|When God Fills Your Emptiness
--by Tony Evans
Life is full of disappointments. Whether it's a broken heart, a broken dream, or just something that hasn't gone right, we've all experienced true letdowns in life. When people are disappointed, they usually try to cover it up; they look for a substitute or a distraction from the pain. If you are living with discouragement today, I would like to encourage you with this: When you reach a place of emptiness where the disappointments run deep, you are in the perfect position for a miracle. Why? Because God can make His good come from bad times.
Many of us ride around on Goodyear tires. Did you know Goodyear tires were developed by mistake? Charles Goodyear inadvertently spilled some rubber he was working with into the fire. And he noticed when the rubber hit the fire, it made a big, calloused mess, but it was incredibly strong and durable. He turned this into the Goodyear tire! When rubber combined with heat it got messy, but it produced a strong, tough product that we now depend on to carry us around.
God has the unique ability to take our messes, disappointments, and mistakes and mold them into something useful and good. In John 2:1-11, we read about the first of Jesus' miracles. Jesus performed this miracle at age 30, when He entered His public ministry. At this particular time, Jesus was in Cana of Galilee, near Nazareth, and he has just told Nathaniel to expect to see miracles because of his belief in Christ. He told Nathaniel he would see angels descending and ascending, meaning that heaven and earth would connect and integrate in the person of Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus, heaven and earth meet: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14).
In this story, Jesus does what many of us do: He goes to a wedding. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus accepts many invitations to parties and gatherings. In fact, in many of Jesus' analogies, He uses the image of a banquet or party to make His point. Parties in that part of the world are different than our celebrations here. At a wedding today in the United States, the ceremony lasts 20 minutes or so, and then we go to a reception that lasts about one hour. That's not how it was in Israel in New Testament times. The reception lasted an entire day, and the celebration might have lasted a week!
After the bride and groom were married, there was a parade through the streets. Singing, dancing, and music flowed for days. It was quite a party. We know Jesus is a man of joy, so whenever there was a party going on and people were going to have a righteous celebration, Jesus would show up at that party! Christians ought to be able to have a good time and enjoy things like gatherings, relationships, and celebrations because we truly have something to celebrate. In fact, the Bible says that when a sinner gets saved, the angels in heaven are celebrating and throwing a party over that sinner's salvation (Luke 15:10).
In God's Time
At this particular party described in John 2, a problem arises. Jesus' mother is there, and she tells her Son the hosts are running out of wine. In Scripture, wine is often used as a euphemism for joy. For example, Psalm 104:15 says wine makes the heart glad. Wine was not served at weddings just to satisfy people's thirst; it was served because it was associated with festive occasions. When Jesus' mother says the wine has run out, not only is the beverage gone, the joy the beverage represents is gone. And it would have been very embarrassing for the hosts to have no wine for their guests.
Jesus responds: "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come" (v. 4). Jesus' answer does not seem to fit Mary's question; He goes beyond the question to get to the thought behind it. Jesus implies there is something going on with Mary beyond the loss of the wine. He sees that Mary is trying to get Him to reveal His deity on this occasion. Mary, like any good mother, wants to see her Son reach the apex of His ability. She thinks it's time for Him to go public. But Jesus tells her this is not the time. What she is asking Him to do is not in line with God's plan. He respects and loves her, but He must be obedient to God's will. Jesus would not be influenced to go outside God's will to solve the problem. There was no more wine; there was no more joy; instead, there was disappointment. But He would not go outside God's will to fix it.
I know some of you reading this have lost your joy. The disappointment has crept up and you are tempted to bolt out of your situation. But Jesus invites you right now to stay. God has not lost track of His timetable. He knows what is going on and He knows your needs.
With a Servant's Heart
Mary understands what Jesus is saying. She gets the message, and she tells the servants: "Whatever He says to you, do it" (v. 5). She tells them to trust the Savior, to do as He says. When the joy is gone, the disappointment is great, and the vessels are empty, trust in the One who brings heaven and earth together. Whatever He tells you, decide in advance that you will do it.
