"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you." (Philippians 2:17, NIV)
My ministry has included many things that don’t make it into newsletters back to supporters. There was the time when, at a regularly scheduled Bible study, only one person showed up. There have been discipleship appointments when the disciples forgot and I sat waiting. There have been team meetings that didn’t go the way I’d planned, and I came away disheartened by the lack of progress. There was a mentee who fell away from the Lord. This is the stuff of real ministry.
Paul was a human being like I am. Despite remembering how God had used him and Silas in Philippi, he hoped that he had not poured himself out for the Gospel and the fledgling church there only to have nothing to show for it. These people were dear to him. He thanked God every time he prayed for them. He pleaded with them to obey Christ as much in his absence as when he was present. He reminded them that they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life.
In Paul’s day one had to wait weeks to receive any news, even a letter. As he waited to hear from the believers, he must have wondered, "Was all the teaching, suffering, and tears for nothing?" And, yes, he admits, "I would like to know that I’ve not lived and worked in vain." But he also says, "Even if I’m being simply poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you."
A drink offering was an accompaniment to regular sacrifices at the temple. It normally was a portion of wine; with the larger sacrifice—the sacrificial animal—the greater amount of wine was used. Unlike the meat sacrifices, however, the wine was entirely used up. The priests received no portion of it, it was simply poured out in the sanctuary (Numbers 28:7). The offering was part of the "pleasing odor" of the sacrifice to the Lord (Numbers 15:7).
Once again, I am humbled and challenged as I sit in the presence of the apostle Paul. The whole reason he can be glad that his life is being poured out and used up as a libation is because he is "all in" for Jesus and for Christ’s people. His statement to the Philippians, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," calls me to a higher reason for ministry than self-fulfillment. It calls me to spend and be spent for the good things that may be produced in the lives of Jesus’ followers, regardless of what I may receive back from it. The sacrifices and service that come from those I have ministered among are worth it.
Warmly in Christ,
"I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.'
I say of the holy people who are in the land, 'They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.'" (Psalm 16:2-3, NIV)
Are there times when you fear your life and service for Christ may have been for nothing? What do you do when you encounter those times?
Are you "all in" for Christ and His people? What might you need to confess and repent of in that regard?
How does the image of a "drink offering being poured out" resonate with you?