Running on empty

When was the last time you let your gas gauge get down so low you were worried that you might not make it to the gas station to get it filled up? It is nerve wracking isn’t it? It can also be dangerous depending on where you run out of gas–a busy expressway for example!

I’m guilty far too often of running my spiritual life that way. Here’s what I’ve noticed about my own life when I’m running on empty spiritually:

  • I get discouraged more easily
  • Sin is harder to resist
  • Depression creeps up on me
  • I get angry over little things that shouldn’t bother me
  • I have nothing to give to people who are hurting

In Exodus 16 we read the story of God feeding His people in the desert with bread from heaven, which the people called “manna.” Six days a week, the people were instructed to go out and gather what they needed for that day. It was a discipline for them. Each morning they went out and received what they needed from the Lord to live for that day. Some of them tried to collect extra to carry over to the next day but when they went to prepare it, they found it was rotten, stinking, and full of maggots.

The daily gathering of manna was a demonstration and a reminder of their utter dependence upon God to provide for them. They had to have faith that the manna would be there everyday. They knew that if God didn’t come through for them they would starve. God did indeed provide, but they still had to gather it. The manna didn’t just fall into their cooking pots.

Many of us are starving spiritually. We come to church on Sunday morning and then try to coast on that hour and a half of worship and preaching for the rest of the week. We spend all week getting beaten down by the world, the flesh and the devil and then we drag ourselves into church the next Sunday hoping to fill our spiritual tanks to get us through the next week.

That’s a sad and terrible way to live on our journey with Christ and when we do it that way, we miss the joy and delight of daily time spent in Christ’s presence. Christ is the true bread from heaven (John 6:32-33) and we desperately need Him every single day.

There are some things we can do if we want to keep from running on empty spiritually. The items listed below are disciplines that have been practiced by Christians throughout the centuries. There is nothing magical about them, and we certainly don’t need to try and make them a list of rules we need to follow. All they do is help put us in God’s presence and He will do a work in our hearts. Think of them as gathering manna.

Read Scripture

Each day, we should be reading large portions of Scripture. Not a verse or two, but multiple chapters–even whole books–in a single setting. We must learn to love and appreciate the scope and breadth of God’s Word.

Engage in personal worship

Throughout the day we can set aside moments for personal worship. We can periodically take time to thank God for His goodness and love and we can take some time to read a Psalm as a prayer to God.

As we commute for work we can listen to great worship music and sing and make music in our hearts to our great and glorious God.


There is something to be said for concentrated times of prayer. We should regularly take time to shut out the world and focus all our attention on God and cry out to Him in prayer. But prayer is something we can also engage in no matter what we’re doing. We can make every act of our day an act of prayer.

Live in community with other Christ-followers

We need one another. That’s the way God has designed this life. We need to be “doing life together” as brothers and sisters in Christ. As I spend time with you, you minister Christ to me and I can become more like Him.

Serve others

Serving others is unique in that even though we are pouring out ourselves into the lives of others, we are being filled simultaneously with God’s love and presence. It’s a delightful paradox and one that those who regularly serve can give testimony about.

Are you running on empty? Remember, that’s no way to travel.


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