To get the most out of life you must pour yourself out
A comment on my recent post entitled Perfect Plans and Purposes ended with “…living our lives to the fullest for God to our very last breath, whenever that may be.” (Thanks, Beth!) . This got me to thinking.
My response to this comment ended with a short phrase that reflected one of those rare moments when words just fall out onto the floor perfectly arranged with no need for re-wording, re-ordering, or re-thinking:
Living to the fullest means emptying ourselves fully.
Not that I came up with this on my own. Scripture is full of this kind of language, beginning with the well-known image of Christ as the perfect image of God—the one human who could truly and rightly claim to fully display the image of God—emptying himself and humbling himself to take the form of a servant.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
—Philippians 2:3-8 (ESV) — emphasis mine
Matthew and the other writers of the gospels reflect on what Christ did on the cross by also utilizing the image of being poured out. Modern practices of communion have focused on the communal consumption of the bread and juice. Unfortunately, pre-packaged wafers and communion cups do not carry with them the powerful image of the breaking of the bread and the pouring of wine—symbols of humility and sacrificial giving of himself—that are so important to remember and “see” regularly.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
—Matthew 26:27-28 (ESV) — emphasis mine
The only real value in life, according to Luke and others, is in pouring oneself out. We can try to keep milk in our fridge, hoarding it for later, but it ends up going back rather quickly. It’s better to drink it regularly while also continuing to refill continually. The same is true of our lives.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
—Luke 9:24-25 (ESV) — emphasis mine
John Wesley reminds us that God not only sees, but “communicates greatness” to, the very smallest of faithful acts of service (whether seen or not by human eyes). The truly happy, he writes, are those who give their lives to doing good and, finally, that oftentimes those who are seen the least (because they are constantly on their knees before the LORD) are among the chief causes of transformation that occurs.
"God is so great, that he communicates greatness to the least thing that is done for his service.
"Happy are they who are sick, yea, or lose their life, for having done a good work.
"God frequently conceals the part which his children have in the conversion of other souls. Yet one may boldly say, that person who long groans before him for the conversion of another, whenever that soul is converted to God, is one of the chief causes of it.
—John Wesley (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection) — emphasis mine
Therefore, we can understand what Paul is saying when he tells us to sacrifice ourselves not through death, but rather by offering our very lives to the service of God and others.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
—Romans 12:1 (ESV) — emphasis mine
After all, our goal and purpose is to grow in holiness. The grow in holiness means to be increasingly Christlike. The grow increasingly Christlike means to grow in love for God and for neighbor.
He who says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1 John 2:6 (NKJV) — emphasis mine