Some time ago, as I was getting out of my car, I noticed that I had a can of Coke in the cup holder. I can’t stand to leave anything in my car, so I picked up the can to take it in, and saw that there was still a good bit of Coke left in it. I didn’t really want to drink it right then, so I just poured it out on the ground not far from the car. The contents were just wasted. I’m sure we’ve all probably done the same kind of thing.
Contrast that with a time while we were living in Oklahoma, and Cheryl & I were out driving in Northwestern Oklahoma, and we saw some of those big irrigations systems they have out there, just spraying water out on the ground. An ignorant bystander, watching the watering go on, might say, “What a waste, just pouring all that water out on the ground like that.” But of course we know that water was not “wasted”, it was purposefully being poured out to water the crops that feed thousands of people. There is a big difference in something which is poured out being “wasted”, and it being “invested” for a greater purpose.
In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us a similar picture of what was happening with him. He says his life was being “poured out” as a drink offering. A lot of people might think that like my Coke, Paul’s life was being wasted, but the truth is, it was not being “wasted.” It was being purposefully poured out and “invested” for the Kingdom of God. What I want you to understand today is that each of us has a choice as to what we will do with our lives: will we waste it; or will we invest it? Let’s look together at Philippians 2:17, where Paul writes: “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.”
I. The Picture of the Drink Offering
The situation in Philippians, as many of you know, is that Paul is in prison in Rome for the sake of the Gospel. He knows that it may cost him his life. But he is willing for that to happen. In fact, he says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice …”. He says, I am glad that I can spend my life in this way.
And to express his joy at being used this manner by God, he employs the word picture that is at the heart of this verse: “I am being poured out as a drink offering.” What does he mean when he says that he is being poured out as a “drink offering”? Bible scholars tell us that he is referring to one of two things, both of which are really the same basic picture:
— First, he may be referring to the Old Testament “drink offering”, a sacrifice in which wine would be poured out on the place of sacrifice.
— In Genesis 35:14, when Jacob set up the pillar for worship at Bethel, the Bible says he consecrated it by “pouring out a drink offering on it.”
— There was a similar ritual commanded in the Law: in Exodus 29, it says the priests were to offer a “drink offering” of a hin (about a gallon) of wine along with the lamb of the burnt offering. They would pour the wine out as part of the sacrifice that was offered.
There are several such examples in the Old Testament of a drink offering being made to YHWH.
— But secondly, when he spoke of the “drink offering”, Paul may have been referring to the practice common in the Graeco-Roman world at that time, of pouring out some wine from a glass as a sacrifice to their god. This practice took root in ancient Greece. Whenever they wanted to seek their god in a special way, they would pour out some of their wine as a sacrifice that would help “pave the way” for their prayer. Over the years it became a custom to pour out just a bit of each cup they drank, almost like a little “tithe” or sacrifice to their god.
A.T. Robertson, probably the leading Southern Baptist scholar of his day, suggested that since the Philippian Christians to whom Paul was writing had come out of a pagan Greco-Roman culture, it is more likely that they would think of this latter type of sacrifice, than the Old Testament drink offering. But I don’t think it really matters that much which one he was referring to; these are very similar: either way, the basic meaning is the same: both would involve taking a measure of wine, and instead of using it for personal pleasure and drinking – they would pour it out as a sacrifice that would please the god who was its object. The idea was that the drink was “wasted” as far as their personal use went, but “spent” in a sacrifice to their god instead.
What we need to understand here in Philippians 2:17 is that Paul was comparing his LIFE to this drink offering. He said, “I am being poured out as a drink offering.” He compared himself to that drink. Just as that drink was poured out on the altar of sacrifice, or on the ground, so he saw HIS LIFE as being poured out as a sacrifice for the Lord’s work.
He wrote later in Philippians 3 about his background, his religious heritage, and all the accomplishments he had attained — but he said he had counted all those things as “loss” for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. In a sense he had “poured out” his life to God as a drink offering — serving God, instead of living for his own pleasures, family, and career. When he first met Jesus, he began this “pouring out” of his life, and he continued to pour it out until the day he died.
