If your outgo exceeds your intake,
your upkeep becomes your downfall.
Does our outgo exceed our intake? Outgo is the time and energy spent in meeting the needs of others. This includes physical, spiritual, emotional and financial needs. It demands our time and our energy. It may be a ministry to individuals, small groups or large groups. Our time in preparation for these meetings as well as the time spent with these individuals is our outgo. The needs of others and our seeming availability to meet those needs may lead us to a continual increase of the “outgo” focus. For some, it may be a few hours a week and for others a great deal more time is involved. This outgo is demanding on our lives. It gradually depletes our resources of physical, emotional and spiritual margin. Some find themselves running on fumes with their “tank” nearly empty. Others may be so burdened by the demands of ministry that they feel like Elijah, desiring to flee from responsibility and sit under a broom tree. I suspect that many of us have had periods like this in our lives resulting in a collapse of our margin. Our Lord Himself was burdened by lost humanity and His life was one of perpetual service. One day in particular was characterized by a whole town gathering for healing until late in the evening. How did He handle the tremendous responsibility demanding this “outgo” of effort? He did this by balancing the “outgo” with the “intake.”
In Mark 1:35 it is recorded that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” He manifested dependence upon the intake of a vital relationship with the Father. As He did this, the Father moment by moment manifested His life through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord did not act on His own at any time to supply a physical, spiritual or vocational need for Himself or anyone else apart from the Father’s will. His intake far exceeded His outgo. He never ran on fumes. His tank of emotional energy, spiritual energy, and physical energy was overflowing through His relationship with the Father. If He, our Lord and Savior, lived in such constant dependence so that He spent all night on one instance (Luke 6:12) with the Father before making a decision about His disciples do we dare try to function with any less commitment in our lives? We see this commitment to intake in the lives of a number of those in the Old Testament. This includes Moses who would dwell in the “tent of meeting” with God. David states in Psalm 27:4. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” In I Samuel 12:23 Samuel declares his resolve. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” He recognized the primary importance of intake of time with the LORD in prayer that the outgo of teaching them the way that is good and right would be accomplished. Psalm 1:2-3 is a good description of the balance of intake and outgo. It states “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsover he doeth shall prosper.” The root structure of most trees is roughly equal to their branches. What is unseen is equal to that which is seen. The invisible is equal to the visible. Is our invisible, unseen time with our Lord equal to the visible time we spend with others? Do we minister from the overflow of what the Lord is pouring into our lives, or are we running on fumes?
To run on fumes means that our tank is empty. We share with others not out of the Lord’s supply moment by moment, but we rely upon past experiences, and previous methods. Our activities become barren and fruitless. We minister out of the resources of self, not from the Spirit. We lean upon our own understanding, not upon the Lord. Our hearts are focused on the ministry instead of on the Lord and our upkeep then becomes our downfall. Years ago we met a lady whose husband was a well respected Bible teacher in his city. As he became busier and busier with the ministry, he neglected his time with the Lord. His focus was on dispensing truth, not applying it to his own life. Most of us are familiar with the expression “Read it through, pray it in, live it out, pass it on.” He skipped over the two middle steps of “pray it in and live it out.” His emphasis began to be “read it through, pass it on.” He became involved in an extramarital affair resulting in the loss of his family and his ministry. His upkeep became his downfall.
In Revelation 2:1-7 we read the letter of our Lord to the church at Ephesus. This was a church whose outgo exceeded their intake. Our Lord says in Revelation 2:2-4 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…….You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love.” This was a church highly commended, yet it was in grave peril. Our lives likewise are in grave peril if we have forsaken our first love. If so, then we need to heed our Lord’s admonition in Revelation 2:5. “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Has our outgo gradually increased over the years while our intake has lessened? If so, then our Lord’s words to us are to remember the time when our hearts were aflame to spend time with Him alone, to repent (change direction), and to repeat.