Running On Empty part 4
Stopping to Refuel
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 3, 2009

Let’s do a quick survey. How many of you when you’re driving never let your gas tank get below half empty?

How many of you fill up when you get three-quarters empty? You never let it go beyond a quarter left.

How many of you see how far you can go after the little light goes on?

How many of you think “E” means “Enough to keep going”?

How many of you have ever run out of gas?

Yeah, I’ve been there. I’ve run out of gas or come pretty close to it on several occasions. And it’s pretty amazing how well running out of gas in my car parallels why people run out of gas in life.

Why do people run out of gas? Help me out… what are the reasons—when people are driving in their car, or their truck, or whateve—what are the reasons they run out of gas?

Well, maybe they think they have enough to make it so they’re going to push it to the limit. Maybe they’re not watching the gauges, or paying attention to the warning lights. Maybe they’re in just too much of a hurry to take the time to fill up. Maybe they don’t even know how to refuel.

A while back, I was at a gas station filling up, and a lady pulled in beside me in a pretty nice car, so got out in her fur coat and her leather gloves, and it was pretty obvious she was well off. And she got out of the car, look around, examined the pump, looked at her car, looked back at the pump, then turned to me and asked, “How do I do this?” I think a lot of people run out of gas because they don’t know how to refuel.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the problem that is so prevalent in our society today: we’ve got a bunch of people who are running on empty. They’ve been going too fast for too far and too long, and they’ve just got nothing left in their tank. We’re wearing ourselves out emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and something has to be done. We have to stop and refuel.

Now, I have to ask… Does anyone else feel the tension with that title “Stopping to Refuel”? Think about it. What’s happened to the price of gas over the past few years? Sure, it’s dropped over the past few months, but now we’re headed into the summer. And who knows what’s going to happen then? Stopping to refuel has turned into a painful experience, and doesn’t really convey a positive message in today’s culture.

The price right now for a litre of gas is 87.9 cents. That’s almost half of what it was just a little while ago, and that’s great. But it’s also more than twice what it was when I first got my license. I remember once paying 0.26 for a litre of gas.

Harvey was telling me just the other day about how when he was sixteen… the price of coal was a nickel. (So he could refuel his steam engine).

Honestly, no matter how nice they make gas stations, in my opinion it’s still a drag to stop to refuel. And they have made them nice. Some of them are like supermarkets, they have ATMs, some of them even have flat screen TVs and a lounge area. We’ve already taken Nate to a gas station with a water park. (Actually, it was a carwash, but I’m not going to tell him the difference.) But even with all these upgrades, it’s still a drag to stop and refuel.

One of the features I really like at gas stations now is the option to pay at the pump. Just slide your card in the slot, fill ‘er up, and you’re off. This past Thursday, I had picked Nate up from the daycare and we were on our way to Morell to pick up Shera, and I noticed that we were getting low on fuel. Which was fine… I had plenty of gas to get as far as Mount Stewart and I could fill up at the Irving there.

Except when I pulled up to the tank, it was marked “out of order.” So I swung the car around and pulled up to another tank. “Out of order.” They were all “out of order.”

So I got back in the car and continued toward Morell. By then I was getting a little worried. But I made it to the gas station there and pulled up to the pump, and the pump was working fine, except the pay at the pump was “out of order.” Which isn’t a bit deal, unless you’ve got a one year old that you’ve got to strap into a car seat, and you’re driving a Neon which doesn’t give the easiest access to the centre of the back seat. I even thought about leaving Nate in the car, but the tanks were a little off to the side and I wouldn’t have a good view of the car while I went inside to pay. So I dug Nate out of the car seat, and he was glad about that. But once he’s free, he doesn’t want to be put back in. So I really appreciate the pay at the pump option… when it’s working.

All I can say is refueling is a drag. So now I’ve got to take this negative image that our culture has of refueling in the automobile sense and try to help you understand that in the spiritual life this whole idea of refueling is a positive thing and is essential to one’s spiritual health. If you want to be vibrant in your relationship with God, if you want to draw close to Him, if you want an intimacy that your heart longs for, if you want to experience that freedom and fullness that comes from being a follower of Jesus Christ, you’ve got to learn to refuel so you can be full of Him.

