From Empty to Fulfilled
Matthew 5 – 1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the gift of gab. Growing up, many of my teachers and classmates would not have necessarily agreed that it was a gift. I did okay as far as grades were concerned, but behavior was a different story. God told Abraham that his descendants would be innumerable, like the stars in the night sky, or like grains of sand. That’s also about how many times I got in trouble for talking during class.
Through the years, I learned that not only could I incessantly ramble, but I could do so in different voices.
And then, there’s my penchant for singing. I make up parodies about anything and everything. I’ve even won an ESPN Radio contest with a parody song.
With all of those things considered, I’ve been encouraged by many over the years that I could be successful in the voiceover industry. I talk a lot, I sing a lot, and my voice is malleable. It’s a recipe for success, right? I didn’t take it seriously at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it to become a reality.
Several years ago, I looked into what it would take to get started in this industry. I quickly discovered it would be very expensive to rent a studio with a producer for just one hour so I could record a demo – too many eggs in one basket for something that was not guaranteed to work. I was not confident enough in myself to take a chance on myself. I was immediately discouraged and my desire for the voiceover industry ended up on the back burner.
Fast forward to just a few months ago. While speaking with a friend at work, my vocal abilities came up in conversation, and I was asked if I’ve ever considered voiceover work. I explained my one unsuccessful attempt, and it wasn’t long before my friend found a local, veteran voice talent who for about 1/5 of the cost of a one-hour studio rental with a producer, I was able to meet with this voice talent for an exploratory workshop, which included recording some samples that I could use in demos.
He encouraged me to get started as soon as possible. He said I was ready to start auditioning and should have no problem winning auditions. I met with him in November. Since then, I have been able to get everything I needed to set up a portable recording studio in my home office, and I’ve started recording more audio for demos.
What once was a distant dream is now becoming a reality. But while there have been moments of feeling fulfilled, they have been just that – moments. Feelings. All of it fleeting. I’m sure as I develop and hone my craft over time, it will become more rewarding and more fulfilling, but still fleeting.
But what if I were to empty myself of MY will and MY desire for MY future, and return to the Lord the vocal abilities He gave me? It is then and only then that I would find true fulfillment. And so here I stand today, a worship leader, a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a voice being used to bring to the forefront the presence of God and the Word of God. I would be overjoyed to become a successful voiceover talent, but my motive is not simply success for success’ sake. Becoming a successful voiceover talent would allow me to work from home and choose my schedule, opening up more time for family and ministry – the two things in which I am most fulfilled.
When people feel empty, there is often a desperation with which people search for something to fill that emptiness. But more often than not, it’s not FULfilling. It is only a temporary filling of that emptiness. When we find ourselves empty and vulnerable before the Lord, He doesn’t simply fill the emptiness – He leaves us FULfilled. Jesus said that if anyone believes on Him as scripture has said, out of their belly shall FLOW living water, referring to the Holy Ghost. If there is a flow, there is a source. As long as there is a source the flow will continue, so it won’t only fill, but it will FULfill.
How can we find ourselves empty before the Lord and set ourselves up to be truly fulfilled?
When we fast, we empty ourselves of our desires, endeavoring to draw closer to the Lord.
On this 21-Day Challenge, the baseline was set at no meat & no sugar, pray three times a day, and read the book of Acts. Some made additional sacrifices along the way—maybe some cut out media, or a specific food or drink, or went a day or more with only water—but ultimately, we were unified in our efforts as a church. In the context of this message, we were unified in our efforts to empty our lives of excess, to renew our focus on the things of God, and to be more effective as a body engaging in spiritual warfare.
When we pray, we are opening a line of communication to the Lord. Prayer is not to be an obligation but rather a lifestyle. Prayer provides opportunities to be honest with not only the Lord but with ourselves. In prayer, we can rid ourselves of worldly cares, negativity, and anything else that preoccupies us – lay aside every weight which does so easily beset us. This in turn makes us available to what God wants to speak into our lives.
