I have a tendency to sing along at the top of my lungs to the radio in my car. It doesn't matter if people are looking at me. It doesn't matter if my window is down. I am entirely shameless with it. Hey, it’s fun! I particularly enjoy singing along loudly to my favorite playlist full of Christian music. Recently, I was doing just that when the Rhett Walker Band song “Come to the River” started playing. It’s a great song that talks about how we have to drink from God’s river if we ever want to be satisfied. I was singing along and thinking about the song’s message when I had a sudden thought of a pitcher. If a pitcher is empty, it isn’t useful. It’s just stored in the cabinet. Likewise, if a pitcher is filled and not poured out, whatever is in it will get old and won’t be good to drink anymore. In that moment, I felt like God was telling me that we are all pitchers. He was letting me know that there has to be a balance of filling up and pouring out in our lives if we are going to be satisfied and effective spiritually.
Think of it this way: we are empty pitchers on our own. Before we can do anything of value, we have to be filled up by Jesus, who is the living water (John 4:14). We have to be in communion with him. We can’t neglect daily prayer, Bible reading, and quiet time. If you turn on the sink but don’t put the pitcher underneath it, it doesn’t get filled. You have to bring the pitcher to the faucet. Likewise, we can’t be filled if we don’t come to the source of the water, Jesus. The pitcher is not the source of the water inside of it, just like we shouldn’t be the source of our strength. The first step is coming to the Lord. If we aren’t filled up, and we try pouring out, it doesn’t work. Our own resources are exhausted extremely quickly. We can’t sustain ourselves, let alone help other people, for very long by using our own strength, and we wear ourselves out trying. Once we are filled with living water, though, we can begin pouring that out into the lives of others. God is able to provide us with joy and strength. If we are filled to the brim with the love of Christ, we can pour that out onto others in a variety of ways for God’s glory. The living water is able to sustain us, and out of the strength that it provides, we can pour out into others and share Jesus with them.
It’s not all about being filled, though. Notice how important pouring out is! If water is allowed to sit for a long period of time without moving, it becomes stagnant and not good for drinking. The same will happen with us if we fill up and then do nothing with it. We’ll become stagnant. Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (ESV). We are called to do good things and share them with others! We’re not supposed to just sit around and become “spiritual hoarders,” refusing to share anything God teaches or gives us. We are meant to use the things that God shows us in our daily “fill-up” time to advance his kingdom. In our own sinful nature, this is impossible. That’s why we need a refill every day from the Lord. He gives us the strength and ability to do the things he calls us to do. Often, when God gives us an assignment, he waits until we’ve done it before he gives us another one. If we refuse to pour out our pitcher where he’s told us to, then we never get the opportunity to learn anything new or grow closer to him. We don’t give God any room to teach us new things because we won’t make space in our pitcher for them.
The whole thing is a cycle. Once we fill up, we have to pour out, then we have to be refilled in order to pour out again, and the circle continues every day of our lives. We first have to be fully reliant on God to fill us up. Then we have to be faithful in doing the things he asks us to do with the strength he provides. Take an honest look at your life recently. Where is your water level? Are you so empty that you’re trying to tap into strength you don’t have, exhausting yourself and not being able to be useful? Or have you been filled up and never poured it out, so you’re getting complacent and stagnant in your faith? I know that I often fall into the trap of trying to serve others out of my own strength, and as a result, I get tired, irritated, and burnt out quickly. I don’t rely on the Lord’s strength like I should.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the good news is that the solution to getting back on track is simple. If you have been neglecting quiet time, make sure you set aside time each day to do it – even five minutes is better than no time at all. Read your Bible and glean knowledge and instruction from it. Be deliberate about choosing a time so that it doesn’t get shoved down the list of priorities. If you’ve been neglecting service, listen for God to whisper to you throughout the day, and don’t ignore it! Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has things prepared for us to do. Keep a look out for them… They could be as simple as genuinely complimenting a friend or babysitting for free for the parents next door. If you don’t know where you’re off-balance, ask the Lord to show you! He won’t be offended. He’s happy to help you get back to where you need to be. In fact, nothing would make him happier.
In order for us to be effective for the Lord and satisfied spiritually, we have to find a good balance between spending time at the feet of Jesus and spending time washing the feet of those around us. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you in this. He won’t let you down.
[photo source: Papillon Jewelry, Flickr]