Filling Your Empty Bottle

If there is one piece of advice I find myself giving people over and over again is their need for renewal. In our fast-pace lives it seems we are always giving of ourselves but never refilling our tanks to ensure there is enough to give in the future. The result is obvious – burnout. But the problem is even when we’re burned out and have nothing left to give the needs we confront don’t go away. I want to take a few moments today to talk about what God says about renewal and how important it is for you in your life.

We all know that God created in six days and rested on the seventh, calling it a Sabbath or day of rest. His intent was clear – we all need a day where we can just relax and renew. Jesus confirmed this in Mark 2:24 when he said that the Sabbath was made for man, meaning God knew we would need time to recover from the work we do during the week.

Show of hands – how many of you actually take a Sabbath day to recover from work? If you’re like I used to be your hand did not shoot up into the air! I was one of those guys who worked hard and played harder, not taking much time to recover from either! Then the inevitable would happen: I’d burn out or get sick because my mind and body simply would say, “ENOUGH!”

That’s not quite the way Jesus showed us to do things!

If you read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) you’ll see multiple places where it says that Jesus left his disciples and the crowds and found a solitary place to pray. This is really instructive for us as we figure out how to fill up our empty bottles. Let’s examine this a bit.

First, Jesus got away from people. No cell phones, no Facebook, no email – nothing! He found some alone time. Personally this is a BIG key for my renewal. I just need to be alone for a period of time without all the pressure of people wanting something from me. But I think this also is easier said than done in our hyper-connected world. Even as I’ve been writing this blog I’ve taken two phone calls!

For a lot of the people I know it’s even harder. Many of my friends have a life that looks like this: Both husband and wife work, sometimes including overtime and weekends; they have kids with busy sports and activities schedules that demand transportation; they also have other responsibilities either to church or clubs that take time as well. If you look at their lives you just have to wonder how in the world do they find quiet time? Well, they don’t, which is why they look as haggard as they do!

Here’s the advice I give people: If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. Time is our most precious commodity and we tend to fill in every free moment with something. That is why it’s vital to schedule in your alone time. You must put it on the calendar like any other meeting you have and not allow it to be bumped! Jesus knew this and never let the needs of the crowds interfere with his private time. We all need to follow his example in this.

The second thing we learn from Jesus is he spent his alone time communing with the Father. Let’s face it, God is really the only one who can take away the stress we feel and replace it will peace, calmness, and ease. Even as I wrote that line I found myself taking a deep breath and letting it out, knowing that God is my source of comfort and renewal.

Jesus knew this and showed us that when things get too crazy we are to rest in the arms of the Father. I actually tried that once – resting in the arms of the Father – and I had an amazing experience.

I was having one of those weeks – everyone wanted a piece of me and between work, home, church, and my other ministries I was just toast. I decided to go to church and spend some alone time in the sanctuary. The only words I could really muster in my frustration was, “God, just carry me in your arms right now.” This might sound completely nuts, but He did. A sensation of peace enveloped me and I felt as if I was just being relieved of all the stress and pressure. It was weird but great! I left the sanctuary ready to jump back into the fray because God had renewed me!

If you’re not spending time alone with God, you’re probably not getting the best God has to give you! My advice is to check your prayer life and if you need to bolster it do so, even if that means scheduling it!

There’s a third thing I learn from the life of Jesus when it comes to renewal that is not as obvious. Jesus spent most of His time with His disciples, teaching and healing. As I think about Jesus I believe He enjoyed what He was doing. Certainly there were frustrating moments, but overall I believe He felt quite fulfilled through His work. And that’s the key:

Jesus was doing what He was made to do and it energized Him!

One of the ways we can find renewal and be re-energized is doing the thing that God created us to do! I’m experiencing that now personally.

I recently had a lunch with a pastor with whom I was trying to spark interest in my book. As we were getting to know each other he asked me this question, “What do you do for fun?” My answer even surprised me – not much. But I didn’t mean that in the bad sense.

I used to do all sorts of things for fun: exercise, music, movies, travel, read, etc… and all of them were meant to be an escape from the pressures of my life. But I don’t do that anymore. Certainly I still enjoy all those things but they aren’t escapes because I get my energy from doing the thing God created me to do, like write this blog!

It’s the weirdest thing but when I’m engaged in the work God set out for me I am so filled with the Holy Spirit that I feel full of energy and am renewed by it every time! In fact it’s when I’m not engaged in my ministries that I feel lethargic and uninspired.

Do you know what God has created you to do? This is a much more important question than you may think. God has gifted you to do work for Him that He prepared for you before the beginning of the world. It’s your purpose in life! It’s the thing Jesus is going to ask you about when you get to Heaven! For me it’s changing lives by sharing God’s healing power with broken people. What about you?

Here’s the bottom line about burnout – You can’t do the things God wants you to do or the things you want to do when your bottle is empty. You must find ways to renew yourself. God knew this and has given us clear ways to re-energize ourselves for the work that is ahead of us. But it takes commitment and discipline on your end!

Take a moment and think about this. Do you get enough alone time when you can shut out all the noise? Do you spend enough time resting in the arms of the Father? Are you doing what God created you to do so that you can be energized by the Holy Spirit? If not take a step out in faith and do this; schedule time for all these things during the next two weeks and just see how God responds in your life. Believe me, your schedule just may depend on it!

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