"You've taken care of others so long; it's time you took care of yourself." "It's time you put yourself first." I hear this advice a lot. I'm sure you do, too. The other night my wife and I were watching television and heard someone give some counsel like this. My wife asked me if there was anything remotely like this in the Bible. It didn't occur to me immediately, but I found it.
"And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, 'He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One'" (Luke 23:35).
"The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, 'If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!'" (Luke 23:36,37).
"One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, 'Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'" (Luke 23:39).
The mocking counsel of the people to Christ to "save Himself" is three-fold, representing all of humanity (compare with Acts 4:27, which also describes representatives from all humanity gathered against Christ at the cross). This is still the advice of everyone around you and me today.
Personally, I have a goal of using it all up in "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). This was Paul's goal, too:
"But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me" (Philippians 2:17,18).
"But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:5-8).
Paul, you've taken care of others long enough. You need to put yourself first, take care of yourself, find yourself (because you lost yourself in service to others), etc. and ad nauseum.
I think I'll walk Paul's way.
"For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:13-15). "Living for yourself" is an active decision to deny the all-sufficient work of Christ on the cross. "Putting yourself first" is rebellion against the authoritative control of "the love of Christ."
From where does the strength for this "pouring out" come? Waiting on God in His Word and in prayer:
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary" (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Rather than putting yourself first or leaving your responsibilities to "find yourself," put the Source first and seek His face in all things.
"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3). Our leaves never wither because of the living Water (John 4:3-14; 6:55; 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 12:13) from which we draw our strength. Because of this we are sustained as we bring the healing of Christ to others continually. "By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing" (Ezekiel 47:12). "Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:1,2). This last verse is from John's description of the "the holy city, the new Jerusalem," which I interpret to be the Church in all her Christ-given glory (John is told "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb," and then sees "the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God"). As part of the Church, we alone have what is needed "for the healing of the nations," and the Source of our continual strength is "the water of life...coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb."
I should also say that this theology of pouring does not lead to an application unto neglect. Be poured out for your family; do not neglect them for "ministry" - they are your first ministry. Also, a theology of pouring does not mean neglecting time in the Word and in prayer for "active" ministry. You cannot adequately do "good works" in Christ (John 3:21; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12,13; Hebrews 13:20,21) unless you are being trained by the Word: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). This theology of pouring does not justify poor health choices, either. Diet and exercise can become obsessive distractions, of course - but so can poor diet and fitness. Use wisdom - keep the body given you in good enough condition to do what you have been called to do.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory" (Colossians 3:1-4, New Living Translation).
Don't live to save yourself, take care of yourself, find yourself, or put yourself first. It cannot be done!
"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38,39).
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'" (Matthew 16:24-26).
"And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'" (Mark 8:34-37).
"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?'" (Luke 9:23-25).
"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed...whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:26-30,33).
Be poured out, and don't seek to fill yourself up. The Source will refill until your cup overflows forever and ever and ever.