In II Timothy 4:6, in his very last letter, Paul writes, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering (that’s the same Greek word there) and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith …” and so on in his famous last words. Paul’s life was indeed “poured out” as a sacrifice for the gospel. It was “wasted” as far as his own pleasures were concerned, but it was “poured out” as an investment to the God he served.
In the early 1900’s, Bill Borden was an exceptional young man, who was both an athlete and a scholar at Yale University. He was also very rich, having inherited over a million dollars (which would be about $100 million in today’s dollars) from the Borden dairy fortune. He could have enjoyed a life of riches and ease, serving on corporate boards. Instead he gave his money away to missions, most of it to the China Inland mission, and then he headed overseas for missions himself. But on the way to China he stopped in Cairo, Egypt, where he contracted meningitis and after a brief bout with it, he died. When word came back to the United States, many people here shook their heads and lamented: “What a waste!” — but what they failed to see is that Bill Borden didn’t “waste” his life; he invested it, and poured it out as a drink offering for his God.
Jesus commanded us in Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” In that verse Jesus commanded us to deny ourselves: the things in this life that people might say that we have a “right” to — like our desires, our career, our goals, our own “pursuit of happiness” – and He commanded us sacrifice those things — to “pour them out” for the sake of following Him, and advancing the Kingdom of God. In other words, there will be things that we could do, that we might WANT to do, that we will NOT do for the sake of the Kingdom of God. There are places we could have gone, that we will NOT go for His sake. There are pleasures we could experience, that we will NOT experience, for God’s sake. There are things we could attain, that we will instead set aside — because we will devote that time and energy and money to serving God’s kingdom, and advancing the name of Jesus instead.
This week Bro. Keith took our son Michael, and some others of our young people out to work at some of our church members’ homes to earn some money for their upcoming mission trip to the Dominican Republic. They spent the better parts of two days, spreading mulch, moving rocks, and doing all kinds of other hard work, earning money for that trip. Now, someone might look at them and say, “Man, what a shame; they just WASTED a big part of their spring break!” But these students did not “waste” their spring break; they INVESTED it. They “poured out” their time like a drink offering to the Lord, trading in their free time for an opportunity to go on mission and advance the Kingdom of God in the Dominican Republic this summer.
That is what the Apostle Paul is talking about here. Whenever we do things like that, we are becoming like him: “pouring out our lives like a drink offering.” Not “wasting” it; but investing it for the sake of God’s kingdom and glory in this world.
II. The Choice of the Drink Offering
Now, I understand that this concept of being “poured out” as a drink offering may not sound very attractive to a lot of people. Who wants to give up their own “pursuit of happiness” and “pour out” what could have been your life, like an unused drink?!
But I think it should also be pointed out, that there is a sense in which your life WILL be “poured out”, regardless of what you choose to do with it. Paul said his life was being poured out as a drink offering “for the service of your faith” — in other words, for God’s Kingdom’s work in them. And he said “I rejoice” in it. He CHOSE for his life to be poured out in service for God. He knew it wasn’t being wasted, but invested in the Kingdom of God.
But listen: the truth is, there is a sense in which ALL of our lives being poured out. Time is fleeting. Psalm 90:10 says of our lives, “Soon it is gone and we fly away.” Moments and hours and days and weeks and years rush by. Every week you read it on Facebook: “Is the weekend over already?” Weeks are spinning by. If you are very young, it may seem like time is dragging to you, but the truth is, the older you get, the faster it seems to go. Time is FLYING by for me right now. The year just began, and now it’s already April. Soon the summer will be here, and before you know it, the end of this year. The hours and days of your life, your strength, your vitality, are being poured out – and they are being poured out quickly. The truth is: EVERYONE’S life is being poured out. The only question is: what are you pouring it out on? You are either pouring it out for the Lord, or you are pouring it out on something that will perish.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Jim Elliot and the other missionaries who were killed by a tribe of natives in Ecuador when they went there to share the gospel. Nate Saint was the missionary pilot who flew them there, and who was also killed. Saint is not as well-known as Jim Elliot, but he had a great heart for the Lord and His work as well. Before his death, he wrote these words:
“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”
In other words, he was saying, you can either pour out your life like Paul did, investing it in service to God, or you can waste it on things that won’t matter in eternity, which is the true tragic waste of a life.
