Today, I tempted fate. My car was running on empty, and I tried to get to the office without stopping for gas. Then it happened, my car began to sputter. Why did I tempt my gas-deprived fate? It’s simple to answer. Refueling:
- takes effort
- is dirty and smelly
- wastes my precious time
As my car was slurping up the last drops of gasoline in the tank, I came to the conclusion that I had made a tremendous lapse in judgment. I guess filling my car up with gas is essential after all. Go figure! So, I did what any self-respected Christian guy would do, I began to pray. Of course, I should have been praying before this issue popped up, but I do this when I’m in trouble.
I prayed hard and with plenty of emotion. Religious leaders from around the world would have been proud of how I raised up my requests to God. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Truth be told, I was in full begging and pleading mode.
“Lord, help me get to the gas station!” I yelled.
“Fill my gas tank like you filled those containers of wine at the wedding at Cana.”
Then my prayer moved from a place of pleading to a position of trying to manipulate Almighty God.
“You can do it!” I’d yell.
“You’re a big God. You can move mountains!” I exclaimed passionately.
“You can certainly get me to my destination, a gas station, any gas station before I run out of gas!”
It was a ridiculous moment in my life. My prayer was just plain dumb. This running-out-of-gas driving fiasco was a low point in my not-so-mature faith. I was trying to place God into my fickle belief system, rubbing my immature spiritual lamp wishing for a miracle. Aladdin would have been proud.
Then it came to me, I wouldn’t have been in this shallow prayer frenzy if I had stopped at a gas station the night before. Isn’t it incredible how clearly we see things after we should have done them?
Amazingly, I made it to my destination; a gas station. Get this, I pumped nineteen-point-nine gallons of that precious gasoline into my twenty-gallon tank. Talk about pushing the limits!
My running-on-empty story is a microcosm of too many of my days. You may have too many of these faithless days also. Often, I try to live my life traveling as fast and as far as I can without refueling with God. On those days, I tell myself, I’m too busy to connect with God. Then I wonder why I’m feeling tired, overloaded, worried, and stressed. It’s simple, I’m running on empty. No fuel.
Four Steps to a Full Tank
Most of the time, I’m running on a full tank. There are four steps I take to make sure I’m not running on empty. Sometimes I make excuses and I don’t get up early enough to take these four steps. Those are my decisions. Dumb as they may be, but they are mine to own. I know that when I don’t take these four steps in the morning, then my day will be stressful. It’s as simple as that.
Step number one is to read the Bible. Just reading a few chapters a day helps me get God-focused rather than me-focused. It reminds me God is God, and I am not, which is an excellent thing to remember, especially if you have any kind of ego at all.
Step number two is to be thankful. I suggest you spend a few moments thanking God for who He is, for what He has done, for what He is doing in the present, and what He will do in the future. Thanksgiving fills my tank and gets me focused on God and what He can do rather than on me and what I can’t do.
Step number three is to pray. I pray for God’s wisdom, healing, and blessings for my family and friends. I pray for sensitivity to God’s leading, so I make good choices rather than me-centric poor choices.
Step number four is to journal., I write down what I learned through my reading, and I evaluate my past day. This helps me stay on track, and I can see the areas I need to work on and the areas where I am progressing and becoming more like Christ. Some may think that journaling is too arduous. But, I assure you, it’s not. It’s actually very encouraging. Taking just two minutes to write down a few thoughts will help fill your spiritual tank.
And even though I’m confronted with the inevitable sharp turns, steep hills, stop signs, cut-offs, and merges of everyday life, amazingly, when I take these four steps, I don’t get nearly overwhelmed. As Viccini said in the movie The Princess Bride, it’s “Inconceivable” what these four steps can do.
It’s ironic. When I rely on God, with a full tank, I’m fulfilled, peaceful, and ready to take on the chaos of the day. When I test fate and try to run on empty the chaos of the day typically overwhelms me.
So, what can you and I learn from my running-on-empty experience? I believe there are two critical lessons.
First, always make sure to fill your literal car with gas before running on fumes. It’s less stressful.
Second, always fill your emotional and spiritual tank with God’s word (Joshua 1:8), prayer (1 Thessalonian 5:17), and thanksgiving (Psalm 136), and journaling (Deuteronomy 6). It’s more peaceful. It’s a no-brainer! It’s inconceivable that we sometimes just don’t do it.
Hopefully, I will see you on the road of faith, driving hard and fast with a full tank. Don’t be me, testing fate, taking chances by not filling my spiritual reservoir. You may not get as lucky as me. You may find yourself stranded on the side of the road with your thumb out hoping to bum a ride from one of the wise ones who filled their tank.