How to refuel when serving sucks you dry

(Photo: hectorir)

In the middle of winter in the middle of the freeway, my car stalled.

Thankfully, I was on an overpass, right by an exit. Still, I had to walk a ways to the gas station, buy a can, fill it with gas, and then lug it back to my car, all while keeping my nose from breaking off in the cold.

That was the first time I ran out of gas… but also the last. So far, I’ve kept the lesson in mind.

Running out sucks, especially if you’re excited about where you’re going. Trouble is, we don’t always remember.

The same thing happens with serving. We’re going along great when, all of a sudden, we stall. Sometimes we crash and burn. Other times we bail out. Or want one.

You know the feeling? You’re like, “That’s it. I still love you, God, but I can’t keep giving, giving, giving.” I’ve even made threats: “God, if you make me continue like this, you’re going to lose me altogether.”

Funny, the threats never seem to worry Him. He never tells me to quit. Instead, He teaches me how to continue.

Why thankfulness is not enough

Thankfulness is a wonderful motivation, if not the only worthwhile motivation, for serving others. But it only gives you the motivation, not the material.

It’s the difference between wanting to give something and actually having something to give. Thankfulness can fuel the desire, but you still have to find something to give.

And after you give for a while, you might feel like you’re out of material to give away again. You start feeling a little dry. So the question is, how do you get more to give away? Where can you and I find that abundance?

The obvious but not always helpful answer

The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives an endless supply of amazingness. He’s the real reason we can continue each day.

That’s not always helpful, though, because if you’re like me, you’re not exactly sure how to receive the Spirit and let Him work through your life. That’s why we need to understand the practical side of allowing the Spirit into our lives.

So in a way, even though this post in practical terms is about finding fuel to serve, in a general sense it’s about letting the Holy Spirit fill you and work through you.

Starting from an example

When I think of biblical examples of people being filled with the Holy Spirit, the first one that comes to mind is the classic in Acts 2.

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” -Acts 2:1-4

That’s pretty freakin’ awesome, especially considering what happened afterward, Peter sharing the gospel and a few thousand people getting saved.

To understand how this came about, though, let’s move back a chapter to Jesus’s promise before He ascended into heaven. A bunch of His followers were hanging out with Him, wondering what would happen next. So Jesus told them:

“[Y]ou shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1:8

I love that. He didn’t tell them to do anything, just that they’d receive the Spirit automatically when God wanted them to.

So His followers just hung out together:

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” -Acts 1:14

They stayed in fellowship, in unity, and talked with God. In fact, if you go back to the beginning of chapter two, which I quoted already, you’ll notice that theme showing up again: followers hanging out together, in unity, in peace.

The secret to getting filled

Someone once said that the biggest secrets are the ones that are so obvious they’ve become secrets. This is one of those.

God is about grace, giving to people who don’t deserve it. So the secret to getting filled…

  • …isn’t doing a bunch of good stuff for other people
  • …isn’t showing God that you’re worthy of being filled with His Spirit

The secret to getting filled is being able to receive it.

And our ability to be filled with the Holy Spirit is directly proportional to our ability to jive with Christ and Christians, in one accord. I say “jive” because it’s more than just agreeing. We often say we agree with each other even when we’re really not feeling it. We’re not vibrating the same way. We’re not in harmony.

I think God often tries to fill us with His Spirit, but we reject Him because we’re not ready for the change. God’s trying to fill us, but our core belief system isn’t compatible with His gift. So the Spirit just waits, waits for us to trust God enough to let Him work through our lives.

How to prepare for the Spirit

Preparing for the Spirit simply means understanding and living within God’s nature, which includes understanding and living with others Christians, getting to know them, sacrificing our comfort for community.

In super practical terms, you can begin by…

None of these alone can give the Spirit a magic pass into your life, but collectively they can help align your nature with God’s nature while connecting with the body of Christ.

The list could go on, but it all comes back to unity, abiding in who God is. When that happens, the Spirit’s like, “Okay, now you’re ready. You’re ready to trust me enough to let me direct your life. Now I can do my job.”

The peace of fullness

It’s tough to communicate this peace to someone who’s never experienced it. The best I can say is that when the Spirit works in your life, you feel unstoppable. And in a way, you are unstoppable because you’re functioning in alignment with God’s will.

You realize that things still might not turn out the way you plan, but you know if that happens, it’s not a problem. You’re doing what God says, so you can let Him deal with the consequences. He actually appreciates that.

The power of abundance

When the Spirit is directing your life and you’re in harmony with the body of Christ, you feel like you’ll never run out. You don’t have to worry about what you’ll say today or what you’ll give today or what you’ll do today.

You’ll just give what you get, and what you’ll get will be limitless.

Like over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a little dry. My tank was running out, my cup underflowing. I was drifting away from God’s nature. I was still serving, but I was falling out of alignment.

Thankfully, I started with prayer (sad to say, it’s often my last resort). I was like, “God, what’s up with this? It’s a new year and everything. I’m usually pumped right about now. Why’s it so hard this time?”

Even posting here. I had a bunch of decent ideas, but none that were inspiring me.

But then His answer came back:  “Share what I’ve given you. That’s what you’re supposed to do. The life I give you is for other people too.”

As I’ve fellowshipped with other Christians, especially lately, I’ve tried to focus on sharing what I’m learning and learning what they’re sharing, joining together as one body.

That’s how this article came about. It’s what I’m learning. And look, I’m already over 1,500 words here. I don’t feel like I’m losing anything by giving this away. I don’t feel like I’m working or losing time or losing anything, really.

It seems ridiculous to even think that way, but that was the slump I had fallen into. I was serving from my own superficial skills, the ones I thought I’d conjured up.

Right now, though, I’m working from the blessings God’s poured into my life. They’re flowing through me. As a result, I feel like I’m getting more pumped the more I share.

That’s the power of abundance through the Holy Spirit.

Refueling by giving what you get

Most of us oscillate back and forth between growing and withering, at least slightly. I don’t think growth is something we perfect. I’m certainly not there. I might slip right after publishing this.

But we can still aim for fullness all the time.

My car ran out of gas because I pushed the limits of emptiness… and lost. I was cold and late, but overall it wasn’t a big deal.

Spiritually, though, it’s way serious. “Not empty” is not cool. It’s better to refuel before you need it, aiming to be completely full, overflowing, all the time.

You and I can do that by… well, not doing anything at first, just waiting and resting and submitting to what God wants to give us. And then when He gives us something – and He always does – we can share that. That way, no matter how much we give, we’ll never run out.

Because the life God gives is for other people too.

Give that. Refuel by learning and living and appreciating God’s nature, His personality. Then share those lessons.

Serving Suggestions:

(1) Prepare yourself to receive the Spirit by aligning with God’s nature and making peace with the body of Christ.

(2) In practice, this means resting in who God is, studying how He thinks and acts and what He enjoys. The Holy Spirit loves to fill believers who are ready to trust God to direct their lives but also willing to wait for His leading.

(3) It also means seeking to understand your brothers and sisters in Christ, communicating with them even when it’s not comfortable. All together in one accord, moving in one direction, for the same reason… Christ.

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