That’s actually the prayer and the challenge the apostle Paul had for the church of Ephesus. It’s the same prayer that I have for you.

Ephesians 3:19 (NIV)
…You may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Circle “filled.” “That you would be filled with the fullness of life and the power that comes from God.”

The word “filled” in the Greek, which the original New Testament was written in, does not mean a one time filling. It’s a continuous verb. It means being filled. It’s not a one time filling, it’s over and over and over again. It’s a constant refueling.

Why? Because we have a constant need. What I know to be true about my life is this. If I’m not filled on a regular basis, I feel different. I feel empty. In fact, it’s a lot like how I feel when I’m overtired.

This past week was a very busy week for me—one of the busiest I’ve had in a while—and there was one night when I was up until 4:00 in the morning. I know, crazy. But I finally crawled into bed, knowing that I had to get up in just a few hours. Shera was being picked up by a coworker to take her to work, which meant I needed to get up, take care of Nate, get him ready, and drop him off at the daycare.

And as luck would have it, Nate decided he’d be whiny that morning. I’m generally a pretty patient father, and can put up with a lot. But when Nate gets whiny, it just goes straight through me. And especially since I was overtired, his whininess was multiplying my crankiness. I wasn’t so patient, I was on edge, and I was becoming quite frustrated and short with my beloved son. And no, I didn’t raise a hand to him. But I did raise my voice to him. It was like one of those SuperNanny application videos.

When I’m empty spiritually, it’s a lot like that.

I become impatient.
When I’m empty, I’m short-tempered.
I become selfish.
When I’m empty, my judgment is distorted. I don’t make good decisions.
I lack compassion for others who are hurting.
When I’m empty I’m more easily enticed by temptations. I’m more vulnerable.
I begin to think that I deserve certain things when I’m empty.
When I’m spiritually empty I’m more cynical. I’m more critical of others.
My insecurities are more prevalent.
I can be easily offended. I can wallow in self-pity.

I know the look of spiritual emptiness in my life. I know what it looks like and it’s not a pretty sight.

And the sad thing is other people can notice the difference in my life as well. When I’m empty spiritually, it becomes expressed in my actions, in my attitudes, in my words. It’s as if other people are going through life with me and they’re looking at my fuel gauge, my spiritual fuel gauge. They know when I’m empty because my emptiness affects others.

That’s what it looks like for my to be running on empty. How about you? What’s it look like for you? Or have you been running on empty for so long that you’ve forgotten what it looks like to be full?

This morning, I want to talk with you about how you can refuel. But before we get to the How, I want to build a case for the Why. Because without the Why, the How doesn’t matter. So why do I need to be refueled. Even on a daily basis, why do I need to refuel?

I Need to Refuel Because…

1.    This emptiness is not working for me.

You know, one of the things I really appreciate here at Sunrise is how affirming you are. And particularly over the past three weeks as we’ve worked our way through this series on Running On Empty, I’ve had a lot of you who have come up to me and talked about how much you’re enjoying this series. Possibly more than any other series we’ve done. It’s up there, anyway.

Why is that? Well, hopefully I have done a good job preparing and delivering these messages. But I wouldn’t say they’re the best I’ve ever preached.

I think the reason is that this series resonates with where you’re at in life. You identify with it. You’re busy, you’re stressed out, you are running on empty. And it’s not working for you. You’re tired of being tired. And you know something has to change. You know you need to refuel.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah that says…

Jeremiah 6:16 (NLT)
This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I think some of you may be at a crossroads. You know that you’re running on empty, you know that emptiness isn’t working for you, and you know something has to change.

You know what this stress and this pressure and this busyness has been doing to you. There is a price to busyness. Busyness may fill our calendars but it fractures our families. Busyness props up our image but it really shrinks our heart. Busyness feeds our ego but it starves our soul. And it’s just not worth it.

So instead of running on empty, let’s take the advice from this scripture. Find the good way, walk in it, and you will get rest for your souls.

2.    I have a soul that wants to be filled.

Reality is we give a lot of thought to our bodies; we give some thought to our minds. But we give very little thought to our souls.

