How do I work out how much to serve and how much to receive? How much to give and how much to get? If I’m on the edge of burnout is that basically a good sign because it shows I’m ‘maxed out for the Lord’?! Should I take a ‘safety-first’ policy and avoid any risk of over-doing it? Here’s two counter-intuitive Bible principles that might help in thinking it through:
1. You can’t give without getting first
Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
He goes on to say, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
Did you hear that? Apart from Jesus you can’t do anything. But if his words are abiding in you then your will and Jesus’ will, will be aligned and you do whatever you want! The same idea is right there in Psalm 1 where the fruitful person is someone who has their roots deep down into God’s word.
Too often we are a bunch of activists who measure our worth and usefulness on the basis of how much we are doing. It’s a recipe for burnout and bitterness. If we want to be fruitful people who get lots done for the Lord then the first thing we need to do is stop. We need to stop and take time to enjoy our relationship with him and listening to his voice. As we do that he says the fruit will begin to grow. Apart from doing that he says we can do nothing.
2. You can’t get without giving first
But in case we’re thinking that this is a prompt to start pulling out of serving we need to hear another counter-intuitive command from Jesus. Paul quotes him in Acts 20:35 saying, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Where does blessing come from? It comes from giving in service of others. It’s counter-intuitive because we naturally assume that I need to hold on to what I’ve got and even accumulate more if I’m going to be blessed. Jesus says give it away. Whether it’s your time, your energy, your money, your gifts give it away in service of him. That’s the way to blessing in the Christian life. And it’s a blessing that will be deeper and more lasting than anything we could accumulate this side heaven. It’s the blessing of joy, satisfaction, relationships and treasure in heaven. Worth giving in order to get.