Running On Empty part 1
The Power of the Resurrection
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 12, 2009

Earlier this morning I made the comment that on this day we celebrate the most important event that ever happened. And I honestly believe that is true. It’s the resurrection of Jesus that gives us reason to hope. It’s the resurrection of Jesus that gives us purpose. It’s because of the resurrection we can experience forgiveness and receive eternal life. In fact, without the resurrection, then we would be complete idiots to get together every Sunday and worship a man who died two thousand years ago. We’d be just wasting our time here, and we should just abandon our faith and get on with life.

But it is specifically because of the resurrection of Jesus that we do have a reason to gather. It’s because of the resurrection that we believe Jesus is who He said He is. He claimed to be God, and He proved it by rising from the dead. And we believe He is alive and well today. It’s because of the resurrection that we can have hope. It’s because of the resurrection that we can have the assurance of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal point of all of history, it’s the foundation of our faith, and it’s the reason we gather here this morning.

And it’s not just me saying that. The apostle Paul said that himself in one of the letters he wrote.

1 Corinthians 15:14-15, 20 (NLT)
And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.

The resurrection is the foundation for our faith. And it’s the bedrock for everything else. Jesus was the most important man who ever lived. And the most important event that ever happened concerning this most important man was His resurrection. Jesus Himself explained to His followers—even though they were a little dense and didn’t get it at the time—that He was the Son of God. He was the way to Heaven. And He told them, “I’m going to die on the cross for everyone’s sins, then three days later I will come back to life.” and that’s exactly what He did.

Of course, in the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, His disciples thought all was lost. They had just seen their leader, their mentor, their friend… arrested, put on trial, and executed on a cross as a common criminal.

And what happened to these loyal followers of Jesus during all this? What happened to these men who had lived with Jesus and studied under Him and witnessed His incredible miracles for three years? They just scattered. They were devastated. I mean, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. In their mind Jesus was going overthrow the Roman Empire and set up His Kingdom in its place.

But all of a sudden He’s being killed on a cross. And Jesus’ followers are left asking, “What’s happening? What went wrong? Did we miss something? Did we mess it up? How could we have been so misled?”

In fact, they started to scatter even before the crucifixion. When Jesus was arrested, all of His followers ran away. They fled like cowards. Some of them even denied that they knew Him.

So for those few days, between the Thursday night when Jesus was arrested and the Sunday morning when He rose from the dead, these guys were defeated. They were disillusioned. They were demoralized. They were depressed. They thought all was lost.
In other words, they were running on empty.
But then something incredible happens! Jesus comes back to life. He rises from the dead, just like He said He would. And that night, on that first Easter Sunday evening, Jesus met with His followers – the disciples.

And what happened in that room so changes them that the transformation is unbelievable. And those who were once cowards are now full of courage. And those who were once empty are now empowered. And those who were once defeated and discouraged and demoralized are now daring. They’re bold. They’re afraid of nothing and no one. They’re ready to take on the Roman Empire and the entire world. They have ultimate confidence. They’re full of joy. They’re not even the same people that they were three days earlier. They are incredibly empowered.

This morning we’re starting a brand new message series called Running On Empty. And for today and for the next three weeks, we’re going to talk about what causes us to run on empty and what steps we can take to refuel. We’re going to talk about the hectic pace of life, we’re going to talk about overcoming stress, we’re going to talk about prioritizing. We’re going to talk about refueling when you’re running on empty.

And since today is Easter, I want us to look at how Jesus refills our tank. How He revitalizes us. How He re-energizes us when we’re running on empty. And we’re going to do this by looking at how the disciples were refueled and empowered after the resurrection. Earlier, Jasmine read us a passage about the resurrection and the discovery of the empty tomb. Let’s take a look at what happened later that evening…

John 20:19-31 (NLT)
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

All right. If you’ve ever felt like you were running on empty, just out of gas and thought, “I don’t know whether I can go on. I’m at the end of my rope. I’m ready to throw in the towel. I feel like I’m going to resign from the human race.” If you’ve ever felt like that, then you picked a good week to be here. Because we’re going to look at seven things that Jesus did with His disciples that night which turned them around, which are the same seven things He wants to do in your life this Easter.

