In 1981 I bought a high-mileage car that got about nine miles to the gallon. I was a college student at the time, and I bought the car from another broke student for $50.
This was quite a unique car. The engine was worn out and the transmission had problems. The tires had little tread left on them. But, as a poor student, it was invaluable.
One dollar of gas
Being a student meant that cash was rather limited. So, whenever I bought gas, I‘d usually put in only one dollar’s worth. Gas was around 59 cents a gallon then, so I got about 1½ gallons of gas. Afterwards, the fuel gauge still showed empty, but I knew I could get about 12 to 15 miles on that dollar.
How do you think that worked? I could take my girlfriend at the time, Terri (now my wife), out to get a hamburger or an occasional dessert. But after about two round trips I knew I’d be out of gas. A few times the engine misfired as it gasped for gasoline, but by shaking the steering wheel or pumping the brakes I could get the gasoline to find the bottom of the gas tank and pump a few more ounces into the engine, as we coasted to the nearest gas station.
Terri and I dated like this for two years. But the inevitable happened. Twice I miscalculated my mileage and ran out of gas.
I was running that car literally on fumes! Such is the life of a college student, thousands of miles from home, on a strict, limited budget.
So what’s the point here? What can we discover about ourselves? It’s one thing to run a car on fumes, but what about our spiritual life? Can we afford to just put in one dollar of gas at a time? Can we really go day-to-day running on fumes?
How serious are we about developing our relationship with God? Are we putting in a few cents’ worth at a time, or do we fill up our tank?
Your oil lamp
What scriptures come to mind in this regard? Is there an example of fuel tanks running on empty?
Jesus drew such a comparison in Matthew 25, saying: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
“But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
“Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (verses 1-13).
The lesson for us today—the warning for us today—is don’t let your lamp run out of fuel. Don’t run the risk of running on fumes and having your lamp burn out altogether!
This applies to us being filled with the Holy Spirit, and it also applies to everything else with which we need to fill our minds.
Keep a full tank!
Is your tank depleted? I know that mine runs close to empty sometimes if I’m not careful. But we have to refill it regularly. We have to top off our spiritual tanks. And that comes from prayer and Bible study.
Don’t run on fumes! Otherwise you’re in danger of your engine stopping, and you’ll be turning to others and asking them to fill your tank, and they’ll say, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” And then the bridegroom will come and the door will shut before you have time to get back with your fuel, your oil—your full measure of God’s Holy Spirit. (Be sure to read “Are You a Wise and Watching Christian?” .)
We cannot run on fumes. Our lamps must be full of oil. Our prayer to God and study of His Word must go deep and be filling our lives. It’s a good reminder to us all as we step up to the challenges of life and prepare for our Father’s Kingdom.
Don’t run on spiritual fumes. Keep a full tank!