The trip had been a long one already. We were into the last leg of our journey for the day and were trying to get as far as we could before we stopped for the night. I had stopped to fill up the gas tank quite a long time ago and my intuition told me that after this many hours on the road we surely had to be running low and would need to refill again soon. I glanced down at the fuel gauge and it showed that we still had about half a tank left. “That doesn’t seem right” I thought. Well, maybe I am over analyzing it. After being on the road for this long, a few minutes seem like hours so maybe it wasn’t as long as I thought. After a little while I looked back down at the gauge and it was still sitting at half a tank. Now I know something is wrong. Starting to get frantic, I scanned the road signs for the nearest gas station. Unfortunately, the next gas station was ten miles away. I began to sweat, not knowing how much fuel was left and if we would make it there.
This incident brought to mind a spiritual issue that I have watched grows into a dangerous trend. It started as a slow downward spiral that over recent years has gained significant momentum and that I believe is ready to crash and burn if we do not recognize it and do something about it soon.
When I looked at my gas gauge it said that I had plenty of fuel. My intuition and my common sense said otherwise. Like many people I ignored the truth and believed a lie. The same applies to your spiritual life.
What does your spiritual gauge say? If the gauge of your spiritual life measures your growth as a Christian, does it read full or empty? If it measures “being like Christ” what does it read? Many Christians have been traveling the journey of life for a long time and have not even so much as glanced at the gauge in quite a while. Some know that the gauge is broken but try to ignore the problem hoping that it will fix itself. Some ignore what it says and keep on driving. Others are hoping that miraculously their tank will be refilled on the fly (these are called dreamers). I want to ask you…
Is your gauge broken?
Take a look at the gauge of your Christianity. What is it saying to you? Are you getting an accurate reading? If you are more like Christ today than you were when you started the trip I venture to say that you have stopped to refill along the way. If you have been running life on your own without God, You and I both know that your tank is getting quite low and you may be running on fumes. On the other hand, someone’s intuition is telling them that their tank is empty but their gauge does not agree. Why would the gauge read inaccurately? It reads inaccurately because we have used all of the wrong things to measure our relationship. Remember, your gauge is not a measure of church attendance, good works, and charitable giving. It measures your personal relationship with God.
Running on empty
As the miles passed by on my dash to the gas station, my anxiety level also began to climb. The closer we got to the gas station also meant that we have used that much more fuel out of the tank. I do not like the feeling of “running on empty”. It is a very unnerving time and it potentially leaves my family vulnerable to being stranded along this highway.
Growing up, my father was notorious for running his car on empty. I know that times were financially more difficult back then, especially with four children, so it was probably a lack of finances that kept the needle below the quarter tank mark most of the time. If the trip was to any place outside of our small town, it first required a stop at the gas station to put more fuel in. I remember many times seeing my mother glance across from the passenger seat to see where the needle was. She would comment to my dad about it and he would calmly say, “We can still go 5 miles after the needle drops below the empty line.” How comforting!
There are many Christians running their spiritual lives in much the same way; running on empty. When the going gets tough and the trip is going to be long (like a prolonged sickness, cancer in the family, a death in the family, etc.) they come back to God for a quick refill. The good part of this is that they know where to refuel but the bad part is that they only refuel when absolutely necessary. The danger of running on fumes is that it leaves you and your family vulnerable.
Have you ever wondered why our children are dropping out of church at an unprecedented rate? I believe it is because many Christian parents only use God as a fueling station when they can’t seem to pull the trip off their our own. Unfortunately our children have discovered that other things provide enough fuel to get by; things like: drugs, alcohol, sex, and music with illicit lyrics and deafening beats. These things give them that boost, much like an energy drink, to push through until the next crisis of life. Unfortunately, the emotional, physical, and psychological crash afterwards is just as pronounced as the car sitting along the road with its flashers on and its gas cap hanging open.
I have noticed that this is an epidemic among teens today. There is an emptiness in their souls that manifests itself through their outward actions. Why are they shutting themselves off from the real world and reality? What are they missing; everything! They are missing parents who love God and are committed to living for him. They are missing the meaning of morality because those who are responsible to teach it to them are themselves relishing the sin that they live in. They are missing the significance of a proper education because the slacker beside him or her is given the same grade, the same reward, and the same diploma as the one who puts forth the effort; so why try so hard? I have noticed significant anger problems, social problems, problems with authority, and misguided decision making among children and teens. I have heard teens joke about their parent’s drug and alcohol abuse. I have heard teens brag about immoral lifestyles that are not just permitted by their parents but are also endorsed and enabled by them. They run the streets free of authority with no discipline whatsoever. Why is this? Emptiness feeds emptiness. Let me ask you the age old question?
Is your spiritual cup half empty or half full?
Are you sure? Let’s talk about a secret killer of spiritual optimism. I call it…
I have noticed a severe problem in Christian circles; the problem of spiritual evaporation. What is that? In the section before I asked you the question; “is your cup half empty or half full?” I want you to look at your response based upon time. Many who answered this question in the optimistic way said “half full”; meaning that they are optimistic about their spiritual life. It is good to be optimistic, but if you do not evaluate your “cup“ regularly there is a phenomenon that occurs in nature that I believe occurs in your spiritual life as well; it is called evaporation. If you leave a cup that is “half full” outside, exposed to the elements, for any length of time its contents will evaporate. This happens spiritually as well. Many who respond that their cup is half-full, do so without truly evaluating the actual level of their spiritual condition. It has become a tired saying in Christian circles when asked this question to respond “my cup is full and running over” yet I very seldom ever meet a Christian who could respond this way truthfully. Many Christians have left their spiritual cup exposed to the heat of temptation and trials where its contents are quickly licked away. They have left it exposed to the winds of doubt and draining effects of sin. Just as damaging, some have even placed their spiritual cup out into the elements where they are allowing its contents to be replaced with other pollutants so that it looks full but is actually filled with filth. Spiritual optimism is dangerous. We need to evaluate what is really there. I call it spiritual evaporation: the silent Christian killer
We must refill our spiritual tanks and stop allowing ourselves to continue running on fumes. It is all too common to put a few dollars worth in the tank and then take off on the next adventure. A true disciple of Christ will make sure that his or her tank is topped off every day. We do not know what lies around the next corner of life but a full tank ensures that we will be able to survive spiritually if the going gets tough. Read the Scriptures daily for fresh insight into God’s will for your life so that you are not traveling where He does not want you to go; meet with Him in prayer for He says to “cast all your cares upon Him for he cares for you” – a lighter vehicle burns less fuel, and finally; Attend church regularly, not for the attendance points but for the preaching of God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” And 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The power of God is the fuel for life. Fill up on it!
Overflowing into others
The concern that I have is a wide-reaching one. I see churches that are running on empty, Pastors who are running on empty, believers in the congregation that are running on empty, parents who are running on empty, and children who are running on empty. Why? I believe it is because we all flow into one another, but emptiness has nothing to offer anyone else.
Each and every Christian must seek to be refueled, refilled, and prevent spiritual evaporation. It is only then that we will stop this epidemic of emptiness. Why is it so evident in our teens and children? It is because the snowball effect abruptly stops at the bottom of the hill. Pastor, if you want your church to be running on full and overflowing then see if your own cup is full. Parents, do you want your teens and young children to love God and stay in church once they are out from under your authority? Teach them to love God at all times, not just when they need Him. Teach them to “fill up” and “top off” everyday, not just when their gauge reads empty. This generation will either have a beneficial effect or a catastrophic effect on the next. Remember, emptiness has nothing to offer anyone else.
Pastor Brian Ferree - Read BIO