Welcome to the Fast Lane!
Do you ever feel like you’re running on empty? Do you ever feel like the external pressures of life are greater than the internal resilience you have on the inside? Do you ever feel like there is no ‘margin’ in your life and that you’re almost over the edge? If you do, then you are not alone. Our world has experienced an incredible amount of progress in the last 100 years. Progress has been upward and onward, resulting in a rapid acceleration of change. Change is no longer ‘linear’; it is now ‘exponential’ and the result is STRESS! High levels of stress follow progress and change just as exhaust follows traffic. It’s unavoidable!
If you bend a small tree and then release it, the sapling will return to its former shape. This is similar to stress – we bend and then we recover. However, if you bend the sapling until it snaps, it stays broken. This is what burnout is like. Something inside breaks. Healing is possible but it can take a long time before passion, enthusiasm and full productivity returns. What we all need is a bit more ‘margin’. In a book, margin refers to the space between the words and the edge of the page. It helps the book breath a little. Unfortunately, most of us live our lives without any margin. We fill our lives to capacity. There’s no space, no room to move. We’re stressed and overloaded. Our limits are being challenged. Margin has been lost … and if something unforeseen happens, suddenly we’re over the edge.
Because of the increasing pace of life, the lack of margin, and the stress of living in the 21st century, we can easily drain our reserves and before we know it, we’re running on empty. The warning lights come on and we know we can’t keep going or we’re going to ‘crash and burn’. We must refuel! Refuelling is not an optional extra for the Christian life. It is an essential practice and something that must be done on a regular basis. It is not just for the faint of heart or the weak. Even the strong tire and become weary (Isaiah 40:28-31). Refuelling takes time and intentional effort. Most often, it requires you to stop what you are doing and engage in a refuelling moment. Refuelling is essential if we are going to run our race well, let alone finish what God has called us to be and do. God wants to continually fill us with his love, power and wisdom for our journey.How to Refuel:
Let’s look at a few practical things we can do to refuel. Today we’ll focus on some activities for refuelling our spiritual life. Next week we’ll look at things related more to our relational and emotional health.
Sample Discussion Questions
- Spend Time Alone with God Every Day.
As followers of Christ, God is the source of our very life. As the apostle Paul said, “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Yes, our very next breath comes from him. In a very real sense, we are to live our life ‘in God’s presence’ or with an awareness that he is always with us. We are to ‘do life’ together with God, involving him in every aspect of our daily life. ALL of life is sacred and God is interested in every aspect of our lives. However, there is something special that can occur when we pull aside from our daily activities and spend time alone with God, wholly focused on him.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to serve and give his life for others. Yet one of his habits was to regularly pull aside from the crowds of people and from the busyness of ministry. Jesus knew what it was to work hard but he also knew what it was to stop working and get aside with his Father (see Luke 5:15-16). If anyone could have avoided prayer and just kept going without ever getting to empty, it was Jesus. But, no – he stopped, he left the hustle and bustle of all the people around him, and he found a place where he could be alone and talk with his Father. If Jesus needed this, how much more do we! Often when we’re starting to burnout, it can be linked back to a drift in our time alone with God. Like Martha, we’ve become so busy working for God or doing life that we have neglected our time just sitting and being with Jesus like Mary did (Luke 10:38-42).
So what kind of things do we do when we are alone with God?
- Enjoy God. Just be still and enjoy his closeness.
- Love and worship him. Express appreciation to him for who he is and all he has done for you.
- Talk to him. Open up your heart and tell him how you feel. Tell him your needs and concerns.
- Listen to God. Ask him to speak to you. Tune in to the ‘small still voice’ of his Spirit within you.
- Read his Word, which are his instructions for our life. His Word is like our ‘daily bread’
- Pray in the Spirit, using your ‘spiritual language’. In doing so, you pray according to the will of God (Rom.8:26-28) and you build up your own faith (Jude 20). It can be like charging your spiritual batteries.
Spending time alone with God can be like taking a long deep drink of fresh water when you’re feeling dry and thirsty. It energises you and refuels you for your journey. Why would we not spend time with the God who created the universe and who desires the very best for our life? Why would we pursue other less important things, ignoring his offer! Oh, foolish thinkers we often are (Jeremiah 2:13)! How easily we get distracted by things that hinder us from investing our time in what is most valuable – a relationship with the living God!
- Participate in Church Gatherings Every Week.
In addition to spending time along with him, God also wants us as his people to gather together on a regular basis. He has designed these gatherings to be part of his process for refuelling us for our journey. We live in a world that saps and drains us of our spiritual reserves. We need to be filled up again regularly – with his love, his Spirit, his hope, and his joy. Gathering with other believers is an important part of this becoming a reality in our lives. We gather to worship God together, to receive spiritual input, to fellowship together, to be reminded of our vision, and to serve others with our gifts. This is all part of how God refuels us for our journey. It helps to keep our values aligned and our life headed in the right direction.
The truth is that the majority of people don’t go to church anymore and even many Christians can tend to be fairly slack in the consistency of their attendance, attending infrequently or hardly at all. No wonder so many people are feeling dry spiritually and lack spiritual passion in their life.
Why should we attend church regularly? Jesus did (Luke 4:16), the early church did (Acts 2:42-47), God commands it (Heb.10:24-25), the Spirit works in special ways when Christ’s body gathers, your very presence is an encouragement to other believers and to the leaders of the church, and you are leaving a legacy for the next generation. Gathering together with other believers on a weekly basis is important. Of course, just being here is one thing but HOW we come is even more important. If we want to see dynamic gatherings where God is at work then we need to come with expectation, faith, and a willingness to respond and to participate in what is happening. Church attendance is not a spectator sport. It’s something that we engage in with all our heart and soul … and like most things in life we tend to get out of it what we put into it. Do you want to refuel? Make church gatherings a priority in your weekly schedule.
God works through BOTH our personal relationship with him and our community with other believers. BOTH are important. One without the other will be detrimental to our faith and our well being.
- Do you think life is becoming more stressful? If so, what are some of the indicators?
- Describe a time when you felt like you were ‘running on empty’. What did it feel like, what were some of the contributing factors, and what did you do about it?
- Discuss the concept of ‘margin’. Why is it important and how do we create it in our lives?
- What can we learn from the habits of Jesus? Read Luke 5:15-16 and discuss.
- Read Jeremiah 2:13 and discuss its application for us today. Why is it so easy to neglect time with God?
- Share about a time you had alone with God that was personally impacting. What happened?
- What are some of the benefits of regular church attendance?
- What are some of the benefits of regular involvement in a LifeGroup?
- What are some of the dynamics that occur when a follower of Christ begins to attend church only infrequently?
- Discuss the metaphor of ‘refuelling’ – what are some other things you do to help when you’re feeling like you’re running on empty? [We’ll be looking at some more things in Part 2]