Empty Your Cup


“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering…”- 2 Timothy 4:6 (ESV)

I’ve always loved coffee.

As a kid, I relished visiting my grandparents’ homes for many reasons, one of which was the opportunity to trade in my usual milk-and-juice fare for their “kid-friendly” version of coffee (something more akin to “sugar milk,” with a bit of coffee splashed in).  As a college student with minimal income, I still somehow found the funds to buy embarrassingly overpriced drinks as often as I could.  To this day, one of the first things I do on arriving at the office each morning is grab my favorite mug and fill it to the brim with liquid energy.

All that said, my coffee habit has always remained under control- one to two cups a day, and I’m good- or rather, was good, until I spent a week in Honduras last month.  In eight days, I probably drank more coffee than some people do in eight months.  From the moment we woke up each morning until the moment we laid down to sleep each evening, there was coffee everywhere.  At every meal…in between every meal…in every building, and seemingly in every room.  What’s more, it was some of best coffee I’d ever had.

There was a seemingly endless supply; no matter how much we drank, there always seemed to be more, so much so that we joked that one of our biggest adjustments to life back home was getting back to a responsible level of coffee consumption.  Six to ten cups per day just isn’t a sustainable strategy (or expense) long term!

So what does all this have to do with anything, aside from extolling the virtues of fresh, delicious Central American coffee?  I believe there is a helpful- and much needed- lesson to be learned here about our approach to giving.  And when I say giving, I don’t just mean money (although that is certainly included); I mean everything, from our time to our service to our encouragement to our worship.

Both in my own life and in the lives of many others I’ve observed, I’ve become convinced that one of the greatest barriers to faithful and generous giving is a persistent sense that we don’t have “enough” to make a difference.  Many of us live with a preconceived notion of what “enough” is- what the “ideal” looks like- and when we feel that what we have to offer doesn’t measure up to that (arbitrary) standard, we become disheartened, and we disengage altogether.  Consider how this plays out practically…

We can’t serve like that– so we choose not to serve at all.
We can’t give that much– so we choose not to give anything.
We can’t invest in that many people– so we choose to invest our lives in no one.
We aren’t as gifted in speaking or teaching as them– so we choose to remain silent in the face of our opportunities and others’ need.

Do you see how this “scarcity mindset” can be so paralyzing?  When we lay down under the weight of discouragement, we get locked into a pattern of disobedience, which leads us into shame- and the cycle just keeps spiraling.

Imagine your life as a cup..  Now, consider that everyone around you has a cup too.  These cups come in different shapes and sizes- some bigger than yours, some smaller than yours, some just the same.  We all have different needs, and different capacities to meet those needs.  Finally, consider that God has His own cup- which, of course, is bottomless and never anything less than full.

Carrying this illustration forward, consider that every time you give in any way, you are “pouring out” some of what God has placed in your cup, transferring it to someone else’s cup, and ultimately to God Himself.  Every time you take time to serve, you are “pouring out.”  Every time you write a check (or give a few dollars, or text to give) to meet a need, you are “pouring out.”  Every time you open your mouth to speak a timely word of Gospel truth, you are “pouring out.”

The lie that your spiritual enemy- who is real and active, by the way- wants you to believe is that it is your responsibility to fill everyone else’s cup to the brim, and even more ridiculously, to fill God’s cup too.  This, of course, is impossible to do.  We could never give enough to meet every need of every person, and nothing we could ever do will be worthy of what God truly deserves (as if He needed anything anyway).  The problem is, as long as we live under the lie that if we just try hard enough, we can “fill every cup,” we will invariably remain trapped in a frenzy of frustration that leads us to crash and burn- and eventually give up altogether.

So let me free you up today, borrowing some wise phrasing from Andy Stanley- It is not your responsibility to fill someone else’s cup today.  It is your responsibility to empty yours.  Do you see what a massive difference this makes in our approach to giving?

You can only give God and others what you’ve actually got in your cup to give- not what you wish you had, or what you used to have, or what you one day hope to have, or what someone else has.  You can’t be a faithful steward of someone else’s life, or even of a “new and improved” version of yours.  You can and must be found faithful with what is in your hand and in your heart- in your cup, if you will- today.

Rest assured that God is completely self-sufficient.  He is pleased and honored when we offer what we have to Him, but He is not lacking due to any lack in us.  In the same way, He is completely sovereign in all the affairs of man.  In other words, if you are faithful to empty your cup in service toward someone else, He will ensure that whatever you can’t fill will be taken care of by someone else.  He desires that we would find in that truth the freedom to “pour out” generously in service of Him and others, in whatever ways He calls us and provides us with opportunity.

Oh, and one other thing too- I believe wholeheartedly that when we are faithful to give what we have- all of it– that God will always graciously and generously ensure that we have what we need to give when we need to give it.  Just as our Honduran hosts wouldn’t allow those coffee urns to “run dry,” but were always supplying more (and more, and more…), God has an unending supply of resources which He delights in “pouring out” on us to then “pour out” for multiplied impact.

So here’s the question for you today- Will you give what you have, however humble it may be?  God is pleased not by the raw value of our gift, but instead by the volume of our sacrifice.  Empty your cup today- in serving, in giving, in sharing, and in worship- and trust that He will use that offering, however meager it may seem, to make miracles that glorify His name.

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