Running on Empty
A while ago, I set out on a mercy mission in my car without checking the fuel level, and for all of that trip I was “running on empty” the red light on the dash board of the car never went out, and there were no filling or fuelling stations “en route“? Thankfully I did get there and back, as my car warns of low fuel long before it really is empty – but there was little left.
Today’s message is for those who feel they have little left to give. Perhaps today this is your story: “Lord, I don’t have any strength left. I am running on empty and I hope You are not going to ask me to give more, because I have nothing left to give.” If you feel this way, I believe you will be encouraged
and enlightened by the time this programme ends!
We read in today’s Gospel that …
“… Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” Mark 12:41-44.
Throughout the Scriptures, we find many instances of people with less than others fully casting all they have into the work of God. As a result, great things are done through their sacrifice. Such was the case with this widow. While many were casting into the treasury out of their abundance, she took what little she
had left – which was only a few pence – and put it all into
the treasury. Notice that this widow’s value system deemed the kingdom of God worthy of her gift. She must have felt that the Lord would take her offering and somehow use it for His glory. Not only that, she must have had a measure of trust that as she chose to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” everything else she needed would be given to her. And so she freely gave into the treasury out of her own need and difficulty.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days”. In other words, one day you will know what God has done with your sacrifice. How surprised this widow will be to get to heaven and realize that
her sacrifice had become part of the text of Scripture, offering instruction and insight into the kingdom of God for millions
of people over thousands of years!
Similarly, consider how many people will approach you in heaven and thank you for not giving up – for continuing to give even when you felt you had so little left. Perhaps somewhere along the way you discovered that life was not working out as you thought it would, leaving you with little hope for tomorrow. Nevertheless, you took that shred of hope, that little bit of strength you had left, and invested it into someone’s life.
You allowed that limited resource, that small word of encouragement, that listening ear to be used for a greater
good beyond your own need.
Someday what you “cast upon the waters” will come back to you. When you get to the throne of God, people will thank you for speaking to them and ministering to them. One day your sons and daughters will rise up and say, “Thank you for not
giving up on us! Thank you for continuing to take us to Church. You could have taken that little bit of strength you had left and used it for yourself. You could have chosen to get some extra sleep on Sunday morning, but instead you got up and faithfully prayed for us. You took us by the hand, you made us to get
ready, and you brought us to the house of God.
Now we are eternally grateful!”
Today’s OT Scripture speak of another woman who seemingly had little to give, yet she chose to bring her sacrifice to the Lord. Her name was Hannah, – and she and her husband, Elkanah, went to the house of the Lord frequently. Elkanah had a second wife who bore him several sons and daughters, yet Hannah remained barren – childless. 1 Samuel 1:2–3.
It was Hannah’s deepest desire to have a child, and so she came in great desperation to the house of God. We read: “she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, “O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head” (1 Samuel 1:10–11). God granted her, her request and gave her a son. Eventually, Hannah felt it was time to bring that little child back to the house of God so that he might be given for His work,
just as she had vowed.
Think for a moment how difficult it must have been for Hannah. I am sure that she had questions in her heart, just as you and I do. “Do I have a right to some personal happiness?
Do I have a right to keep something for myself? Shouldn’t
I be able to come to the house of God and expect that my needs will be met, too?” Nevertheless, Hannah took this son that God had given her and, out of her own need, offered him to Divine service. The Scriptures do not tell us whether Hannah lived long enough to see the impact her sacrifice had in the world. What she had given to God was the prophet named Samuel – one of the greatest prophets of his generation – and a judge of Israel who led the nation back to the ways of God. Hannah was just a simple person with a real live sacrifice, bringing it to the house of God. Yet time and time again we see God taking these sacrifices and blessing them, by doing with them what is impossible for man to do?
In the Gospel of John, we find another story of a seemingly small sacrifice making an incredible difference. As Jesus was preaching to a crowd of people, He became aware that they were hungry. “He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among
so many?” John 6:5–9.
Seeing more than 5,000 people before them in the crowd, none of the disciples could figure out how they would be able to feed so many. Yet somewhere in that crowd was a little boy with five loaves and two fishes. I do not know if it was his lunch or if he was on his way home from the market. All I know is that it was
all this little boy had. I can picture him tugging at Andrew’s sleeve, telling him to give it to Jesus. Others would never even consider bringing this seemingly small sacrifice to the Lord, for what good could it possibly do in light of the magnitude of the need before them? However, Jesus once said that unless you
have the faith of a child, you will not see the kingdom of God; Matthew 18:3. You will not be able to understand or appreciate how the kingdom of God works unless and until this kind of faith gets into your heart. So Jesus took this little boy’s sacrifice and multiplied it, feeding the 5,000 men, plus women and children. I recon that the final figure was more like 15,000?
(and remember) There were also twelve full baskets left over after everybody was fed.
In 1 Kings 17, we read of another widow whose small sacrifice was grafted into the testimony of Scripture. At the time, there was a major battle going on between the powers of good and evil, light and darkness. Spiritual apathy had taken hold of the nation of Israel, and Baal’s prophets proceeded to lead the people away from the truth. But God had a prophet named Elijah whom He had prepared for a confrontation on the top of Mount Carmel. God intended to do the miraculous and, for a short season, turn the nation back to worship him.
