By: Jenni Walker
“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11
“And all those who were around them encouraged them [and strengthened their hands]…” Ezra 1:6a
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“It’s not about you.”
Nearly two decades ago, I remember reading those words in the book The Purpose Driven Life. This statement alone was both a warning and an invitation to Christ followers. Author Rick Warren continued the opening of his book with the following words: “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness…If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose.”
The Christian life is without a doubt a call to self-sacrifice. And yet, did you know that as we align ourselves with this calling, that we will find more satisfaction, courage, and purpose than we ever dreamed of?
This month, we have looked at how our Lord has invited each one of us to live with encouraged hearts. We are each called courageously, wisely, and in quietness of heart to keep the focus of our entire life on Jesus. He is our life (Colossians 3:4)! In doing so intentionally, we will find strengthened, quiet souls even when the world around us is not-so-quiet.
But there is one more “key ingredient” to keeping an encouraged heart in the Lord that we are called to as followers of Jesus Christ. The goal of an encouraged heart is not simply to “feel good” about ourselves. The “self” cannot become our main focus! Although God cares deeply about our individual hearts, cultivating an encouraged, or “watered,” heart by God’s design does not stop with us. What is the secret? There is a paradoxical principle in the kingdom of God: It is in the pouring out that we ourselves also receive strength!
Keep the eyes of your heart fixed on Him and on how He wants to use you to be poured out for others. It seems contradictory but is unshakably, life-alteringly true! Timothy Keller explains it in the following way:
Your sense of self-worth is flagging and fragile because you’re not related to God like you should be. No amount of acclamation, no amount of applause or accolades from everyone in the world, will fill that hole. Nothing will heal your heart except God himself looking at you and saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Sin makes us operate on this principle: “Your life for me. I’m going to make you sacrifice for me, for my interests, for my self-image. You must sacrifice your needs to serve mine.” But Jesus Christ came into the world saying, “My life for you. My life to serve you. My life poured out for you. I sacrifice for you.” He says those are the two ways you can live your life, and every single day—every hour—you decide to operate on one of those principles.
Parents, you’ve seen this. You have this wonderful plan for the day, and then something happens—your kid gets sick, has a need, melts down—and you really need to spend time with your child. Which is it going to be? You can die and say, “My life for you.” You can sacrifice yourself for that child, in a sense, and have that child grow up feeling loved. In other words, you can die so your child will live. Or you can never sacrifice; you can never die to yourself in your parenting life. You can constantly say, “Sorry, I have my needs, I have my schedule, I have my goals, and you can’t get in the way”—and your child will grow up broken.
All real love is a substitutionary sacrifice—my life for yours.
(The full article can be found here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/main-problem-other-people/)
This paradoxical principle is a kingdom reality. It was lived out by Jesus Himself, the One who we keep the eyes of our heart fixed upon, and who we continually receive from as the One who is our very life.
Consider the words of Isaiah 58:10-11: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness [and gloom] shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Beautiful and wholehearted women of God, may our hearts each be like the watered garden described here that springs forth with waters that do not fail. Take courage, and joyfully respond to His call to pour ourselves out. And remember that the source of our encouragement is both from, and for, something much deeper and Someone much greater than ourselves!
TIME TO REFLECT
1. Take some time to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. What is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our experience of God?)
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)