So we’d better get right to it… when you’re running on empty, how does Jesus revitalize your life? The first thing He does is…

How Jesus Revitalizes Your Life:

1.    He meets you where you are

The disciples were scared to death. They were afraid. And they were hiding in a room with the doors locked. But Jesus met them where they were. And when you’re running on empty, Jesus will meet you where you are.

In the passage we read earlier, did you notice when it was that Jesus came to them? It was in the evening. It was getting late. And these guys would have been exhausted.

Now, these past few days for me have been pretty exhausting. If you were here for our Good Friday service on Friday morning, then you’ll remember that I told you about a problem I was having with my right eye. I felt something for a few days starting last Sunday that I thought was just eye strain. But then Wednesday night it began to ache. So I didn’t sleep well that night because it hurt. On Thursday morning I spent some time in a walk-in clinic, then that evening I spent about five hours in the E.R., After that, I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night because I had to get up every hour on the hour to put a drop in my eye. then I met with an ophthalmologist Friday morning, left his office and came here for our Good Friday service, then Shera had to go to work leaving me to take care of Nate… So later on on Friday, after falling asleep a couple times in front of my laptop, I finally crawled into bed around 9:30 Friday night. Which may not sound that early for some of you, but I’m typically up until at least midnight. It’s rare for me to go to bed that early. But I was exhausted.

But I can only imagine how these disciples felt. I mean, they had had a rollercoaster week of emotional highs and lows. From the high point of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the upheaval at the Temple when Jesus chased the moneylenders out, to the arrest and the trial and the crucifixion and the death and the burial of their leader. And to cap it all off, now they’re running in fear for their lives. These guys are emotionally spent. They’re drained. Most of them probably hadn’t slept for days, but they’re still terrified.

And then suddenly Jesus shows up among them. He met them where they were.

And right now you may feel like they felt… like God’s away on some distant planet. But the fact is He’s closer than you realize. He’s here and He’s near. He wants to meet you where you are.

2.    He gives you encouragement

When Jesus appeared to the disciples that night, notice the very first thing He says to them…

John 20:19 (NLT)
“Peace be with you.”

I love this. He says, “Calm down, guys! Chill out! Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s going to be okay.” These guys are defeated, demoralized, depressed, discouraged, running on empty, and He says, “Peace be with you.” That’s a pretty significant thing for Him to say.

And I think just as significant is what Jesus doesn’t say. Jesus could have walked into the room demanding, “Why did you guys leave Me? Why did you abandon Me? Where were you when I needed you? You were with Me for three years then when I go through tough times you just take off!” But Jesus didn’t do that, did He? He didn’t criticize them. He didn’t rebuke them. He didn’t scold them. Instead, He encouraged them. And I think that’s what He wants to do for you, too.  “Peace be with you.”

You see, nobody understands what you’re going through and how you feel as much as Jesus does. He understands how you feel more than you understand how you feel. And because He understands exactly how you feel, there’s nothing you can’t talk with Him about. There’s nothing too big. There’s nothing too small. There’s nothing too insignificant. There’s nothing too frivolous that you can’t talk to God about. Because He understands everything you’re feeling at every moment of your life. Go ahead and talk to Him about it. Unload yourself and receive encouragement from Him.

Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.

3.    He shows you His love

This is what He did with His followers that very first Easter. The Bible says…

John 20:20 (NLT)
As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.

And there are a couple things Jesus is doing but showing them these wounds. First, He’s validating His identify. He’s saying, “It’s me, guys! It’s Me. See? Here’s the proof. You’re not looking at a ghost. You’re not looking at a vision. You’re not having a dream. It’s really Me.” So He is identifying Himself.

But He is also He showing them the extent of His love for them. It was because of His love for each of them and for each of us that Jesus allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross. It’s because of love that Jesus allowed the Roman centurion to stab Him in His side.

Do you understand that Jesus died on the cross for you? Not just for the whole world, but He died for you. The greatest act of love that has ever done for you was not done by your parents, it was not done by your husband, or your wife, by your boyfriend, your girlfriend or anybody else. The greatest thing that’s ever been done in love for you is when Jesus died for you on the cross.

