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Have you ever run out of gas? Of course, the smarter thing is to periodically check your gas gauge to see when it’s time to replenish your supply.

But many years ago, I had a car with a defective gas gauge. It was pretty scary to never know how much gas was in my tank.

Lately I’ve been think about why the Law of Replenishment is a vital lesson of the Christian life, keeping us from running out of gas spiritually. This principle is especially crucial for leaders, caregivers, and anyone with an active ministry.

Simply stated, the Law or Replenishment says we must periodically refill our spiritual and emotional tank or risk a meltdown.

One of the most insightful statements in the Bible is found in Acts 20:35: It is more blessed to give than to receive. However, while that is certainly true, we must be careful about the application. Giving is only a blessing when we truly have something left to give. The Law of Replenishment warns us against the folly of continually giving, without ever taking time to receive a fresh supply from God.

Jesus, the Model

The world has never seen a more giving person than Jesus. Day after day, He preached, counseled, arbitrated debates, and explained Scriptures – not to mention healing the sick, casting out demons, turning water into wine, feeding hungry multitudes, and raising people from the dead.  

Jesus loved people and loved being a giver, but He also understood the Law of Replenishment. The Gospels are full of illustrations of how He made sure to get replenished after a time of stressful ministry. Here’s one example:

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons…

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You” (Mark 1:32-37).

This short passage contains three distinct scenes:

  1. From sunup to sundown, Jesus was in demand by every sick, depressed, or demonized person who could find Him.
  2. Needing to recharge after freely pouring out His life, Jesus went away to a place where He could be by Himself and pray.
  3. Soon Simon found the “solitary place” where Jesus was praying, and he cheerfully notified the Lord that everyone was looking for Him – the beginning of another day surrounded by needy people seeking His help!

In addition to modeling the Law of Replenishment in His own life, Jesus taught it to His disciples after they participated in a time of intense ministry:

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone (Mark 6:30-32 NLT).

Elijah, Learning the Hard Way

Many of us struggle with this lesson of periodically withdrawing from people in order to refill our spiritual and emotional tanks. Like a car seemingly running for a while on gas fumes, we continue on our journey until we’re absolutely empty.

Often I’ve been like the prophet Elijah, who had to learn the Law of Replenishment the hard way. After courageously confronting hundreds of false prophets on Mount Carmel, things took a downward turn when his life was threatened by Queen Jezebel.

Knowing of Elijah’s great boldness in the past, we would have expected him to easily rebuff this threat. But instead of confidently standing up to Jezebel, Elijah fled for his life. Soon he was cowering in a cold, damp cave – depressed, purposeless, and wanting to die!

Fortunately, in his desperation Elijah had found a solitary place. There were no false prophets to challenge. Nor did he have to call down fire from heaven. And the taunts of Queen Jezebel were far away.

So what did Elijah do? First, he slept a lot. Then he ate some food.

Before long, the prophet was once again able to hear God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). And after his spiritual juices were replenished, Elijah was able to receive a new commission for the next phase of his life (1 Kings 19:15-21).

The Rhythm of Replenishment

Someday I’ll probably have to write a book on the Law of Replenishment. Why? Because it’s a principle I’ve violated time and again. Trying to be a spiritual Superman, my kryptonite has been a failure to regularly check my gauges and realize I’m running on empty.

I should know better by now! The Bible lists a variety of ways God wants us to fill our tanks. Here are three of the most basic:

  • The quiet time principle. Like Jesus illustrated, the best investment you can ever make is to set aside time each day to be still in God’s presence. The amount of time isn’t nearly as important as the consistency of the time.
  • The Sabbath principle. God took a day off after He created the world in six days, and He expects us to have a day of rest every week as well.
  • The holiday principle. Several times each year, God prescribed that His people celebrate a “feast,” consisting of one or more days in which they were to do no work. Although these days had profound spiritual significance, they also provided a yearly schedule akin to our vacations and holidays.
  • The sabbatical principle. Moses and Jesus both went away for 40-day periods to disengage from the humdrum of life and spend time with the Father. Most of us can’t do this each year, but from time to time we need more than a three-day weekend or one-week vacation.

Do you see the beautiful wisdom in this tapestry of rest and renewal God has designed for us? Instead of waiting until our tank is empty and our car is stalled on the side of the road, He prescribes a steady rhythm of replenishment and resupply.

It’s time to get in the rhythm! When you do, the long-term benefits will dramatically change your life. If you don’t…well, remember Elijah’s depressing experience in the cave? You don’t really want to go there.  

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