As New Year’s Day approached, I wondered if I should list goals, resolutions and hopes for the coming year. A new year always seems so full of possibilities, doesn’t it?
Yet, I felt empty—devoid of dreams, of hopes, of ambition. I’d not felt successful recently in the ministry to which I believe God has called me. My accomplishments seem so insignificant, like a few drops in a bucket.
Soon, this scripture came clearly to my mind: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,” (Phil. 2:6-7, RSV). I pondered this phrase. Was the Holy Spirit trying to teach me something? What does it mean to empty oneself? Why did Jesus do this? Since I am his follower, am I supposed to empty myself? If so, how?”
According to the preceding verses, we who follow Christ are to have the same attitude which Christ had. We are encouraged to be unselfish and humble, to serve others. Although he was actually God, he “voluntarily laid aside his divine rights, privileges, and position,” in order to become a human being so he could die for our sins, (Life Application Bible notes on vv. 5-11).
Are we supposed to empty ourselves, too? Of what? We don’t have divine powers or position. Maybe Jesus (in the flesh) is like a pitcher of clear water and we are more like a garbage can. We are incapable of emptying ourselves. All we can do, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is confess we are filled with garbage and ask Holy Spirit to remove it and cleanse us. The Apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:31 a few things we should “let” be put away from us: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. We should also be emptied of pride, selfishness, jealousy, grandiose ambitions and unrealistic expectations. If we allow the Holy Spirit to empty us of these and other sins, then he can fill us up like pitchers with clean water, the Water of Life.
When water flows through a pitcher, the pitcher doesn’t know whether anyone will drink the water. Neither do we know what God will do through us, nor should we complain if we don’t see any results. The results are up to God. And he is faithful to do what is best.
Jesus is eternal God, all-knowing and all powerful, yet he became man (a servant) in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for all. “He did not give up his deity to become human, but he set aside the right to his glory and power… He voluntarily laid aside his divine rights, privileges, and position,” (Life Application Bible notes for Philippians 2:5-11.)
We also should have an attitude of servant hood, giving up our “rights” for the good of others.
Dear Holy Spirit, make me more like Jesus. Cleanse me from all sin and sinful attitudes, empty me of preconceived ideas and expectations, of thinking I know better how someone should act, of pride and bitterness, arrogance, impatience. Empty me of depression, discouragement, hopelessness, and of thinking I should be entertained with interesting things. Help me take the form of a servant, serving willingly and humbly. Empty me of caring too much what others think of me and whether or not they pay attention to me. Fill me, Lord, with your pure water and pour me out for the benefit of your kingdom. Amen.
c 2017 Judith Vander Wege, author of Prayer Poems, Songs, and Devotionals and a contributor to Standard.