During the time of famine that preceded this clash on top of Mount Carmel, God led Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. Although she had hardly anything left to give, Elijah approached her and said, “Make me a cake to eat.” This widow replied,
“I don’t even have enough for myself and my son. I am just out -going to gather a few sticks so that I can bake what I have left, and then we are going to die.” Elijah refuted, “No, give first to the work of God – (which Elijah represented at that point) and
as you give the little that you have to the work of God, I promise that your supply will not fail. God will be an endless source of supply to you.” So the widow did as she was asked, giving what little she had left for the kingdom of God. Just as Elijah had said, God was faithful to supply all that she needed.
We read: “And she, and he, (that is Elijah) and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:15–16.
Then, 1 Samuel, chapter 14, tells us of another occasion when there was a major battle going on in the nation. It seemed as if Israel would be defeated by its enemies one more time. Yet King Saul’s son, Jonathan, along with his armour bearer, decided to climb up on a hillside on their hands and knees, determined to take back from the enemy a parcel of land that only measured about half an acre. To the natural eye, the offering of their lives must have looked pathetically small in contrast to what they were up against. No wonder the Philistines looked over the brow of the hill and taunted, “Look at these Hebrews who have come out of the holes where they were hiding. Come on up here, and we will show you a thing or two!” 1 Samuel 14:11–12.
When Jonathan saw this mockery of God, something got into his heart. He turned to his armour bearer and said, “Let’s go! the Lord has given them into our hand.” Throughout the Scriptures, we see that God takes the weak, the marginalized, and that which is foolish to the natural man, and touches it with His hand to perform the miraculous—so that He alone can get the glory! In this case, Jonathan and his armour bearer went up and fought, and they victoriously took that half acre of land.
In the scope of what they were battling, it was merely a small and seemingly insignificant victory. Yet the Bible tells us that as a result, a trembling went through the host of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 14:14–16.
Keep in mind that these enemies of Israel were hellishly inspired. Suddenly all of the demonic powers knew that they were being threatened, for faith had risen up once again. This is exactly what happens when a child of God finally realizes that his sacrifice is not small and insignificant; when he is willing to stand and say, “God is able to do miracles. He does not change, He is still the God of the impossible. Therefore, I am going to
get up and give what I have … to the kingdom of God.
I am going to cast my life into His kingdom. I am going to take my pennies; I am going to take my little bit of strength; I am going to take my testimony, and though it may look small in comparison to everybody else’s, I know that God can take it,
and use it and that great good will be done for His kingdom!”
My message today is basically teaching you that God expects you to GIVE WHAT YOU HAVE TO GIVE. God does not expect you to give cash if you have no cash, but you may be able to give in kind. Give someone a ride to Church, give someone a meal, give someone a few groceries, give someone time, give someone of your abilities or counsel, give what God has put in your hand to give. Consider what is in your hand, in your power to give … and that may not always be money –
… and the best thing you can give is heartfelt LOVE!
God’s ways are not our ways; they never have been. Yet, sadly, in this church age we have succumbed to strategists and boardrooms; surveys and committees. For the sake of Christ,
I say we throw the whole thing out and get back to faith in God’s word and Gods ways! I’m tired of people making excuses for themselves and saying “well I tried”. God does not call us to TRY anything. He calls us First to believe his word and then Second to speak his word; and then Third, to act on it. It really is that simple!
So where do we start? You and I must take what we have, our time, our talents, our abilities, our dwindling resources, our experience and expertise and most of all, our God given love for the lost and the hurting – and sow it all into the kingdom of God. That means that even if you feel weak, you must believe that Christ can use you. Just like Jonathan and his armour bearer, you and I have the potential today to send a trembling through the gates of hell?
So do not let your circumstances or your natural thinking rob you of what the Lord is able to do through you. Don’t let the Devil convince you that your life is too small or that what you have is too insignificant to make a difference. You are not a marginal player in the kingdom of God. He has chosen you to
be alive in this very hour, at this very point in the history of our world, so you can be highly used, – don’t count yourself out
of this battle!
I encourage you today – even if you have only a little left to give, to bring it to the Saviour. Take the little bit of faith that you have, with the little bit of strength that is yours, and the little song that is still left in your heart, and cast it into the treasury. If you feel you do not have anything else, you can at least be kind to somebody.
Remember, that which is esteemed in the sight of God is not
always esteemed in the sight of man. His eye falls on those things that the church world has a tendency to overlook. He sees the seemingly small sacrifice—the seemingly insignificant victory. The eyes of God see the single mother bringing her children to the house of the Lord. He sees you making a sandwich for that child across the hall who does not have a lunch. The eyes of God see it all, and He will reward everyone who gives into His kingdom. So give what you have to the work of God, and then obey what the Lord speaks to your heart. How many times we lose the blessing simply because we ignored the Holy Spirits prompting. Someday you will see the results of your sacrifice, for whatever you bring to the kingdom of God,
He will be faithful to take it, multiply it and use it for His glory!
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
David Livingstone once said:
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny?
It is emphatically no sacrifice.
Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life – these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us.
I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us“.
So, even if you are “running on empty” today, remember that
if Jesus gave what He had for you, how can you give less than what You have for Him?
God Bless You – Amen.