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A Familiar Kind of Empty

Empty really sneaks up on you. Nobody intends to be empty, although some may admit they will push the limits and learn to survive as close to empty as possible. I was thinking today about the only time I ever ran out of gas. I was a Youth Pastor in Maryland and I had been running all over the place getting things ready for the evening youth service. I was replenishing our snack bar and picking up supplies and purchasing sound equipment. Before long the day had gotten away from me and I almost forgot to pick up one of my student leaders. I was only a few miles from my house when I experienced what most only need to experience one time, my car was empty. Luckily I was near a gas station. I walked about a 1/4 mile, purchased a container, purchase gas, walked back, and voila! My old ’94 Corsica started right up.

I wasn’t ignorant of the situation. I looked at the gas gauge earlier in the day and knew I needed gas. I knew I was running close to empty, but then busyness took over. You can see where I’m going with this.

Spiritual emptiness is gradual. It’s the tiny hole at the bottom of a 30 gallon water drum. Or 30,000 gallon water container. Or 300,000 gallon container. The size of the vessel doesn’t matter. In the end, if the hole is not given the proper attention, it matters not how large the vessel is or how full it used to be. It will become empty. Sure, we may notice the water getting low and intend to do something about it, but before we do we have to go visit the sick in the hospital, write up the new building proposal, work on our sermon, have our annual business meeting, staff meeting, board meeting, elder meeting, and meeting that meets to discuss the meetings.

And then… we’re empty.

I know I’ve let myself get spiritually empty, and on more then one occasion. It’s not a badge of honor, it’s an admittance of failure. I know when it’s happening, sometimes I just have a hard time slowing down long enough to plug the hole and position myself under the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

There are plenty of scriptures that emphasize the daily refueling necessary to follow Christ, but I really like the imagery found in Proverbs 8:34-36:

Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.

Sure, watching daily at His door and waiting at His doorway seems like a colossal waste of time when there is so much to be done… unless we value favor and life. The dead cannot complete a checklist. The empty cannot move an inch. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

But…

If you remain in me and I in you, you, you will bear much fruit… if you remain in me and I in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. – John 15:5, 7-8

I know there’s a lot do get done. I’m a victim of busyness like all of you. But I have also learned when to pull away, no matter the cost, and get close with my source of strength. If you’re reading this right now and you feel empty, please stop reading. I have nothing else good to say. Get alone with God… now.

May we continually rejoice with the Psalmist that “our cup overflows”. Overflow of His Spirit at work in our lives is definitely a good thing.

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