The more intense the sermon, the greater the spiritual warfare. The greater the warfare, the more energy–physical, emotional, spiritual–expended. The more energy expended, the greater the potential for victory. The greater the victory, the steeper the drop once the energy is gone. The steeper the drop, the more spectacular the crash. Spend and be spent.
Yesterday was one of those days where I ran out of gas. Like a race at Talladega, I hit the wall in the afternoon.
I began the weekend with an intense meeting on the future of the church. Divergent opinions, some positive, some negative. I was expected to give an instant answer but chose to think and pray before responding. My gas tank was now down a quarter.
The weekend continued with me attending a fundraising dinner for a short-term ministry team. I concluded the evening with some thoughts on how a short-term ministry team is like a NASCAR race. When I started, people had quizzical looks of “What is he talking about?” They turned to “Ah ha!” moments when they understood the parallels. It was a topic I feel passionate about. Consequently, more energy expended and less fuel remaining.
Prior to preaching on Sunday, I had a brief encounter that left me puzzled and drained. Asking a simple question, I received an answer filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment. “Where did that response come from?” I pondered. I felt like I needed a shower. More energy expended. The needle on my gauge was now dipping.
I preached on 1 John 3:4-10, “Does Practice Make Perfect?” John makes the case that a follower of Jesus Christ should avoid sin and practice righteousness. Not just avoid sin, but reject it outright. According to John, sin is totally incompatible with the Christian life. It is a criminal act against God. Sin’s source is the devil himself. Christ came to take away sin. Sin has no place in the life of a Christ follower.
I found myself pleading with people to listen to God’s Word, to repent, to reject a lifestyle of sin, and to choose to follow God. At the conclusion, I led people in making a commitment to practice righteousness. It was one of the most passionate and emotional sermons I have preached. One person responded afterwards, “Wow! Thank you for listening to God and telling us the truth. The Holy Spirit was at work today. Thank you for allowing him.” The warning light on my fuel gauge was now saying my resources were precipitously low.
Arriving home, my wife and I enjoyed a family phone call with our three children. Afterwards we ate lunch.
It was now mid-afternoon. As I sat and read the paper online, I could feel my remaining energy drain completely away. I was exhausted. Spent. There was a letter to write and people to contact. I still had to respond to Friday’s conversation. But I had nothing left to give.
The wisest decision of the day was heading for the couch. The second wisest was not making career decisions on Monday.