The Pouring-Out Principle
December 1, 2003 - Author and speaker Jill Briscoe came from the United Kingdom to the United States more than 30 years ago when her husband, Stuart, became pastor of Elmbrook Church in Wisconsin. Today the Briscoes travel the world as the church's ministers-at-large, speaking at conferences and encouraging ministers and their spouses. Briscoe is the executive editor of a magazine for pastors' wives and women in ministry, and she is the author of more than 40 books. Her newest book, "A Little Pot of Oil," talks about how God fills us up when we are feeling empty.
by Bob Paulson
Q: Your new book, "A Little Pot of Oil," talks about the widow's jar of oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7, and how God used it to provide for her when she poured it out in faith. Could you explain how this "pouring-out principle" works in our lives?
A: Well, I think we often come to the end of ourselves and run out of energy, strength or ideas. We wait for God to pour in something. I don't know quite what we're expecting—maybe a sense of push or euphoria or whatever. But it doesn't work like that. You have to step out in faith and do what is right as far as you can see. As we in obedience do what is right, then God pours in. So it's "according to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29, KJV). We pour out, and then God pours in.
I think a lot of Christians just wait for God to give them courage, for example, but as you do the right thing, the needed courage comes. In my own experience, and for many mature Christians that I talk to, you come to the point where you think you've nothing left. Then you just get up and get on with it. You find that the energy is there.
Q: Do you recall a specific instance in your life when that principle became clear to you?
A: I think it began to be clear to me years ago when I was doing young people's work and street ministry. I was standing outside Floral Hall, a dance hall, praying for courage to go inside. It was a very difficult place. In those days there were gangs in there, and we were doing outreach to them. I prayed, "Lord, if You want me to go in there, then I expect You to give me the courage to do it." I just stood there praying and waiting for the courage, and the courage never came. It was as if God said to me, "Will you go in for Me without the courage, Jill?"
I thought, "Well, alright." It was a question of will. I couldn't move, because I was so frightened. I told my feet to move, and they did. When I got myself inside, the courage was there waiting for me, and I knew exactly what to do.
Frankly, I'd felt like I had run out of many things at that point in my life. My husband was an evangelist. He was on the road all the time. It was after getting myself back into ministry and feeling I had nothing to give that I found I had that little pot of oil. I had the Holy Spirit.
We forget our resources in those times. The widow came to Elisha and said, "I have nothing in the house." Elisha reminded her that she had a resource, her little jar of oil. She had negated it because it just didn't seem relevant. I think you never run out of God.
Q: What happened when you walked into the dance hall?
A: I found myself saying to the bouncer, "Take me to the manager." I knew that I needed to go to the head and ask for the ridiculous. I sat down and introduced myself. I said, "I'm a youth worker, and I'm concerned about young people. What happens on the platform in between the bands? Is there silence? Do the kids just mill around?"
He said that nothing happened. I asked, "Could I have your platform?" I was very glad when he said no. I thought, "Well, now I've done my duty, God. Let me go home."
Then the manager continued, "until you tell me why," and my heart dropped.
"I want to tell these young people that there's a God, that there's prayer that can be answered and a Bible that's true," I said. "There's a way to give them strength to get off drugs."
To my amazement, he said, "Well, you can have my platform after you have explained all those things to me, because I've waited all my life. I don't go to church, and I need the answers. If you can answer my questions, then you can have the platform."
I answered his questions, and he let me talk to the young people in between acts. About eight months later he accepted Christ. But even before then, he allowed us to bring Bible students into the hall to minister. For years after, that hall was a place of outreach.
Q: It seems like most of us tend to be hesitant or scared to pour our lives into other people. Why do you think that is?
A: We're totally selfish. That doesn't change when we accept Christ. Our selfishness has only just begun to be subjugated to the lordship of Christ. We're selfish. We're frightened. We feel sorry for ourselves. The principle of being unselfish before you feel unselfish is very important. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to make us unselfish, and that takes a lifetime. There are areas in my life that God is still working on. But sometimes a situation arises that makes us a little less selfish today than we were yesterday.
Q: What kinds of ministry opportunities are coming up for you and Stuart?
A: We're finding that our age and experience gives us a voice. To our great surprise, we're being inundated with people over 55 and 65 who say, "Oh, I'm still strong. I could give a summer. I'm a doctor or a dentist, and I could get myself out there and do something for missions." So it's a surprising ministry that we had no intention of starting. Stuart's coming up on 73; I'm going to be 69 next year, and apparently it's a challenge for people to see us doing what we're doing. We're delighted to say that it's never over. We've got a lot of years and energy and wisdom and spiritual intelligence mixed with experience. It's a part of wisdom, and people look at us just because we're aged, and they listen to us. I think that is very exciting.
Q: You've got another book coming out soon called "Here Am I. Please Send Somebody Else." What is it about?
A: It's the life of Moses, who says, "Here am I. Send Aaron." All the way through his life he managed to be inadequate, and God had to help him with this. The book deals a lot with evangelism—how we feel that we don't have the gift, and yet we forget that we're a witness whether we have the gift of an evangelist or not. So, I deal with the propensity to shelter under "it's not my gift" excuses—all the excuses of Moses and all the reasons that keep us in the desert for our whole lives and prevent us from being deliverers.
Q: What encouragement would you offer to Christians regarding evangelism and witnessing?
A: I'd tell them "do it before you feel like doing it." It's the pouring-out principle again. We use excuses like, "If I had a burden for the lost ... ," or "It's not my job or my gift," or "I don't have time." I think it's a question of understanding what it means to be lost. Get into the places in Scripture where Jesus talks about the lost. Ask yourself, "Do I really believe this? Do I believe my mother is lost? Do I believe my sister is lost?" If I really believe that, then I should let the Word of God and the Spirit of God make that matter to me. As we study what the Bible says about our responsibility and what we believe about lostness, do we really believe that there's an eternal lostness and a place called hell? If we really believe it, then that's part of the motivation, and the other part is that the love of Christ constrains us—it hems us in to being ambassadors for Him.
So, I think it comes from hanging our hearts over Scripture. I think it comes from being obedient, being a soldier, telling them anyway (whether you feel like it or not). I keep coming back to this feeling thing because I see the church runs its Christian life on feelings instead of on duty.
We have freedom in this country, but it's become a freedom to live as we want, not as we ought. We have a freedom in Christ, but it's a freedom to live as we ought, not as we want. We need to get back to reading the Bible and to being obedient when we don't feel like it. As we take action, the power comes in and enables and empowers us.
Q: Do you have a final challenge for our readers?
A: I was in the air on Sept. 11, trying to get back to Chicago, and I got diverted to Newfoundland. I spent six days on a Salvation Army pew, and that was a wake-up call for me. I had 270 people on my plane for six days in a confined space with nothing to do. All of my old fire for evangelism was ignited. I realized that for years I'd been rushing past the man in the ditch on my way to the temple to teach everybody. I realized that I had these opportunities all around me. That has nothing to do with age. The gift of the Holy Spirit doesn't age, and the heart for evangelism shouldn't age. The Holy Spirit is the witness. He will do it. He will give us the words. He will give us the motivation. We need to get a hold of that little pot of oil and keep pouring. That's the thing I want to say: Just keep pouring. Pour out, and He'll pour in.