“He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39 NAS)
I recently read an illustration that was interesting. It made me think of a simple principle that we sometimes overlook.
“Suppose you made a fresh pot of coffee, took from the cabinet your favorite coffee cup, then turned to pour your coffee and noticed it was full of hot tea? You really didn’t want tea, nor did you especially enjoy drinking tea. Then you laid a fresh, clean cereal bowl and proceeded to prepare oatmeal. When it was ready you turned to pour in the oatmeal and to your surprise the bowl was full of corn flakes. In your frustration and confusion you wonder why these two containers insist on filling themselves with things you don’t like or want.”
I know the above scenario sounds like a bad dream or a Twilight Zone moment, but it’s really a picture of how most of us run our spiritual lives. We are saved by Grace but live by performance. The underlying principal of Grace is emptiness. The law was given to not only show us our sin and shortcomings but to also frustrate us in the pursuit of our own righteousness.
Jesus said “I can do nothing of my own self”. Jesus had to empty himself and recognize that Jesus the human carpenter has nothing in him that could raise the dead, heal the sick or turn the water into wine. He said, “It is the Father dwelling in Me who is doing His work”. Jesus was the emptiest vessel to ever appear on earth, having “emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant”. Jesus was filled with the Father and became the full expression of all that the Father wanted to do through Him, even being obedient unto death.
How does that relate us?
Being schooled in legalism, my approach to the Christian life was. “Lord, forgive me for being weak. I will try to do better, I will try harder, I’ll go to church more, pray more, fast more often, and I will never miss visitation again.”
I was a picture of an empty cup trying to fill itself. Sound familiar? We must come to the place Jesus came to –‘I can do nothing of myself’. We must stop trying to make this body do something. We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. Our self-effort can only produce self-righteousness.
What if we find ourselves in a period of unfruitfulness or failure? What if we feel we aren’t being used? We must acknowledge that we are an empty vessel and you can do nothing. Be still! Wait on God; don’t be tempted into trying to fill yourself. Paste on the table of your heart, ‘Without Him I can do nothing’.
Waiting on God to move and fill my cup is the most difficult challenge I face. Those who know me best know that my flesh pattern is a doer, so I am speaking from experience.
Several years ago when I began conducting the Exchanged Life Conferences I thought I needed to market my conference. I did the mailing list thing, made phone calls to pastors and generally networked conference dates. My calendar was full but the conference result was empty. Yes, I did receive a few, ‘that’s great stuff’ and ‘everyone needs to hear this message’, and I even received some very generous and needed love offerings. But the touch of God was missing. Then one day I came to the conclusion that I was not going to solicit another conference date. I emptied my glass and surrendered my rights and expectations of ever doing a conference again. I said, ‘Lord, if I ever do a conference again, it will have to be your doings. I am tired…without you I can’t do this’. (I am not saying it is wrong to promote a ministry – but for me at that time in my life this is what I needed to do for a personal breakthrough.)
I will admit there were many weeks that I longed to be in a church presenting the truths that changed my life but I was determined to let God fill my cup. It wasn’t long that calls began to come into the office and once again I was conducting conferences. But something was different. Each conference began to contain ‘God moments’. I sensed God’s touch and anointing and would often weep during the presentation. Many thought I was just being passionate about what I was teaching, and to a certain extent I was, but the tears were a result of being overwhelmed by God’s presence. God was blessing what he put together.
You see, it is not God who has left or gone away from you. He hasn’t deserted you. He is just making it clear that emptiness is necessary to your peace and contentment. He is setting you on the table as an empty cup. He has a pot of fresh coffee to fill you at His pleasure and good will. He is saying, ‘Don’t dare try to fill yourself with tea.’
Have you ever felt inadequate, insecure? How about weak and defeated? Often that is the place the Father wants us to be – a sense of nothingness. When we see our weakness and unfruitfulness, how tempting it is to try to sort it out ourselves.
We must see our self-defeat and failure as a revelation of our emptiness and with this revelation don’t try to change yourself. Rejoice and be glad, you empty vessel. Be glad for this time of affliction, this time of frustration and fruitlessness. For when you accept yourself as an empty vessel there is a promise waiting, ‘you shall be filled’…I am He that fills you.”
Madame Guyon, in addressing the issue of abandonment, says, ‘Remember, you must never blame man for anything. No matter what happens, it was neither man nor circumstances that brought it. You must accept everything (except, of course, your own sinfulness) as having come from the Lord.’
Therein lays the paradox. The unsurrendered, unabandoned life is directly opposite to His life that is in you. Be empty that you might be filled.