Per request of my good friend who could not make it to study tonight, I scribbled a few notes from my church’s midweek service, in Philippians 2. Being such an admirer of metaphors, and since it coincidentally has much to do with the title of my blog (We are all vessels in the hands of the Master Potter, my pastor said), I copied this metaphor down for being so poignant.
Imagine I’m holding a ceramic mug in my hands (since I am oh so fond of ceramic mugs). Now, you can’t see what’s in the mug. It could be water. It could be cranberry juice. It could be coffee (and if you know me, it probably would be). But you cannot see its contents from the way I am holding it.
But say my friend, maybe the one who asked me for the notes from study, comes up from behind and bumps into me (accidentally, of course). Well, you can imagine what would happen. All of a sudden, the contents of my mug would come spilling out. And if it really was coffee that I was storing inside of the mug, well, you would see a flood of coffee-colored liquid pouring out. (Try not to think about the carpet.)
The question is, should your friend knock you over, what would be inside your mug?
Things in life are going to bug us, drive us crazy, depress us, trouble us. Circumstances beyond our control will take us for a spin. They will “disturb the mug,” if you will. What comes pouring out is entirely up to you.
My pastor gave this example. Say you are driving on the freeway, going a casual speed, and someone cuts you off, slams on their brakes in front of you, gives you the, well, finger, and screeches off in a puff of smoke. Your reaction will be one of two things, depending on what is already in your mug.
A. If you have been filling your mug throughout the day with the world, with complaining thoughts, excuses, and selfish desires, your reaction is going to be one of anger, naturally. You might lash back and cut him off in that anger. The thing is, since you were storing up all of that anger throughout the day, it only makes sense that when something irksome happens, that’s what would come pouring out. All that anger was already in your mug. It just took someone to cut you off on the freeway for it to manifest itself.
B. If you have been soaking in God’s Word, meditating on Him, thoughts tuned in toward prayer and worship, when that person cuts you off, sure, it’s only human to have a reaction of surprise or alarm—even frustration. But then you can return back to a state of peace, because that peace of mind was already in your mug. You might even say a prayer for that person as he zooms off. Nothing can phase you because you have been filling your mug with Jesus all day.
So what is in your coffee mug? What will come spilling out when life gets tough?
Paul said that he was being poured out as a drink offering as he was in prison. In that position, he had every right to be depressed or angry. But he had been filling the mug of his life with God’s Spirit, and because of that, he was able to pen the “epistle of joy”—the letter to the Philippians—as a result of his consistent communion with Christ his Savior. A drink offering is also symbolic of "the joy of completion." It symbolizes the completed work of Christ in what He did on the cross. David, in the book of II Samuel, poured out a precious drink of water that his men risked their lives for by crossing enemy lines to get it for him. Yet as thirsty as he was, he poured it all out, that water. Paul's life was filled with that holy water, that work of Christ, that sacrifice that Jesus Himself was made out of, was filled with.
Convicting, I know. But we all have the opportunity to be poured out as a drink offering. People are watching us, whether we like it or not. Some will bump into us on purpose just to see what will come spilling out. So before life hits you from behind, before times get crazy and you are knocked over by happenstance, what are you filling your little mug with? And are you willing to be poured out so others can see the joy that is in you and glorify God?
Sometimes, God Himself will nudge you just to show you yourself what you’re made of, or, what you're filled with. What will you find? He already knows.