Have you been encouraged to jump on the self-care bandwagon with the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” This so-called wisdom is commonly used to encourage women to implement “me-time,” otherwise now known as “self care.” The empty cup illustration sounds very noble, doesn’t it? It makes us feel as if we have so much to give, if only we had a chance to first fill ourselves up.
But the wisdom of this world is as foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19). Ladies, we don’t need to first fill ourselves up in order to give of ourselves. But for some reason this “wisdom” is everywhere, and even comes from Christians.
The Bible gives us a very clear example of why this is not wisdom at all. The Apostle Paul, author of a huge portion of the New Testament, gave us a very opposite view:
“I am already being poured out as a drink offering…” (2 Timothy 4:6).
John MacArthur says, “At this time, he (Paul) was in a cold cell, in chains, and with no hope of deliverance. Abandoned by virtually all of those close to him for fear of persecution and facing imminent execution, Paul wrote to Timothy…” (John MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV 1997) He was definitely not in a place of comfort or rest.
Yet he wrote such lasting gems as:
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
How could such exhortations and instruction come from an empty cup? How could Paul possibly serve God and his fellow man without first taking a bit of R&R?
The key is in the “drink offering.” Paul was referring to a sacrificial offering, well known to the Jews.
His life was a daily sacrifice. He was imprisoned, beaten, abandoned…and yet he literally poured himself out as an offering. In the end, he was killed for preaching the Gospel.
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Paul knew his death was imminent, and he knew why. Just after he stated that he had poured out his life as a drink offering, he said, “the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy 4:6)
In other verses, Paul said, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) And, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Throughout his ministry, Paul faced opposition and hardship. And yet he produced so many of the great scriptures that have instructed and encouraged Christians for 2,000 years.
Ladies, you may not face persecution, or be asked to write great epistles, but you are asked to share the Gospel and be a servant. You may be raising little children, or caring for the elderly, or loving a difficult person. What God asks, He gives strength to complete. Whether you’re tired, busy, overwhelmed, depressed, emotionally drained…whatever. God is your strength.
I have learned through some very tough experiences that the harder our days are, the closer we draw to God. We give and serve because He gives to us. It is not bubble baths or wine or caffeine or girl’s night out that strengthens us; it is the joy of the Lord. (Nehemiah 8:10)
It is the peace that passes all understanding. <– Guess who wrote that one? Yep. Paul. From prison.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Pilippians 4:6-7)
It is in our weakness that He is made strong. Oh, look! Another gem from Paul:
“And He (the Lord) said, My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God uses our weakest times, the times we need Him most, to minister to others. We do not need to fill up our cups first; we just need to be willing vessels, to be poured out whenever and wherever we are needed. He fills us with what we need. No person, no event, no quiet relaxation, no substance can do what God can do.
As I close, I want to share one more from that Apostle who poured out his life as a drink offering:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinithians 12:10)