Over the past week I’ve been reading a YouVersion Bible study called, “The Life-Giving Leader.” It has been an excellent study on leadership, and it really has me thinking about how I invest my life in others: am I giving grace and truth to others, empowering them to be their very best? Or am I person that draws life from those around me and leaves them with less than when we first met? How about you? Are you a life-giver?
While the devotional focused on leadership, I quickly realized that the principles of giving life to others extends to all of our relationships, and all of us have experienced the impact of being around people who give life, as well as being around those who suck it out of us one interaction at a time. As children of the King, we are called to be partners of grace and to live in a give-and-take type relationship with one another.
Have you ever been in a work environment where your boss demanded grace from you and your fellow employees, but rarely gave it? It’s not a fun place to work! I can think back to a person I know who consumed people and their grace until they grew too weary and depleted to give anything else, and then this person would leave them and move on to the next relationship. His marriage fell apart. His work life crumbled. And all the time he blamed others for giving up on him, or abandoning him in his need. This guy burned through counselors because he didn’t have time to hear what they would tell them, and literally, as soon as they disagreed with his perceptions, he was off to another counselor. I’m not sure this man knew how to give life to others; he only knew how to consume.
1 Peter 4:7-11 is a section of Scripture that has been dear to my heart for years. In the middle of it Peter writes, “Each one should use whatever gifts he has received, to administer God’s grace in its various forms…” He is reminding his followers that they are to be life-givers, providing grace for others. When each of us works at being conduits for the goodness and grace of God, then it becomes so much easier to dispense life, because we’re being filled at the same time we’re being emptied! Of course there will be seasons where we take more than we give, or give more than we take, but as we surround ourselves with godly and mature brothers and sisters in Christ, we find God continues to meet our needs through His people.
As we think about being life-givers, we can look to Jesus to see how He gave to others. Here are seven ways Jesus gave life, maybe this will help you think of ways to fill others up:
Genuinely listen to the needs of others: It always amazes me that Jesus, who could know the hearts and minds of the people whom He encountered, didn’t cut them off when they shared their needs with Him. Easily He could have said, “I know, I know, I know…you want your demon-possessed daughter to be healed, am I right?” He took the time to listen, to hear, and to care what people were saying to Him. You can fill others up, sometimes quite easily, simply by listening to them.
Provide tangible help and resources: Maybe you can’t heal people like Jesus did, but you can certainly help them in very tangible ways. Can you provide a financial gift? Can you show up with an unexpected meal? How about making transportation a possibility? Can you open your home to foster children? Do you have an hour or two a month to visit shut-ins? There are so many ways to tangibly show up in the lives of others!
Offer godly advice: Advice is easy to come by; godly advice is a true treasure. This goes closely with number one on this list, making sure you genuinely listen, but often people need to hear sound council, and you can fill them up by providing biblical advice with grace and confidence.
Pray for peoples’ needs: One of my favorite prayer stories happens when Jesus shows up at the tomb of Lazarus. Knowing that He is about to show the full scope of His divine power, Jesus says a simple prayer for those nearby: “…but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When people around us are hurting, we can fill them up by praying them up!
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn: Few things are more life-giving than being with people in both their joy and their sorrow. I’ve cried with people as they sat in their loss, silently praying for God’s grace too how up in mighty ways, and I’ve laughed with people as we celebrated a great victory in their lives. And I’ve done both while being on the other end of the spectrum myself: mourning while experiencing joy in my life, and celebrating when my own life felt heavy and burdened. Learning to genuinely rejoice with others in one setting, while mourning with others in another, is a beautiful way to express God’s grace.
Use your words to offer encouragement: Ephesians 4:29 reminds us that our words should be used to build others up, to benefit everyone who hears us, and not as a tool to tear people down. The world does a tremendous job of belittling, humiliating, and destroying people, we should be a people who give life with our words, whether through Twitter, in person, or over the phone. Life should flow from our lips so that people long to be around us!
Defend the powerless: Jesus was a master of defending people who had been marginalized by society. He was incredibly gracious to women, in a culture that, at times, gave little credence to their value. Jesus embraced children even when His own followers tried to cast them away. He spent time with gratuitous sinners and social and spiritual outcasts, treating them with value even when others treated them with disdain. He didn’t mock the powerless, He acknowledged them and gave them hope. He didn’t push away the outcasts, He ate dinner with them and made them His friends. What powerless people are in your life that could use some grace? Who has God already put in your path that you could build up and fill up by being like Jesus?
After I finished my little devotional study this week, I was reminded that I want to be a person that distributes God’s grace, and gives life to others. I know I will need to be the recipient of grace and life from others, too, so I want to place myself in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ who are equally pursuing Him. Are you giving life to those around you? Would your wife or kids call you a life giver? Would your employer or employees say you breathe grace into them at the workplace? Would the officials at your kids’ games call you a grace distributor?
Let’s be the kind of people that fill others up, and administrate the grace of God in its various forms!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.