*Jesus then prayed alone (9:18a). TAKING IN.
*Jesus “was praying in a certain place” (11:1). TAKING IN.
*Jesus taught and ministered (11:2 and following). GIVING OUT. And so on.
Blessed to be a Blessing
Many years ago I read a great phrase from United Methodist pastor the Rev. James K. Wagner: “Blessed to be a blessing.” This phrase so articulates the balance in which we must walk. We are neither just to be blessed without being a blessing to God and others, nor just try to be a blessing without first being blessed.
There are people who wish to be blessed, wish to have their prayers answered, and wish to have enjoyable spiritual experiences of God, but do very little for Him or others. Not only is this, of course, selfish, it doesn’t work because God does not honor such an attitude.
Periodically pastors hear from certain members of their flock, “Pastor/Reverend/Father I am leaving your church because I am not being fed any more.” While there are, of course, some churches that do not spiritually feed their members, the fact is some people cannot be fed even in great churches because they’re spiritually obese — they have taken in but they are not giving out. There is no room for them to receive more.
Far from being “living water,” they’re spiritual swamps! They’re not seeking gifting to bless God and others, they’re seeking entertainment and God will not give it to them. Such people will leave for what they think are the greener pastures of other churches. For a while they’ll think they’re “being fed” but they’re simply being entertained by something that is new. Unless they repent of their selfishness, they’ll probably leave their new church in a year or two.
After the initial few years of being a “baby Christian” are over, the chief way we are blessed is by being a blessing to others. Our need for taking in will only feed us as is then applied to our helping others. Our “walk” and our “work” are intricately linked.
Jonathan Edwards was pastor of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts in the 1740s, and one of the men God greatly used in The First Great Awakening, the first great revival to sweep America. He noted that if he knew he’d be having a day with much ministry in it, he’d pray for an hour before his day started, but if he knew he would have a day with much more ministry, he’d pray for two hours. Initially we might think, “I’ve got a lot to do today. I’ll shorten my prayer and then get to work.” Better is to use this analogy: “I’ve got a long journey ahead of me, not just a quick trip around town. I’d better fill up my gas tank.”
Let me ask you to ponder prayerfully: are you taking in but not giving out or are you trying to do your work for God on insufficient or no empowerment?