I was standing on the dock putting gasoline into the boat the other day. I happened to read the bright yellow warning sticker as I slowly poured the 5-gallons into the tank. The sticker read:
WARNING: Leaking fuel is a fire and explosion hazard. Inspect fuel system often.
My mind began searching for some Christian life lesson or, as we call them at here at Daily Illumination, another “sacred analogy.” I came up with one worth pondering.
WARNING STICKERS. This analogy first begins with the observation that what goes for Christianity in America is a much more tamed, PG-rated and user-friendly version than the risky, life-endangering, explosive kind of faith found in the Bible. True faith in the Holy, Living God of the Bible is serious business and should come with many yellow, reflective WARNING stickers as well. Some sobering warning stickers would do much to promote the true, authentic faith the martyrs gave their life for than padded seats, air-conditioned auditoriums and cute, catchy cliches plastered on the bumpers of Christian mini-vans. (Not that there is anything wrong with these things in and of themselves; but I think you get my point.)
Remember how the great lion Aslan is described in the Chronicles of Narnia when one asks if this Aslan (or God) is a safe, tame lion? He is most certainly not safe or tame; but He is good. Likewise, true Christianity isn’t a safe endeavor either; it is “the good fight” as Paul likes to say. That’s right: When we enter into worship, call on the living God in prayer, join with other Christians in Kingdom advancing efforts and open our Bibles for truth an wisdom, we should be reminded that we are dealing with highly explosive, powerful stuff and should proceed with great caution and care.
When I was launching the Revolution ministry in Mound back in 2005, I decided to call our meeting space where we hosted our Battle of the Bands and Coffeehouse gatherings “Ground Zero.” I got flack from some folks because “Ground Zero” sounded too violent and destructive. And ever since the 9/11 attacks “ground zero” tends to conjure up images of terrorist attacks, burning buildings and death. But at that time I was focused on the literal dictionary meaning that defines”ground zero” as:
1. The impact point of a powerful explosion
2. The center of rapid or intense development or change
3. The starting point or most basic level
This sounds like 3 great values and goals for any revolutionary youth ministry (or a high impact church): (#1) Bring people into an intense encounter with the Living God that blows apart their previous life and impacts them for eternity (Encounter), (#3) begin again as New Creations on the long journey of discipleship (Repentance & New Beginning), and (#2) become an active member of a community that lives at the center of intense development or change (Transformation). I wanted the teens of our community to know that coming into the presence of the Living God was anything but safe. “Ground Zero” seemed to capture this truth better than “The Harbor” or “The Refuge” or plain old “Youth Room.” So, does your brand of Christian faith need a warning label?
LEAKING FUEL. Secondly, in this analogy we are all being fueled by faith in God daily and called to leak it all over everyone we encounter. God is our source of life — our fuel — and we are to share this life-force of faith with others who are running on the fumes of false sources of life. Just as Jesus tells us to let our light shine and not hide it under a bushel, we should similarly let our faith-fuel “leak” out and not hoard it to ourselves. We live in a world filled with people running on empty and in need of a spiritual pit stop to refuel. Tragically, we have many people stranded in the middle of life, tank totally dry and desperately trying to row their way to some distant shore by their own strength but with arms growing very, very tired.
As I gripped that red gas container and poured the fuel into the boat, I was reminded of Jeremiah’s words in chapter 17: “You have chosen gods that are no gods!” laments Jeremiah. “You have forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for yourselves—cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” In other words: you’re out of spiritual gas, empty of God’s life-giving fuel and you’re trying to find your own source of fuel but coming up dry. Boats are made to run on gasoline; not banana peels or root beer. People are made to run on God’s life-giving spirit; not anything else.
EXPLOSIVE FAITH. Third, again God’s life-changing power is explosive in the way it can ignite one’s heart and awaken one’s soul. If you’ve ever seen a person’s life drastically flipped around by a born again experience with God, then you know how explosive faith really is. I try very hard to remind myself and the teenagers I minister to regularly that when we come together to worship and study the Scriptures, we are in the presence of the most explosive, powerful force in the universe — in fact, the Creator of the entire universe. Again, there is nothing tame or safe about our God — but He is good.
FIRE THAT SPREADS. Fourth, this explosive faith also spreads like wildfire when others catch a glimpse of the renewed life you’re now living. Perhaps we, like a leaky gas can, leave a trail of flammable “faith-splashes” where ever we go, and at any given moment God can provide the necessary spark to ignite even more flames of faith in other human hearts. Ask yourself the question: If someone lit a match near you, would your faith ignite a holy explosion? Would anything happen at all?
INSPECT FUEL SYSTEM OFTEN. Finally, we too ought to regularly inspect our spiritual fuel system to make sure we are operating to our capacity. Are we filling our faith tanks with God’s life-giving truth and power? Or are we settling for cheap substitutes that will leave us empty in the end? How full is our tank? Are we keeping it always full or running ourselves ragged, often only stopping to refill when we’ve been running on fumes?
“Sir, give me this fuel so that I won’t run myself empty and have to keep coming here to refuel” (John 4:13 my paraphrase).