And because of that kind of love, you can relax. You can let go of your insecurities. You can slow down. You can stop running around so hectically trying to please everyone and gain everyone’s approval… everyone’s love… because the greatest love that has ever been offered has already been offered to you free of charge. That kind of love is revitalizing. It just fills you up inside.

4.    He offers you forgiveness

This is important because forgiveness is a huge re-energizer. Because the two biggest leaks in your tank, the two things that cause you to run out of energy and drain you the fastest are guilt and resentment. The answer to both is forgiveness. That’s why Jesus said…

John 20:23 (NLT)
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

What’s Jesus saying here? He’s saying, “Guys, I have forgiven you. You’re completely forgiven. That’s why I died on the cross. I died on the cross for all the things you’ve ever done wrong. So you are forgiven. Now, I expect you to do the same thing with other people. Pass it on. Cut them a little slack. Show them some grace.” Jesus said, “I’ve forgiven you. Now I expect you to forgive other people.” Why? Because guilt and resentment keep you running on empty.

Guilt and resentment keep you stuck in the past. And they make you angry, they make you sarcastic, and the longer you hold on to them, the more cynical and the more bitter you become.

5.    He fills you with His presence

John 20:22 (NLT)
Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Now, who or what is the Holy Spirit? Is this like Casper the friendly Ghost? Who is the Holy Spirit? Well, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God that lives within you and works through you. It’s the presence of God with you every day.

We actually have a whole series coming up on the Holy Spirit in about a month and a half. We’re going to finish up this series on Running On Empty, then we’re going to do a series on the book/movie Angel’s and Demons, and they we’re going to do a series on the Holy Spirit starting the end of May. So you can watch for that.

But having the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life is not like being possessed. And He doesn’t do anything without your permission. But He’s there to guide you, to inspire you, to convict you, to empower you, and to transform you into the person you were meant to be.

And the result is that you never have to feel lonely, you can live with confidence, you can have a newfound courage, you can experience hope even when bad things are happening… even when you experience tragedy. You can have a peace that is there even in times of turmoil. And as the Holy Spirit works you can become more loving, more joyful, more patient, more faithful, more self-controlled. That’s all possible because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. In fact, take a look at this…

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

With the Holy Spirit, with the presence of God in your life, you can be empowered, you can be refueled, you can be revitalized. You can be the person God meant for you to be.

6.    He gives you a new reason to live

Jesus met with His followers that night and He had a brand new mission for them… a brand new purpose in life. From then on, they would be His representatives. They would convey His message to a hurting world. They would live in such a way that they would point people to Him… the Source of true hope and forgiveness and life. They would be investing their lives in ways that would really matter and would make a difference for eternity. Jesus told them…

John 20:21 (NLT)
“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Do you understand that He has a purpose for your life, too? I mean, so many of us search for purpose and we just can’t find it. We try finding it in money, we try finding it in our work, we try being popular, we try to find our purpose in friendships and in our family. But while those aren’t necessarily bad things, we’re never really satisfied.

Well, God has a purpose for you. And His plan for your life is so much bigger than your plans for your own life. And it’ll test you and it’ll stretch you and it’ll grow your faith. Because God’s plan for you is to be a world-changer.

That’s the purpose He gave to those initial followers of His. And the world has never been the same since. We’re still experiencing the repercussions and the blessings because of what God did through them.

And He wants to bring that kind of meaning to your life, too. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to quit your job and uproot your family and become a traveling evangelist or a missionary in a far off land. Although for some people, God does use them that way.

But I believe for most, God wants to bring this meaning to you right where you are right now. He wants you to keep your job, but do your job as if you’re working for Him. He wants you to set an example for your co-workers. Set an example for your children. Point people toward Him, not just with the words you say but in the way you live. Be a person of integrity. Make the world a better place because of how you live and how God works through you. Represent Him and point people toward Him wherever you are and whoever you meet.

7.    He helps you believe

In spite of all your doubts He helps you believe. Among the original twelve disciples was a man named Thomas. And Thomas was not in the room that night when Jesus showed up. So Thomas met up with the other disciples later on and they told him, “You’re never going to believe what happened.” And he said, “You’re right, I don’t believe it.”

Now, I actually think Thomas gets a bit of a bad rap for this, because I’m not sure I would have believed it either. Thomas was just being honest. He had some doubts, and he didn’t want to believe anything without examining the evidence… sounds pretty logical to me.

