Filling the Empty Cup

Change never happens in the absence of conflict, and ministry never occurs in a vacuum.  I recall frequently coming home late from various ministries and being tired and worn out.  Some people are under the impression that if you go out to serve people by talking about God and teaching doctrines, you should become very on fire.  I do not see that in scripture.

Though there are some fun times, ministry is wearing on the body, the mind, and the spirit.  I first deeply noticed this at the end of my first week of camp counseling in 2005.  After six days, I sent these seven kids home and I was immediately overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of sadness for letting these kids go, and tiredness for finally having a moment of silence.  We see this same pattern in the life of our Lord.

A reading through any of the four Gospels will show us similar patterns, but I will outline parts from Mark because of the smaller size (not wanting you to read too much of course).  We read about numerous actions from Christ including the temptation, calling of the disciples, casting out demons, healing Peters mother-in-law, and them more healing and demon-outcasting.  In the 35th verse of Mark 1, we read that Jesus woke up long before the sun was up and sought a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35).  We see a lot of other ministry that Jesus did, mostly passing through towns, then He ministers to another large crowd at the time of feeding of the five thousand.  He sends the people away, and then sends the disciples across the sea and returns to a solitary place to pray (Mark 6:45-46).  There is much more ministry, conversations with the disciples, and then the very telling last time recorded in the book of Mark about His alone time in the garden in Mark 14:32-42 which actually records His prayer.  We see that Jesus retreats after times of intense ministry to pray.  It is these times that build us up.

I believe that this is the model that we need to have in our life as we minister to those around us.  I envision the ministry as the interaction of people with a cup.  Suppose that you are ministering to people.  You are like a cup that people are drinking out of.  As you minister, your cup starts to get empty.  Time alone with God will fill that cup up, time with people will cause it to drain.  If we find ourselves not filling our cup, we start to do ministry on our own power, which can accomplish something, but not what God has intended.

How to fill your cup

If I take all of this time to motivate you to fill your cup, I had better give you some ideas on how.  The first that comes to mind is to renew your mind with the Word of God.  I like to read the Bible at least one time a year as an overview, and then actively study something in the scriptures more closely.  If you read three chapters of the Bible a day, you can finish it in one year.  Six gets you twice through, etc.  In addition to the quick read, I like to study other books in greater detail by reading it more carefully and also reading books by other people and how they have studied that book.  This can be a book on a general topic or a commentary.  The Bible is the first great place to start.

Next, modeling prayer after Christ is a good thing to do.  Getting some regular, daily, and alone-time prayer is a great personal booster.  We in America tend to pray when things get bad in our lives, when things do not work out.  However, if you re-examine the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, you will see that prayer is far more about forming our will to God, rather than getting things from Him.  Set aside some regular time to pray and conform your life and attitudes to the will of God.

Finally, I would also add listening to great sermons throughout the week.  If you came from the background that I did, you will not grow quickly in Christ by listening to one teaching on the Word of God a week.  I grew the most when I was listening to many sermons a day by a variety of different pastors.  If you do not have a list of favorites, check out for some ideas.  Using a combination of prayer, studying the word, and listening to other people’s teaching will grow you in Christ by leaps and bounds.  Fill up your cup!