By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“Ladies and Gentlemen we are sorry for the delay but it seems we cannot start the engines.” Those are not the words you want to hear when sitting on a 747 jet in Japan hoping to make it all the way to Baltimore. But those are indeed the words that came from the pilot this summer as I sat on the runway in Tokyo.
We had already flown from Malaysia to the Philippines and the Philippines to Japan. Up to this point all had gone well. But suddenly the exact same plane that had just flown the fours hours from Manila to Japan was no longer able to start its powerful jet engines. So there we were, sitting on the runway in a plane that could no longer fly.
After examination, it was determined that the culprit was a clogged fuel filter. Ninety minutes later the pilot announced that the fuel filter had been cleaned out and we would be taking off soon. I have to tell you that by this point my level of confidence had been a bit shattered. Almost two hours past our original departure time, we took off with a fuel filter that was no longer clogged, engines that would once again start and hopefully keep running throughout the upcoming 14-hour flight.
During the early hours of the long flight, I thought about our perfectly good engines being made useless by something as simple as a clogged fuel filter. (Or maybe didn’t want to sleep because I wanted to hear those engines running!). So, I began to wonder about the spiritual lesson in that experience. Yes, there was a lesson in trusting the Lord to get you home safely. And there was a lesson in patience. And a lesson in using the delay as an opportunity to share with seatmates. There was even a lesson in overcoming the heat in the cabin over those two hours. But the lesson that took over most of my thoughts was wondering if my heart ‘fuel filter’ had ever been clogged preventing me from being able to ‘fly’ with the power God intended.
What might clog my ‘fuel filter’? Perhaps not being intentional in studying God’s Word. David tells us in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Being in the Word everyday is my map for the day. It tells me how and where to ‘fly.’ Phil. 4:9 reminds us to think on whatever is right, whatever is lovely, and whatever is worthy of praise. My mind can stay focused on what really matters when I keep these things before me. Without having God’s Word hidden in my heart, it’s a little tough to know what really is right, lovely and worthy of praise. When I lose sight of that I lose sight of the path that is lit. When I’m feeling burnt out, could it be this is the filter that is clogged?
Perhaps my ‘fuel filter’ gets clogged when my prayer life is lacking. I Thess. 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Do I really do that? Do I pray for the Muslim woman I pass at the mall? Do I pray for ministry awareness? Do I pray for eyes that see the sin in my life? Do I pray for my enemies as well as my friends? When I feel as if my prayers stopped at the ceiling is it because this filter is clogged? After all, Jesus told the disciples when they could not cast out the demon, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 10:29).
Most of us at some time in our walk with the Lord experience burn out, fatigue, and feelings of powerlessness. The engines just won’t start. The good news is we are still bound for heaven, Jesus is still our Savior, and the Holy Spirit is still very much a part of our lives. But perhaps our weariness is a reminder to take a bit of a Sabbath and ‘clean out the fuel filters.’ Like the 747, once they are unclogged you will be more than ready for the long flight ahead with power to spare and “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).