  It is giving yourself liberally, not holding anything back.

To pour out, you must empty yourself

But, here is the great thing about serving God!

You can never out-give God

When you pour out to people that you are called to serve, God re-fills you.  Jesus said:

“I am the Living Water.  whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life
John 4

Proverbs 11:25 makes this promise:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

What I have learned as I have given myself to serving God and serving people I am called serve is that there is a sacrifice in serving.  There is a pouring out of my life, my emotions.  Sometimes, the people I serve do not always appreciate what I do for them.  And they do not always give back to me.  However, as I approach God with my needs and my emptiness after serving, He ALWAYS fills me up, He ALWAYS satisfies my needs.

If you are serving faithfully, be encouraged.  Keep on serving.  Keep pouring out.  Give generously from your life - do not hold back thinking that you have to reserve some back for yourself.  Whatever you pour out will be poured back in to you.

You can NEVER out-give GOD!

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