When our daughter Libby was getting married, we visited with one of our church members, who owns Gillis Grocery and Meat Market, about catering the rehearsal dinner. As we were talking about the arrangements, and how many pans of food he was going to bring, he said something about how they always plan for what he calls a “drop pan”. He said that often, when they are bringing the food in to the dining room, whoever is bringing it in will drop one of the pans. Over time he’s learned it just IS going to happen; someone IS going to drop one, and so he plans in advance for a “drop pan.” While he was telling us about it, I was just sitting there thinking what a WASTE that would be – for a whole pan of that great Cajun cooking to just be dropped on the ground and wasted! What a shame!
But how much more of a shame is it when not just a pan of food, but a whole LIFE that has been wasted! Can you imagine, that your whole LIFE would be like a “drop pan” – all the years of your life, spilled out and wasted for no good purpose? And yet that is actually the way that most people live their lives! They might look at someone like the Apostle Paul and say, “Man, you’re a fool for pouring your life out” – but the truth is, THEY are actually the ones who are wasting their lives, pouring them out on NOTHING that will ever really matter!
Sometimes I will spend a day, and not really get anything of note accomplished. Maybe I slept in late, or just goofed around and watched tv or scanned Facebook and Twitter, or whatever — but when I get to the end of a day like that, I feel badly when I look back and think, I didn’t do anything of consequence, anything that was worth spending my life on that day.
Can you imagine how much regret you would have if you did that, not only with a day, but with your whole life? That you wasted your whole life doing things that won’t matter in eternity? When I was first called to ministry, a lawyer in our church asked me why I was becoming a preacher. I told him that one of the reasons was, that when I came to the end of my life, I didn’t want it to be wasted: that if I was going to be an architect, all my buildings would be destroyed, and so on; but serving in ministry what I did would be an eternal investment. (I understand now that my perspective was a little limited back then. You can serve God in a secular career and not waste your life: if you walk with Him every day, and use your job to glorify Him, and witness to people He brings you in contact with, and tithe and give from the income you make to further His kingdoms’ work, and go on mission trips — you aren’t “wasting” your life if you serve God in a secular career that He calls you to. Tommy Sain probably witnesses to more people in his barber shop than a lot of pastors and missionaries do! So you can definitely serve God in a secular career.)
But I was right in my basic premise: you DON’T want to get to the end of your life and realize that your time is up, and your life has been “poured out” and wasted — ON NOTHING that will ever matter for eternity!
See, some people looked at Bill Borden and said that he “wasted” his life — he gave away all his money, and laid down his life. But the truth is, that would all have happened anyway! His money was all going to go somewhere anyway — it was just a matter of where it was going to be spent. Bill Borden was going to die some day anyway — the question was just for what PURPOSE would he die?
That is just what the point we see here. The truth is, it is not just Christians whose lives are being “poured out.” In a sense, we are ALL being “poured out.” The only question is, ON WHAT are we going to pour out and expend our lives: on temporary things that vanish as soon as we do them – or will we pour out our lives on things that will last for eternity?
Years ago, a Christian man by the name of John Paton had surrendered his life to go to the South Pacific Hebrides Islands as a missionary. He said he encountered a lot of opposition for doing that. He wrote: “Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument always was: ‘The Cannibals! You will be eaten by the cannibals!’ At last I replied, ‘Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by WORMS.'” In other words, Patton was saying, the question was not was his body going to be eaten, it was just in what cause his body would be eaten. Would it be eaten in the cause of Christ, that would give him an eternal reward? Or would be eaten by worms, because he had wasted it away?
