Running On Empty

  By Bob Brubaker  |  

Most men will admit to it, some women will, but most all of us have in some way been running on empty.  You know the scene. You are driving and your gas gauge says empty and you look and figure it has a little space to go before it’s really empty so you keep going, right past a gas station. Then you come to another gas station but rather than stop you just continue on.  Why?  Maybe it’s a sense of competition to feel like you can beat the system, maybe it’s a matter of pride in that you want to decide when you need gas and not let some gauge tell you. Regardless, you go on but now it’s apparent that there is not a gas station in sight so you begin to pray and make all kinds of promises to God as you travel on. But then the lights of a gas station appear and you feel like you won. But you haven’t because you may have survived in the car, but inside you feel spent.

Maybe you’ve never participated in such drama but the majority of people I asked over the past couple of weeks describe just about the same scenario. As bizarre as it may seem to try to survive in a car while running on empty so it is even more uncanny that Christians allow their walk with Christ to linger near the empty mark for days. Granted there are those days when you wake up late and are in a rush seemingly all day and as much as you promise yourself that you’ll find some time to spend with God in His word and prayer you never do only to find the day ending. But the problem is that this pattern can easily become the habit and the next thing you know is that your devotional life doesn’t exist. And you wonder why you don’t enjoy the fruit of the Spirit or the fellowship with other believers or times of corporate worship. It’s a matter of trying to run on empty and the only cure is to pull off the road and connect with the source of power.

In case anyone feels they are above such matters, consider the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that He is God manifest in the flesh, yet He knows the importance of recharging by staying connected.

Mark 6:45–46 (ESV) — 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

Luke 6:12 (ESV) — 12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

David, while fleeing from Saul, knew that he needed to stay charged and could not afford to run on empty so he got up really early to worship God.

Psalm 57:7–10 (ESV) — 7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) — 1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

As Moses considered his need before God, he too, got up early to seek after God.

Psalm 90:14 (ESV) — 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

As God speaks as the voice of wisdom, He reminds us to seek Him early rather than later as in trying to run on empty.

Proverbs 8:17 (ESV) — 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Let’s remember that anything we get from God is because of His grace in providing for us and it’s not in making ourselves deserving or obligating God, yet we also know that there is a place of discipline. Discipline is not our attempt to make ourselves worthy but to grasp the source of life, knowing that without Him we can do nothing.

John 15:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Luke 9:23–25 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Jesus is reminding us that trying to survive while running on empty is a useless attempt that only takes us away from the source of life and blessing. It’s best to exercise the daily discipline of spending time with God. For most people it means you need to put it on your daily schedule.

Discipline and diligence are the keys to staying close to the power source otherwise you’ll find yourself running on empty and like the driver who knows it’s time to pull off and fill up but tries to keep going, you too will find yourself feeling spent. And it could all have been avoided if you would just take time with God.

No wonder the apostle Paul talked of his personal discipline in being very forthright and determined in his walk with God because he did not want to fall away due to running on empty.

1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (ESV) — 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.


Bob Brubaker


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