Think about it. We’ve very body conscious. Whether you’re happy with your body or not, we’re very aware of our bodies. And when our bodies are empty we know how to fill them up. We eat.

When our minds are empty, we can fill our minds up through study and reading or watching a documentary or a Dr. Phil. So we’re basically always filling our mind with something. With good things or bad things, we’re always filling our minds.

But what do you do when your soul is empty? I may be wrong but I’m not sure people give much consideration to their soul. Jesus asked…

Matthew 16:26 (NLT)
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

What is a soul? No, it’s not a style of music. The soul is the invisible part of you. The soul is the eternal part of you. It’s the part of you that connects with God. Your soul is what makes you different from all of creation. It’s the real you. Your soul is what defines you. That’s why Jesus made such a big deal about it. He wanted people to understand that your soul is more important than your stuff. Your soul is more important than your activity. Your soul is more important than your career. Your soul is the most important. You need to value your soul.

“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Some of you here, you’re so busy trying to gain the world or your share of the world, but in doing so you’re losing your soul.

In fact, you hear stories about this all the time. You hear stories of people who have achieved a high level of success, they have all the stuff they could ever want, they have power, they have prestige… but yet they’re still empty. They’re still looking for something to fill their soul. Why do you think so many people… even world famous celebrities… experiment with drugs or turn to alcohol. They’re looking to fill their soul, but they don’t know how.

The key that I want you to understand here is we are not physical beings having a temporary spiritual experience. We’re spiritual beings having a temporary physical experience. So I have a soul and it cries out to be filled.

3.    My soul filling is an investment in eternity.

You know, one of the things we learn from the Bible is that our body is just a container. Those of you a little old school, when you hear the word “container”, what do you think about? You think Tupperware, right? So think about that.

Your body is a container, you’re body is Tupperware!
We come in all different sizes and shapes like Tupperware.
We like to go to parties.
And we feel a lot better when we’re burped.

Your body is just a container. It’s just your temporary residence. Your real self is your soul, which is eternal.

2 Corinthians 5:6 (NLT)
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.

Our bodies are temporary, our souls are eternal. So when I connect with God… when I make that refueling connection… I’m not only accessing power and guidance that I need for today but I’m also making an investment in eternity where my real and my final home is going to be. Think about the stuff that you’re doing – the stuff that you’re building, the stuff that you’re gathering, the stuff that you’re achieving. None of these things are going to last. But when you take time to fill your soul, when you take time to refuel and you take time to connect your soul with God, you’re making an investment in eternity. That’s time well spent.

So that’s the Why. We have to refuel because we just can’t go on running on empty. We have to refill our souls, which is something we so often neglect but in reality is so vitally important. It’s an investment in the here and now and right on into eternity. That’s Why. So that brings us to… How? How do I actually do this? How do I deepen my soul? How do I make soul filling a habit?

And the thing I want you to realize here is that it’s not actually something we do ourselves. God is the One and only One who can refuel our souls. Like a full service gas station. But we’ve still got to pull in and drive up to the pump.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about. How do we pull up to the pump? How do we prepare ourselves and position ourselves so we can experience the filling and refueling that God has for us?

First thing you’ve got to do…

Everyday I Need To…

A.    Stop

When you pull in to a gas station, do you just coast through the yard, watch your fuel gauge go up, and then keep going? No, you come to a complete stop. Even racecar drivers, when they pull into the pit to refuel, they come to a complete stop.

If you want to be refueled, you’ve got to stop. For your soul to be nurtured, you’ve got to stop. You can’t refuel on the run. I know that sounds easy, but it’s not. Busy people have a lot of trouble stopping.

And I’m not even going to put a time on this. Maybe you can stop for an hour, maybe you can only stop for a couple minutes. Fine. Start there.

Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)
We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. … And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

Now, Martin Luther said, “My day is so busy that I get up at four a.m. and spend three hours with God before the day starts.”   

4:00 a.m.? I’ve always considered 4:00 a.m. to be late to go to bed, not early to get up!

Or how about this one from Mother Teresa? “Spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything that you know is wrong and you’ll be all right.”

