Perhaps you have heard the illustration about an expert on time management who walked into a classroom and gave a powerful visual illustration on the importance of priorities. He lifted a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. He placed fist-sized rocks into the jar until no more would fit, and asked the students if the jar was full. They all agreed it was full, but he then took a bucket of gravel and poured it into the jar filling all the void spots between the rocks. Again, he asked if the jar was full, and the replies were mixed. He took another box filled with sand and dumped it into the jar filling the gaps between the rocks and gravel. Again, he asked if the jar was full, and no one said anything. He then took a pitcher of water and began pouring it in until the jar was filled to the brim. His point was this: “if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all.” While a powerful point about priorities, this story is also a reminder that our lives may be filled with many things, but it does not necessarily mean we are as full as we would think
When the patriarch Abraham died, Genesis 25:8 records this epitaph, “then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full…” The word “full” here means that his desires in life had been completely satisfied. He had experienced great trials, endured long periods of waiting, and suffered great disappointments. But, in the final analysis of his life, he died “full.” When I think of our society today in America, our closets are filled, our cupboards are filled, and our calendars are filled, but our lives are so empty. Outsiders would perceive us as wonderfully blessed because of our abundance, and we are! However, is it possible our abundance has become a curse to us? Like the prodigal son, our spiritual bellies are filled with the wrong “husks” and we cannot be satisfied. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we are filled with the “quail” we begged for, but have emptied our souls in sickness. It may be easy to have a life filled with stuff, but how do you live a life that is genuinely full?
A life that’s full draws from the right Source. In Acts 6:3, the first deacons were to be men “…full of the Holy Ghost…” The word “full” here carries the idea of being controlled by. A horse possesses great strength and speed, but once he is broken, a simple bit in his mouth controls his actions and direction. The horse still maintains and utilizes his giftedness, but it functions under the power of the one who works the bit. In Luke 5, the disciples had failed all night long fishing. Their ships were filled with oars, sails, and all the right fishing gear, but they were empty of what they were designed to carry most…fish! Once Jesus came on board, the ships became full of fish to the point they began to sink. It was still the same ships, nets, and gear, but they were now functioning under control of the Lord. The great Mediterranean Sea loses volumes of water every day through evaporation, but yet always remains full. It does so by drawing from the Straits of Gibraltar on the Atlantic Ocean. The choice of our source of satisfaction in life will either complete us, close us, or corrupt us.
A life that’s full displays a real substance. Again, in Acts 6:3, the verse continues, “…full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom…” Stephen was noted as being “full of faith.” Dorcas was said to be “full of good works.” David proclaimed he was “full of joy.” A life that is full in the Lord will always overflow in an outward manifestation of grace. In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke the parable of the net. He made the comparison of a fisherman casting the net into the sea and once the net is full, he sifts out the good and casts away the bad. Not everything we catch in the net of our lives is meant to stay. If only Samson had sifted lust out of his net of strength. If only Solomon had sifted pride out of his net of wisdom. Interestingly enough, our bodies are designed to sift through food for nutrients, and will reject that which is toxic to us. In Australia, there is the nardoo plant which closely resembles flour, but it lacks any nutritious attributes. Those who feed on it, while losing a sense of hunger, will die in a few weeks from starvation. Jesus made it clear that the right craving is to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” When we do, He promises “…they shall be filled.” We will never crave such filling until we are convinced of our emptiness!
A life that’s full discovers a refining secret. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit…” The Greek verb tense implies “keep on being filled.” A drink of cold water today is only sufficient to meet the need of the day. The demands of tomorrow will require a fresh drink. The Psalmist declared in Psalm 92:10, “…l shall be anointed with fresh oil.” Oh, how easy it is to try and serve the Lord in the power of yesterday’s anointing. It was Samson who tried to fight the Philistines with yesterday’s anointing only to discover the power was gone. It was David who defeated thousands of Syrians on the battlefield with a mighty touch of the Lord only to fall days later to one woman. Years ago, a bread company had the motto: “it’s freshness that counts.” To them, freshness meant productivity and profit. To Jesus, freshness means the miraculous. Perhaps you have observed in the gospels, Jesus often filled many things. He filled baskets, waterpots, nets, and ships. However, these items were not merely filled with water, fishes, and loaves. They were filled with Him! That is the secret to living full!
In John 15:11, Jesus said, “…that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The word “full” here is a picture of finishing a task, but also to level a hollow place. Life will often produce in our hearts some low places that cannot be overcome unless the Lord fills them. We may attempt on our own to fill those low places with big things or even many smaller things, but only the Lord knows how to fill in the cracks and keep us filled to the brim.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2007 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.