VERSE: “The everlasting God…fainteth not, neither is weary.” Isaiah 40:28
OSWALD: “Jesus said to Peter – ‘Feed My sheep,’ but He gave him nothing to feed them with. The process of being made broken bread and poured out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you to the dregs. Be careful that you get your supply, or before long you will be utterly exhausted. Before other souls learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus direct, they have to draw on it through you; you have to be literally ‘sucked,’ until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and His sheep as well as for Himself.” (February 9th)
MY THOUGHT: Oh, how easy it is to resent the drawing, sucking, draining of our lives that Oswald speaks of in this entry. Especially when it comes to ministry. But if we are to answer Christ’s call to “feed My sheep,” we are going to have to offer our lives without conditions or stipulations as to what we are willing to do and how we are to be used by Him.
When John and I entered ministry thirty years ago, we followed a generation of pastors who had given their absolute all. Many of them had lived in poverty, worked themselves to the bone and often, had very little in way of numbers to show that their sacrifice had made any difference at all. And yet, they would say, “I’d rather burn out for Jesus than rust out any day.”
It was admirable, even inspiring, to many of us who followed behind. And yet, the thought of burnout did seem a bit extreme. Surely there had to a better way, we decided. A balance. So we, a “wiser” generation, took the ministry pendulum and started to swing it the other way. Rather than burn out for Jesus, we decided to get our priorities straight. God, marriage, family, and then the church – that’s how we declared it should be (though to be honest, I struggle to find that concept in scripture.)
For the past several decades, we’ve lived according to our self-proclaimed rules. Unfortunately, many of us have ended up sheltering our lives rather than sacrificing them. Coddling them rather than giving them away in God’s service.
“No, I couldn’t possibly come to the hospital,” some have reasoned with priority list in hand. “Yes, I know your husband is dying, but this is our family night.”
Now, please know that I’m not saying that boundaries are bad. Caring for our marriages and family are an important part of modeling a healthy Christian life. But I do wonder if we haven’t lost the heart of what we are called to do?
“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter in John 21:15-17. “Yes, Lord,” Peter answered. “I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep,” Jesus told him. Not once, but three times.
Peter had majored in self-preservation the night Jesus was betrayed. Now Christ was calling him to spend the rest of his life giving himself away. I believe He asks the same thing of us today.
And not just those of us in full-time ministry, but everyone who is called by His name. We are called – may I say, even commanded – to lay down our lives like Jesus did with such joyful abandonment that our sacrifice literally changes the world!
But in order to do that, we must discover a deeper source than our own humanity.
“Where did you start the service from?” Oswald asks us today. “From your own sympathy or from the basis of the Redemption of Jesus Christ?”
An important question to ask. For if we are ministering and loving people out of sympathy, that sympathy will soon tire and eventually grow cold. We need to access the sympathy and heart of our Savior as well as the power and anointing of His Holy Spirit. Only then will we have the strength and resources, the wisdom and stamina to submit to the “process of being made broken bread and poured out wine” to those around us.
“He saved and sanctified you in order to exhaust you,” Oswald writes. “Be exhausted for God, but remember that your supply comes from Him.”
When we access God’s abundant supply, our lives will be like a mother nursing her child. The more people draw on us, the more we’ll have to give. Until they’re able to feed on their own, growing and maturing in their faith so that they, too, can one day feed others.
As admirable and romantic as it sounds, I’m really not interested in “burning out for Jesus.” But I don’t want to be stingy with my life either. I want to be poured out for Him.
Exhausted? Yes, at times. But renewed as well.
For “all my fresh springs shall be in Thee.”