by Kris Coffin Stevenson | 24 February 2021 |
What do you hold in your hands right now?
Most likely it’s a smart phone, possibly a tablet, maybe a magazine.
But what else do you have? Not the obvious, like sweat, or even a virus.
What do you spy with your little eye?
The easy pickings might be a recliner, your computer, a car.
Your bank account, the contents of your fridge, your education.
Relationships, responsibilities, influence, genetics.
You have more than you think you do. The secret to living in 2021 is to realize that for a follower of Christ, your cup isn’t half empty or half full; it should be overflowing.
One of the most enduring visuals in the Bible comes from those three words in Psalm 23:5: “My cup overflows.” It brings to mind sparkling fountains and uncalculated generosity and abundance like the joy that springs from a chocolate fountain at a wedding.
In 2 Kings 4, Elisha is entreated for help by the widow of a prophet because her sons are about to be sold into slavery to pay off debts. Elisha asks her what she has in her house. Just a jar of oil, she responds. Did she say it was a half-empty jar of oil or a half-full jar of oil? In any case, that’s all she has. Elisha directs her to borrow lots of containers, hinting that her outcome depends on her faith in tracking down as many receptacles as possible. She begins pouring out her flask of oil into the borrowed containers. As the golden liquid rises to the top of each jar, she gently sets it aside and her son places a new container underneath to catch the silky flow. Steadily they work, the flow never ceasing, until she reaches out for another container and nothing is there. Slowly she lowers her jar to the table and watches the stream of oil subside. This family has been saved by the overflowing grace of God. “And God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that by always having enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
David’s cup in Psalms 23 is a cup that overflows in the presence of ominous enemies. It’s a cup that spills over because the Lord is a Shepherd that provides what’s needed; cool waters, lush grasses, our daily bread. It’s a cup that’s seen the valley of the shadow of death but yet fears no evil. Some would say that focusing on the positive in the midst of serious and terrifying enemies is a form of denial, that we should be realistic and not delusional. But I could paint you a picture of the world burning down around us. I could terrify you with descriptions of violence and dismemberment. I could crowd your mind with disquieting images and discordant noises. So how do you feel now? How is that focus on reality working out for you?
Instead, take a look at your life and see what is overflowing. Maybe it’s not your bank account; maybe you feel like it’s your waistline! But there’s literally always something you can find to be grateful for. Right now I smell barbeque from the neighbors, I hear the soft chirrups of my cats, and the sun is sending diffused rays through my open door to shift against the wall. Our resident mockingbird is beginning his evening chorus. A sense of satisfaction wells up from the floor, where my husband and I replaced the aging carpet with quality laminate; hard work in our Covid vacation, but a rich reward in aesthetic improvements.
You can fill in the blanks of your own existence. Certainly something abounds in your universe. Are you looking at the overflowing cup or at your enemies?
Make a list. Five things to be thankful for. I’ll start you out.
- God’s encouraging words: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18).
Let me introduce you to the extravagant God, the Adonai of abundance, the Creator of creativity, the Artisan of aesthetics. Why would God make a weed to be more glorious than King Solomon? Why would he design the mockingbird to sing in the middle of the night when no one is awake or cares to hear it? Why would he arrange the undulating colors in a sunset to take your breath away? Whether anyone is paying attention or not, God’s character overflows with generosity and beauty, and he wants you to mirror him.
But some people’s cups never overflow; some people’s cups hold bitter, putrid water; some people try to fill their cups from the wrong source.
“Such are the cups held beneath the drippings of the world’s leaky cisterns…” (Spurgeon, “The Overflowing Cup”).
What substitutes do you try to fill your cup with? The water the world provides is expensive and in limited supply. The living water offered by Jesus never runs out; its source is infinite.
“Some cups are never filled, because the bearers of them suffer from the grievous disease of natural discontent. The heart is like the slough of despond, into which thousands of waggon loads of material were cast, and yet the slough did swallow up all, and was none the better…” (Spurgeon).
Selfishness is a black hole. The more you get, the more you want and the more you think you deserve. Instead of overflowing, the water in your cup grows stale, fills with sediment, grows algae and becomes useless.
“Some cups never run over, because their owners are envious. The green dragon is a very dangerous guest in any man’s home. And unbelief is sure to prevent a man’s cup running over” (Spurgeon).
The more you focus on what you don’t have and the more you try to hoard things in order to protect yourself, the more the supply dries up. Focusing on yourself and what you need dries up the taps, puts a kink in the supply line. So open up the faucet and let it gush!
There’s another story in the Old Testament featuring a starving widow with a son. This time it’s Elijah who asks her to give him a cup of water and a piece of bread. But all she has between herself and her son’s starvation is a handful of meal and a little bit of oil, enough for a piece of pita. Elijah encourages her not to be afraid and then challenges her to be generous with him before making food for her son. He prophesies that Adonai will keep the pot of meal and the jar of oil filled until the rains return to water the crops. The widow acts in faith and her food supply is constantly replenished by the God of abundance. I can imagine her making meals for her neighbors, marveling each time she dips into the container that there is just enough. “Give, and you will receive gifts — the full measure, compacted, shaken together and overflowing, will be put right in your lap. For the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure back to you!” (Luke 6:38).
The overflowing cup overflows because there are others who have needs as well. The overflowing cup only overflows when we take the focus off of ourselves and love our neighbor as ourselves. “And indeed, wherefore doth the Lord make our cup run over but that others should be refreshed by the droppings of the same” (Obadiah Sedgwick). God’s bounty should always lead to sharing. When did the miracle of the loaves and fishes begin? When the boy willingly donated his lunch for the benefit of others.
Do you have overflow? Where is it going? Have you misdirected it? Did you build a bigger barn to catch the excess, or did you let it rush out to those who really need it?
Give thanks, be grateful, see that your cup is overflowing. It’s not empty. It’s not half empty. It’s not even half full. It’s overflowing. It’s overflowing because you choose not to be a blockage in the stream of amazing love coming from the Father.
Say it with me, “I am a cup-overflowing kind of person.”
What are the enemies menacing you?
Furloughed, frightened, fired?
My cup is overflowing.
Discouraged, depleted, depressed?
My cup is overflowing.
Betrayed, baffled, bankrupt?
My cup is overflowing.
Violated, vaccinated, virulent?
My cup is overflowing.
“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).
Kris Coffin Stevenson is an author, teacher, editor, and scopist. She loves living her eternal life starting now. She and her husband reside in Santa Clarita, California. You can follow her writing at bthelove.net or bthelove on Facebook.