A sign was posted on a telephone pole by the grocery store: “LOST DOG with three legs, blind in left eye, missing right ear, tail broken, and recently castrated. Answers to the name of Lucky!”
Perhaps you feel just about as “lucky” as that lost dog. Hobbling along. Impaired vision. Broken tail. Well, you get the picture.
There was a woman in the Bible who also felt like she was out of luck and had nothing to give. But then God showed her how to fill up so that she could pour out. Her story is found in 1 Kings 17, and it begins with a man named Elijah.
Elijah was a good prophet who gave some bad news to a king named Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1 NIV). God knew that news would not go over very well with the king, so He told Elijah to flee eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine east of the Jordan. For several months, Elijah drank from the brook and ate bread and meat delivered by ravens that God miraculously sent to feed him.
Sometime later, the brook dried up. Now, if God could supply meat and bread every day, He could have easily provided water. But God had a different idea. He sent Elijah to Zarephath to a Gentile widow who needed a miracle in her life.
When he arrived, he called out to the woman. “Excuse me, could you please bring me a cup of water and a cake of bread?”
“I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug,” she said. “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (1 Kings 17:12 NIV).
Now that was a discouraged, empty woman! But Elijah had good news for her.
“Don’t be afraid,” Elijah said. “Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land’” (verses 13-14).
She went home and did what Elijah had told her. After she emptied her bowl and jar to feed Elijah, she went home to find the jar full of flour, and the jug full of oil. She was an empty woman, but as she took what little she had to offer encouragement to another, God filled her up.
I call this the Bucket Principle. I believe that each of us is given a bucket of encouragement. As we dip out of our bucket of encouragement and pour onto others, God miraculously fills it back up. Click & Tweet!
Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Many times, we place a lid on our bucket of encouragement. I don’t have enough to give to someone else. I am drained dry, we moan. However, when we pour out, even in our emotional emptiness, God fills us back up.
What happened to the woman from Zarephath? “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16 NIV).
Dear Lord, I’m feeling rather empty today. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, show me someone I can encourage. Give me the words to say and the courage to say them. I pray that as I give encouragement to others, that You, Lord, will fill me back up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Think of a time when you helped or encouraged someone else. How did it make you feel? Who is someone you can encourage today?
The most common way we encourage others is with the words we speak. Our words shape the lives of others, for good or for bad. If you want to become more of an encourager and less of a discourager, check out my book, The Power of a Woman’s Words. Also, you might like to take the 5-Day Taming the Tongue Challenge.