“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:17-18 ESV)
Years ago, I came across a contemporary worship song with this refrain, sung to God: “I’ll waste it all for you.”
From the first time I heard the refrain, its wording struck a chord within me. In what sense are we called to “waste” our lives for God? Moreover, is it ever a “waste” to live for Christ?
Every Christian considers these questions at some point. And the Philippians had good reason to ask them as well.
Their beloved apostle and church planter, Paul, was subject to legal inquiry and incarceration. Rival preachers attempted to make things even harder for Paul (Philippians 1:17). Naturally, the Philippians were concerned for their father in the faith (4:10). So, they sent a financial gift to Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus (v. 18).
Yet as Paul faced the possibility of execution, what would become not only of the Philippians’ gift but of the faith that accompanied it? Anticipating this question, Paul pens one of the most profound statements of his epistle to the church.
“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith,” he explains, “I am glad and rejoice with you all” (2:17). If, in the worst-case scenario, Paul’s lifeblood was to be spilled, it was to be a libation of love. Like a supplicant who pours out wine as an oblation to God (a practice which was a part of the Old Testament system), Paul was content to be a simple sacrifice to adorn and consecrate the offering of the Philippians’ faith and service. Further, he rejoiced at this prospect and called his friends in Philippi to do so in turn.
Paul, in fact, saw his missionary enterprise as a priestly ministry—“so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16). As a gospel priest, Paul offered God gifts not of animals or blood but believers themselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) from among all the nations. Hence, Paul was not so much concerned for the Philippians’ gift but for them themselves (Philippians 4:17). And he saw that his outpoured life and the devotion of those he had converted to Christ paired as beautifully as the fine wine and the sacrificial meat presented at God’s altar.
Oh how we need this perspective—whether we serve in ministry or receive the ministry of others! As Christian workers, we are tempted to remain aloof from the souls with which we have been entrusted. Conversely, as sheep given to be shepherded, we often withdraw from our spiritual leaders, preferring our own privacy and evaluating our shepherds’ gifts from afar. Yet Paul so loved his converts in Philippi that he was happy to seal their faith with his life. “This,” John Calvin commented on this passage, “is to teach the gospel from the heart—when we are prepared to confirm with our own blood what we teach.”
However we are prone to define “success” as mission-minded believers, Paul’s words here stand both as an encouragement and a rebuke. From a worldly perspective, his eventual martyrdom in Rome was a waste. Yet he was following in the steps of his Lord, who himself has poured himself out in love to ransom his people (Isaiah 53:12). In this way, even Paul’s death was a success. And rather than grovel in shame, the Philippians were to “be glad and rejoice” with Paul (Philippians 2:18)—knowing that God would be glorified whether by Paul’s life or death.
Who has poured themselves out for us? Let us consider those from church history and from our personal histories who are responsible for our faith today. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). For whom are we pouring out ourselves? William Carey wrote, “We can never make sacrifices too great, when the eternal salvation of souls is the object” (Serampore Form of Agreement, Article 6). In this way, following our Lord’s example, let us indeed “waste” our lives for the faith of others.
I thank you for those whom you have used to build up my faith. I thank you for generations of Christians who came before me, translating Scripture, studying its truths, traveling to faraway lands, preaching the gospel, and establishing churches. I thank you for those in my life who first shared the gospel with me. I thank you for using them to lead me to you. Help me to honor them by emptying myself for the salvation and eternal good of others.
In Jesus’ name,
- Pray for your pastors and leaders in your local church to experience gladness as they pour themselves out in ministry. Pray that your life would be a worthy sacrifice to God and their ministry its adornment.
- Pray for endurance for missionaries across the world pouring out their energies in the service of souls. Ask God to fill them and their converts with joy.
- Pray for more laborers (Matthew 9:38) to engage in self-sacrificial gospel work, especially among those who have never heard of Jesus Christ.