Right. Yeah, that sounds doable. Listen, there is a reason that Martin Luther and Mother Teresa are known for their faith. And if you're anything like me, you’re nothing like them. You’re much closer to Mother Goose. Or maybe Martin Lawrence. You’re not Mother Theresa. You’re not Martin Luther. You’re you! So don’t allow quotes like that to make you feel guilty… don’t compare yourself to them… be you! Start with where you’re at. And if stopping for two minutes is where you’re at, then great. Stop for two minutes. Just stop.

Stop your body from all your activity. Stop your mind from the tasks and the To Do list. Stop all the planning and the phone calls and the goal setting and the multi-tasking. Just stop. And for some of you, this may take some practice. You’re going to have to learn how to stop.

And listen, I’m right there, too. I have this compulsion to always be doing something. And when I’m not, it’s easy for me to feel guilty. Even when I go to Tim Horton’s, I always carry work in with me. When I go to see a doctor and I know I’m going to be in the waiting room for a while, I carry work with me. I even have Sudoku on my iPod so I can play that and expand my mind when I’ve got a few free minutes or even when I’m laying in bed.

Stopping is difficult for me. And it doesn’t happen naturally. But I do try to stop. Whether it’s for a few minutes, or for an extended period, I want to take time to stop each and every day.

The trouble for some of us is, even when we stop, we’re hurried stoppers. We’re like, “Stop. Ok, I’ve stopped. Now what do I do?”

Well, here’s the second thing you do. You stop and then you be…

B.    Be Quiet

To be refueled, you have to be quiet. Because quiet or silence is like air and water for the soul. Problem is, in a world where noise is so much around us silence is actually deafening. Some of us can’t handle silence because we’ve conditioned ourselves to need noise.    

Think about it. You wake up to noise of the alarm. You turn on music noise or TV noise. You get in your car and you turn on more noise. You go to work and you’ve got noise. You come home and there’s noise. There’s human noise trying to compete with electronic noise. You’ve got Tupperware burping noise. You’ve got everything happening in your house and you just want to get away from the noise so you grab your iPod and go out for a walk and you put on noise. Then you go to bed and you can’t fall asleep so you put on nature sounds to help you relax.

Did you know that there has been research done on different types of noise? There are actually noises that get people to shop more and eat more and spend more. And businesses have invested a lot of money to figure out what noises will help them get your money.

Noise is all around us, so this whole idea of being quiet really is quite radical. And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be intentional. And for some of you, this will be really hard.

Especially what I’m going to say right now: In order for you to be quiet, you’ve got to separate yourself from your phone. You’ve just got to get away from your phone or turn it off.

Have you seen people wearing these things around town? [Bluetooth headset] “Captain, we have an incoming message from Star Fleet.” (That reminds me… five days until the new Star Trek movie comes out.)

Anyway, this is mine. I still haven’t gotten used to it, but I got it to use in my car, so I can talk on my phone hands free. I think that makes sense. But I know some people who go through life wearing one of these headsets. Listen, when you’ve got to cruise through life with a little satellite dish attached to your cranium… I know you think you’re cool but let me tell you something. You’re not. You just don’t have friends who are honest with you.

Years ago, slaves would wear earrings that identified them with their master. That’s how you knew who the slave was owned by. I think this is the equivalent of that in modern day. It’s the version of a slave’s earring. It says that you are a slave to the telephone.

But you don’t want to be owned by your phone. So if you’re going to be quiet… if you’re going to be silent enough to hear from God… you’re going to have to set your phone aside. I’m not saying throw it away, I’m just saying set it aside for a few minutes. God’s not going to compete with your phone. Anymore than He’s going to compete with the noise of TSN. Or the noise of Desperate Housewives. Or our own noise. God’s not going to compete with that.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, There was a guy named Elijah. Elijah had an incredible battle that he had won. He’d actually battled against hundreds of false prophets. The false prophets were trying to prove that their god was the right God, and Elijah was trying to prove that there is only one true God. And that one true God showed up and proved Elijah to be right. It’s a great story and you should read it for yourself in 1 Kings 18.