Verse 6 says there are six waterpots at this wedding containing 20-30 gallons each. But those pots are sitting there empty, and no one can imagine that the solution is right before their eyes. All they can see are those six empty pots until Jesus opens their eyes to the miracle He will bring about. Jesus says: "Fill the waterpots with water" (v. 7). The servants didn't need water-they needed wine. Yet Jesus tells them to do the obvious, to fill the waterpots with water. Little did they know He would take their earthly need and use a heavenly means to meet it. Remember, He is the connection between heaven and earth.
So they filled the pots "to the brim" (v. 7). There was room for nothing else in those pots. Then Jesus tells them: "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter" (v. 8). The headwaiter tastes it, and it has become wine. Jesus doesn't put on a big show to perform this miracle; it is almost imperceptible. His time has not yet come to make a public display of His deity. Nonetheless, He performs this miracle of changing water to wine.
The first lesson we see here is that Jesus is in the transformation business. He can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the natural into the supernatural. If you have run out of "wine" in your life, if you are heavy-laden with disappointments and heartaches, stay in the presence of Jesus Christ and let Him change the ordinary in you. Nature forms us; sin deforms us; education informs us; penitentiaries reform us; but Jesus transforms us. He can transform a "no wine" situation.
Waiting for God's Best
The headwaiter tastes the wine and does not know where it came from, but the servants know. It's interesting that those who were lower in the scheme of the story knew of the miracle while the higher-ups did not. We must have the heart of a servant-willing to do whatever He asks-in order to experience His miracles.
Then the headwaiter calls to the bridegroom and says: "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now" (v. 10). He explains that the custom is to bring out the good wine first, and when it's gone the servants usually bring out the inferior wine. But this bridegroom has done it differently by saving the best until last.
First, we note that the headwaiter is talking to the wrong person. He's telling the bridegroom all this, but the bridegroom has no clue what is going on! Regardless of this, the headwaiter is right about one thing. The best was saved until last. This is a message I really want to get across: There was no wine at all, and then the best wine was served. If you have run out of wine, if your joy and peace are gone but your confusion and disappointment are high, you are a perfect candidate to see Jesus anew because God saves His best for last. Life on earth is full of mistakes, sins, and failures, but I have some good news for you. If you will serve and trust in Jesus, the best is yet to come!
You see, the devil puts his best stuff up front so he can hook you, but God doesn't work that way. You may go through the worst, but when you are in Christ you know the best is yet to come-in heaven in the presence of God. You may think, "But my career has gone downhill" or "My marriage is failing." Take those empty waterpots to Jesus and trust that the best is yet to come.
Jesus provided 120 gallons of new wine for the wedding celebration. That is plenty of wine. He filled up all available resources; this wine would not run out. When Jesus provides His blessings they are meant to last. After you go through a no-wine situation, you can appreciate the quality and the power of His blessings. That's another bonus of saving the best for last-you appreciate what God is giving you because you know about disappointment and loneliness. You know about despair. So you know how wonderful it is to be saved by Him.
Jesus specializes in no-wine situations. If you will become a servant of Jesus Christ, He will take the destruction you experienced and make you brand-new. God gives new wine. He may allow your life to deteriorate for a while because of your sin or because of your circumstances. But you must understand that your life still has potential. Jesus Christ will begin the remodeling process in your heart. He will reshape you and make you brand-new, giving you a life filled to the brim with Him.
And this doesn't just benefit you; it reaches beyond you to touch others. In this story Jesus doesn't provide just enough wine for the bride and bridegroom; He makes enough for the whole wedding party. God will supply all of your needs. He is more than sufficient. We can come to Christ today and say, "Fill me to the brim. Let my cup run over because I have no wine, and I have no way to get any wine."
There is nothing we can do about our no-wine situations; we must trust in Jesus to do His transforming work in our hearts. This miracle in John 2 shows us that Christ will fill up our emptiness with new joy. He will take our empty waterpots and fill them to the brim with His goodness and provision.