Spirit & Truth # 294
By Greg Smith
Noah’s Ark.[i] Moses’ floating basket.[ii] The Ark of the Covenant.[iii] What do these three things have in common? How about a manger,[iv] or a widow’s jar,[v] or virgins’ lamps,[vi] or six stone water pots?[vii] What unites all these things? They were all empty before they could be filled.
Now, I don’t generally like to state the obvious, but I think it’s apparent that in order for something to be filled, it first needs to be empty. That doesn’t take a genius to figure out.
People who claim to be optimists say that they’d rather see the glass not as half-empty, but as half-full. Most people would rather see the glass as full to the brim. We fill our lives with all sorts of “good” activities that the world tells us will make us better people. Baseball teaches character. PTA meetings show that you’re an involved parent. Committee work gets things done around church. Movies are a welcome diversion from a hectic schedule. Yes, indeed—we do like to live full lives!
Not only are our schedules full—our minds are full as well. Full of to-do lists for the day. Full of fears. Full of pride in a job well-done. Full of plans and dreams and hopes. Full of ego. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”[viii] But is this the kind of fullness that the Savior meant?
Jesus didn’t come that we could have full schedules. Jesus didn’t come so that we could have full minds. He came that our lives may be filled with His Spirit. Time after time the New Testament makes reference to people being filled with, or full of the Holy Spirit. But in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must first be empty. No vessel can be filled when it is already full. When you’re full of yourself, how can there be any room for God to get in?
2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The treasure is the Gospel, and the jars of clay are our mortal lives. But we, as vessels for God, must first be emptied before we can be filled.
A bellows is used to blow air on hot coals, to cause them to burn into flame. Believers can let God use them as bellows, fanning into flame the gift that has been stirred up within ourselves and others. But first, we must be empty. If you fill up a bellows with sand or any other material, it can’t be filled with air. It is the bellows’ emptiness that makes it useful. My prayer for you (strange as it may sound) is not that you’ll life a full life—that is, full of activities and ego and striving. My prayer is that you will live an empty life—ready to be filled by God and used for His glory. For only when we are empty can we be filled with the Spirit of Christ.