But Elijah had a great victory that day. And then all of a sudden after this battle, Elijah just had kind of a meltdown. He started to doubt God himself, he felt abandoned by God, he started making all kinds of poor decisions, he started to whine and complain… basically he was running on empty. Check out what happened next…

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

A gentle whisper – that was God. Other translations call it “a still small voice.” I love that image of God having a still small voice, a quiet whisper, into your life.

I wonder in my own life, how many times have I missed the voice of God because I was around noise so much. The challenge is stop and be quiet.

And then the third thing is…

C.    Make a Connection

You stop, you be quiet, you make a connection. This is where you connect with God. If there’s any generation in the history of humanity that understands connection it’s our generation. We’re always connected. With all the stuff that we’ve got – blackberries and instant messaging and mobile phones and email. We’re always connected.

And what I’m asking you to do is for a little bit of time each day is pause the outer connection so you make an inner connection. As Jesus said…

John 15:4-6 (NLT)
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you… Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

As a branch needs to be connected to the vine to survive and to grow, you and I need to be connected to Jesus. We need to remain in Him.

Now, this idea of making a connection begs for three questions: When, Where, What. If I’m going to make a connection with God, make it a daily habit, here’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to come up with a…


When I am I going to stop? When am I going to be quiet? When am I going to make a connection?

And really, there are no rules here. There’s no one “When” that works for everyone. So your “when” could be in the morning, or it could be in the evening, it could be during a break at work, it could be while your kids are at racketball practice… just figure out your own “when.” And then stick with it until it becomes a habit. The second question is…


Where is it going to be? Personally, for me the only requirement for the Where is that it has to be away from my laptop and away from the TV. Otherwise, it doesn’t work for me.

Maybe for you, you’ve got to be out in nature someplace. Or maybe you just need to quiet of your garage. Just figure out where. And then…


What are you going to do? In the electronic world that we live in we use tools to connect with other people. Phones, email… that type of thing. Basically the What is, What tools will you use to connect with God?

And we’re all wired differently. So your “what” may be different from mine.

But I think one of the tools might be prayer. One of the tools might be reading the Bible. One of your tools may be a notebook to write out your prayers or reflect on what God’s teaching you through the day. Maybe you just want to jot down some insights, or just have it there to write down reminders when that “to do” list starts to creep into your quiet time. Then you can write it down and forget about it until later. Maybe another tool is that you read what’s called a devotional book… a book with short chapters… maybe a page or two… that helps you think about spiritual things and learn about God and connect with Him.

There are a lot of different things you can do with the “What”. Those are just a few ideas to get you started. And on the back of your notes today, you’ll see a list of twenty ideas. Twenty ways that might help you connect better with God, so you can experiencing the refueling He wants to give to your soul.

Okay, so what are the three things? Stop, be quiet, and make a connection. Repeat that with me: “Stop, be quiet, and make a connection.”

Can you see yourself doing that? Does it seem possible? Does it seem practical? Do you see yourself being filled up? Can you imagine what it would be like to have your soul totally topped off? How maybe your life might be different. Your pace might be different. Your priorities might be different. The way you treat other people might be different. The way you feel about yourself might be different. You wouldn’t be running on empty any longer. As Paul said to the church, “I want you to be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Can you see that for yourself?

I can. I can see it for me and I can see it for you. I can see it for our church. And I believe if we will take even just a couple minutes everyday to stop, be quiet and make a connection, then we don’t have to run around on empty anymore. Instead, we can be refreshed and refueled by God Himself, and we’ll never have to experience that kind of emptiness again.


God, sometimes in life we just get so busy, so stressed, so distracted that we find ourselves running on empty and we miss out on that full and abundant life you want to give us. We get so caught up in all the stuff we’re doing and we forget to just stop, be quiet, and make that connection with You. Help us to break that cycle. We know the Why, but help us to work out the When, the Where and the What. God, You know that we do desire that connection with You. And we know that You desire that connection with us. So my prayer for every person here this morning is that each of us will make the time to stop, be quiet, and connect with You in such a way that we can experience You filling us up. And may we never again allow our souls to get so dry that we’re running on empty. We pray this in Your name… the name of Jesus. Amen.

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



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