It is when we repent that we are most vulnerable before the Lord. Repentance, like an onion, has layers. It starts with admitting to yourself and to the Lord that you have messed up, and no amount of wordsmith-ery can dress up sin to make it not seem as bad as it really was. Sin is sin. It is a departure from God and from the things of God. Once we have come to terms with that sin, we then express a genuine desire for forgiveness, followed by a genuine desire and commitment for change. Once we empty ourselves of sin, whatever God has planned for you will be that much more fulfilling.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 sums up how emptying yourself through generosity will set you up for true fulfillment.
- The principle of sowing and reaping; if you give little, your return will be little. If you give much, your return will be much.
- With an understanding of the first principle, understand that giving is a choice, and should not be done out of pressure or obligation but should be done cheerfully, as scripture says God loves a cheerful giver.
- Should you choose to give generously, here are the results: 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosityin you. 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
For those who participated in FPU, this is a summary of what the end result should be.
What are the benefits of finding ourselves empty before the Lord?
1. Can re-evaluate the things we’ve given up to see how they affect us
A. Sometimes we need to take a step back from things to better understand their effect on us – not unlike an elimination diet or unplugging from the digital world.
2. Discipline our flesh
A. To be a disciple, one must be disciplined. When we rid ourselves of distractions, it’s easier to focus on living for the Lord.
3. Learn to become grateful in both lacking and abundance
A. Philippians 4 – 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.
B. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We are less likely to take things for granted.
What does the bible say?
Isaiah 57 – 15The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humbleand revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.
Translation – those who empty themselves before the Lord are the ones who are most fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 5 – 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Translation – If any man be in Christ, he has emptied himself of his old lifestyle, and has become fulfilled in his new lifestyle.
Galatians 2 – 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Translation – I am emptied out so that Christ can live in me, and the life I now live is more fulfilled by He who gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 12 – 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Translation – His fulfillment is made complete in our emptiness. I will glory in my emptiness for His sake, for when I am empty, He fulfills me.
Who are some examples of emptiness being a setup for fulfillment from the Lord?
In 1 Samuel 1, a barren Hannah is in the temple praying for a child, and her prayers are acknowledged by the High Priest Eli not for their eloquence, neither for their content. Just the opposite – Hannah emptied herself in prayer. She had nothing more to give of herself; no words, no sounds, no tears. Just emptiness. Eli prophesied that her prayers would be answered, and sure enough, her emptiness before the Lord caused her to be fulfilled in having a son who would go on to become the only man in the bible to be a prophet, a priest, and a judge.
Luke 7 – 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Alabaster – white, marble-like stone commonly found in Israel used to make containers for oils, ointments, and perfumes, as it was strong enough to keep them pure and unspoiled. Often sealed with wax to not allow the scent of the perfume to escape. Whether the jar itself was broken, or just the seal, the valuable contents inside were poured out for Jesus, and in return, the woman was fulfilled as her sins were forgiven. What’s in your alabaster box? What is so important to you that needs to be sealed up so nothing escapes? What is so valuable to you that you might hesitate to pour it out at Jesus’ feet and risk missing out on your fulfillment? Would you be willing to empty yourself and lose what you’ve been so desperately clinging to if it meant that you would ultimately be forgiven? Healed? Fulfilled?
1 Kings 17 – 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. 13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. 15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. 16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.
Your spouse is gone. You can’t provide for your child. Your child can’t provide for you. All you have left are a couple of basic ingredients you can scrounge up for a last meal, if you could even call it a meal. It would be fair to say that your family is bankrupt – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. You have nothing left. So what could possibly be left to empty yourself of? Your last meal.
Isaiah 44 – 6I am the first, and I am the last; Revelation 22 – 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Translation – I am all-fulfilling. Give me first what you think is your last, and I will give you a beginning from what you thought was your end.
Presenting your emptiness before the Lord will result in you being more fulfilled than you would ever be trying to fill your own emptiness.
More Questions for Personal or Group Study:
- What was your favorite toy as a child? In the transition from child to adult, what was the most difficult to give up?
- In reading this sermon, what challenges you the most? Why?
- Read 2 Cor 12:9-10. How is God’s strength made ‘perfect in weakness’? How do you apply this in your own life?
Excerpted from a sermon preached by Pastor Michael Lagle.
For the full YouTube audio/video, click here.