Running On Empty part 4
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
Need to Refuel Because…
This emptiness is not working for me.
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
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)
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.
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.
I have a soul that wants to be filled.
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.
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
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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
My soul filling is an investment in eternity.
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.
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
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…
I Need To…
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)
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.
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
4:00 a.m.? I’ve always considered 4:00 a.m. to be late to go to bed,
not early to get up!
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.
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.
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
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
Well, here’s the second thing you do. You stop and then you be…
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
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.
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.)
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.
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
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
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.
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…
Make a Connection
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.
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)
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?
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…
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…
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
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.
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
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.
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]