But about a week later, Jesus met with them again, and this time Thomas was there.

John 20:27-28 (NLT)
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

I like Thomas because he’s honest. We’ve given his the nickname Doubting Thomas, but why not Honest Thomas? Thomas says, “I’ve got some doubts.” And that’s fine. And Jesus addressed those doubts.

But notice what Thomas did in the meantime. He still hung out with the other disciples! Thomas had honest questions and he wanted to find out the answers. So he positioned himself where he could find out those answers.

If you have doubts about God, or about the Bible, about Jesus, this is where you need to be. This is a church for doubters. You will never be put down for doubting here. You’re never going to be disrespected. You’re never going to be misjudged or anything like that. Because we all have doubts about something. So keep coming and keep asking questions and contributing to the conversation, and I think you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.

In fact, this morning I have a gift for you. I have a book here, written by Lee Strobel, called Cross Examination. And it examines who Jesus is and what evidence there is to support His claims. It explains why you should trust Him and follow Him. And I want to give each family here a copy of this book. It might help you find some of the answers you’re looking for, or it might help you provide the answers for someone else that’s been asking you about your faith.

Listen, you can have questions like Thomas did, and you can seek the answers like Thomas did, and when you find those answers I hope you’ll respond like Thomas did. When Jesus met with him, and when Thomas saw the evidence for himself,  he didn’t waffle. He wasn’t stuck in his old way of thinking because of any stubbornness or pride. He responds and says, “My Lord and my God.” He saw the evidence, he found his answers, and he responded appropriately.

Jesus helped him believe by showing him the evidence he required. And I’m convinced that He will help you believe, too. Whatever evidence you need to examine, or whatever obstacles need to be removed… if you are honestly seeking answers, then you will find them.

And when you do believe, and when you place your faith in Jesus, then He revitalizes you not just by making you feel good and giving you an extra dose of energy. He revitalizes you because He transforms you. He gives you eternal life.

1 Corinthians 5:15,17 (NLT)
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them…
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

If you are running on empty Jesus wants to do for you these seven things He did for His disciples the very first Easter. He wants to meet you where you are. He wants to encourage you with His love. He wants to forgive you and help you forgive others so you can move beyond any sense of guilt or resentment. He wants to infuse you with His presence and His power and a new purpose for living. And He wants to help you find answers to those nagging questions you may be dealing with.

I don’t know… maybe you came this morning not knowing what to expect, and maybe I’ve been describing you. Maybe you feel like you’re running on empty. Maybe you feel spiritually bankrupt. Then maybe you’re ready to look to the resurrected Jesus and allow Him to revitalize your life. If that’s where you’re at, then I’d like to lead you in a prayer.

Let’s all bow our heads together in prayer. And if you’re here and you need to experience this revitalization from Jesus, then maybe you’d like to pray something like this, just silently where you are you can pray…


“Dear Jesus, You know I’m running on empty. You know that I’m tired. You know that I’ve got a lot of questions. You know how I get so wrapped up in trying to do everything and trying to please everyone that I’ve neglected You. I’ve been searching for purpose and meaning and significance all on my own, and I haven’t even given you a chance. So this Easter morning, I ask You to revitalize my life. Physically and emotionally and spiritually. Thank You for meeting me where I am and loving me just as I am. I ask You to forgive all my sins and help me to forgive the people who’ve hurt me. I ask You to fill me with Your presence. I need Your power and love and self-control. And help me to discover Your purpose for my life. Help me to believe, and to learn to trust You more each day. Today, even with all my doubts, I want to step across the line and begin a relationship with You. I ask You to save and revitalize me.”

Now for all of us, let me pray this…

“Thank you Jesus for winning the victory for us. When all seemed lost, You came through. You rose from the dead, conquering death and the grave. And so we praise you and worship you this morning. And now as we leave here, help us to continue to celebrate who you are and what you’ve done in our lives. Teach us how to live. Help us to live as you’ve called us to live… as your representatives to a hurting world. The message of Easter is far too great for us to keep it to ourselves. Give us the courage and the passion to let others know what you’ve done for them and to direct them toward a life-saving relationship with You.”

[This series adapted primarily from material by Rick Warren and Doug Fields]



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