C.T. Studd grew up in England, in the home of a father who had made a fortune overseas, and Studd was an heir to that fortune. He was also a successful college student and a star cricket player in England. But one day, the missionary Hudson Taylor visited Cambridge, where Studd was going to college, and he called for missionaries to come to China. C.T. Studd and 6 others from Cambridge surrendered their lives to be missionaries, and they headed to China. They became known as “The Cambridge 7”. Studd went to China were he served for a number of years, and when his father died and he was left with a large inheritance, he gave it all away to the China mission and to other Christian evangelistic causes. He had to return to England because of poor health, although he later recuperated and went back as a missionary to India and Africa. Just before his death, Studd wrote one final letter back home:
“As I believe I am now nearing my departure from this world, I have but a few things to rejoice in; they are these:
1. That God called me to China and I went in spite of utmost opposition from all my loved ones.
2. That I joyfully acted as Christ told that rich young man to act. (he gave away his fortune to gospel causes)
3. That I deliberately at the call of God … gave up my life for this work … for the whole unevangelized World.
My only joys therefore are that when God has given me a work to do, I have not refused it.”
See, just before his death, C.T. Studd could look back on his life – a life some would say he “wasted” — and say no, as I look back on my life, the only joys I have are in how I did what God told me to do.
The question for every one of us today is: can you say that about your life? Listen: the reason I am sharing this message with you today, is that I don’t want you to get to the end of your life, and look back, and say with regret, “I have wasted my life.” But the sad truth is, that is exactly what many of us are doing: you are “pouring out your life” like an old can of coke — wasting it on countless hours of watching television, and playing video games, and looking for one “thrill” after another which isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference for eternity. You are wasting your life; you are “pouring it out” — on NOTHING! Don’t let that happen to you.
When you get to the end of your life, like C.T. Studd did, you aren’t going to wish you’d spend more time watching tv or surfing the internet. You are not going to wish you spent more time watching football games. You won’t care about how much money you made, how many “things” you accumulated, the promotions you received, or those awards that seemed so important to you at the time. Your only joy, when this life is over, will be found in whatever ways that you “poured out” your life for the Lord. And that is all.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.” Spend your life in serving yourself, and you will have lost it forever. But if you lose your life in serving the Lord, you will have “poured it out” as an investment that will benefit you for all eternity.
Before he died, C.T. Studd wrote this poem – you’ve probably heard at least part of it before – and it hits right at the heart of this message from Philippians 2:17:
“Two little lines I heard one day, traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, and from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, and stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
And then C.T. Studd added one final, closing line:
“And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
Don’t waste your life; invest it: POUR IT OUT, as a drink offering to the Lord!
— Maybe you are a Christian person, but you’d say, I have been wasting my life on the wrong things, and God is calling to me be serious about serving Him. Talk to Him about what needs to change … how you need to begin serving Him. (Maybe you need to show up at MasterLife tonight, and begin to learn how to walk with the Lord every day in His word & prayer …)
— Perhaps you sense that God is calling you to “pour out your life” by serving Him as a pastor, or missionary, or other minister. You don’t want to waste your life, but invest it in something that will last for eternity. God has already begun to call out some of our young people to serve Him in missions & ministry. I wonder if there are not others. Maybe He is going to call a “Cambridge 7” from Pleasant Ridge who will go make disciples to the ends of the earth. If He’s speaking to you about that, come share that with us, so we can pray for you, and encourage you, and help you follow God’s plan for your life.
— Or maybe you’d admit this morning that you have been totally wasting your life on the wrong things; and you have not been following God or thinking about eternity at all. And today The Lord is calling you to stop wasting your life, but to turn and begin to follow Jesus today as your Lord & Savior.
— Or maybe you’ve done that, but you’ve never taken a public stand for Him in baptism …
— Or there may be someone you need to pray for today, who is wasting their life. Would you determine before God today, that if they are going to waste their life, they will not do it without going over your prayers and tears for them. Let’s spend some time in prayer, both for our loved ones today, as well as for ourselves, that we would not waste our lives, but invest them for eternity.