Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot like Peter Gibbons. Living in the rat race is a continual track of non-stop motion, distraction and usually frustration. Every so often I feel like asking myself why I keep running along, or what’s the point of all this? When I start asking myself questions like this, it becomes obvious that tank is on empty. As much fun as it would be to destroy an office machine, I’m not talking about dealing with a problem or fixing a negative. I’m talking about what happens when the positive-ness runs low.
This isn’t about being hungry, or depressed, sad or even upset; but just like our bodies can only go so long without nourishment and a car can only go so many miles without a stop for gas, our souls have a tank as well. What I am talking about here is exactly with Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:18 when he says to be filled with the Spirit. When a person accepts the offer of eternal salvation from God through Jesus, we join His family and God Himself (through the Holy Spirit) takes residence inside our souls, as Jeremiah 31:33 suggests. While God does “move in”, that does not mean we give up ourselves, our free will or our mind. It does mean God becomes the Lord of all we are, but He does not reprogram us; He frees us.
What this means is that those who have accepted Christ as their Savior can still get frustrated, can still go through hard times and can still fall into times of sin. Even though sin’s hold on us is broken, we can still pick it up. God intends for us to continue living in this world; it is our calling, our mission – we are His workmanship, created in advance to do His good works on earth (Ephesians 2:10). Since we are here and have a job to do, we must still deal with and live in the world around us. And this world can get very annoying at times.
So, in league with all my other “empty tank” friends, here is a (short) list of things really annoying about this world.
- The Bill Lumbergh factor
- The sounds my dogs make when they are scratching or licking themselves
- Lack of objectivity in the media
- Anything that has to do with Glee or High School Musical
- Florida drivers
- Reality TV
- Uneducated opinions
- And so on…
Life is an Endurance Race
I list these out to commiserate with everyone else on the planet. No human is immune to pet peeves, getting frustrated or having an empty tank at times. The Bible knows and understand this, which is why there are numerous references to life being an endurance race; one that takes training, refreshment, rest and strenuous effort. Take Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 shares similar advice:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Both of these passages are written to Christians; people who have already placed their faith in God! It is clear and natural to accept that sometimes Christians get run down, haggard, worn out and burned up. I believe those serving in churches (both professional and lay) are even more susceptible to empty tanks, though they can be the most difficult to help. Just like Martha in Luke 10, it is normal that people allow themselves to get overworked without recharging, and many Biblical passages exist to help us through such times.
I have no complaints about my life at all, but despite how enjoyable the individual aspects of it can be, adding them all together makes for quite a full existence. Think about it: I am a husband, father, son and brother. I am a friend, a teacher, a leader and a servant. Nita and I both work full time, are foster parents (currently to two gorgeous little girls), have two dogs, serve in multiple capacities at church, work hard to exercise and stay healthy and do what we can to spend time with each other. These are all great things! However, it can be quite overwhelming when everything happens at the same time. I certainly have been feeling lately a bit strung out and tired. The truth is, I am writing about this because this is exactly how I currently feel! Thus, as a lesson to myself and hopefully some good advice for any readers, I am here to discuss Biblical ways to refill.
Get in the Game
A full gas tank sitting in a car that never gets used is a waste. Sitting on the bench and not getting involved is not healthy, it is not God’s intention and does not do anything to fill us with His Spirit. Only if we are actively using the gifts and opportunities that God gives will we experience opportunities to be filled. If we are watching from the seats and being armchair quarterbacks, God has no need to fill us with anything; we’ll just get bloated.
The first step to getting filled by God is to get your feet moving. Start serving – start pouring out what you may or may not currently have and let God turn on the faucet. As someone who spent some extended time on the sidelines, I can say with confidence that you won’t get a refill until you are using what you have.
Nourish the Spirit like we Nourish the Body
It is perfectly natural to eat when we are hungry, right? But what about making sure we get spiritually filled? I know people right now who are constantly serving across this country in nurseries and Sunday schools that completely block their opportunities to join with others in the main worship service. How is that possible? How can we, as Christians, let other people serve non-stop and not even notice that it’s been years since they’ve joined together with the church body on a Sunday morning?
We need to grow; to learn. Congregating together to offer praise to God and learn from His Word is a vital piece of nourishment that is so easily set aside (much like eating fruits and vegetables). Whether you are a volunteer or a leader of volunteers, make sure that opportunities to learn, grow and “take in” happen often and consistently.
Other than sitting in a church service, make sure that you are also regularly spending time in the Word and in prayer. Jesus many times compared Himself to food – for a good reason! He is our spiritual food and the more time we spend with Him in communion, prayer, service, singing, study and corporate worship (there are many other options as well), the healthier we will be. How can anyone ever go thirsty if they are always connected to a source of clean water? Though we may forget to drink every now and then, we’ll never die of thirst.
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)
Despite the Pharisees trying their hardest to turn every breath into a list of complicated rules, not every aspect of life is about giving or doing. Receiving is ok. The Sabbath is a gift from God to turn away from the rat race of life and catch your breath. There are times when we need things, whether it be a day off, a particular tool to do the job better, or an opportunity to blow off steam and enjoy a few moments. All of these are acceptable and things that God wants to give you! There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break. Stopping to rest, stopping to remember. These are the reason that God instituted the Sabbath as well as holidays. As humans, we need to STOP sometimes. We are not the Energizer bunny.
Ask for Help
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11)! God knows what we need and when we need it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask. He wants us to come to Him. In Philippians, Paul tells us “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Jabez asked God and received (1 Chronicles 4), there is no reason that, if you truly need something from God that He won’t supply it.
God’s sole purpose for our existence is to lavish His love and affection on us. Jesus’ existence was the ultimate proof of that love. While He often times gives it without being asked; for Him, to have us come to His feet and ask Him for what we need, it is pure joy to be asked. What do you need?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.