I have never run out of gas. And I don’t think it’s likely to happen, because it’s one of those things that I tend to keep my eye on. Once my gauge drops to a quarter of a tank, I start looking for a gas station.
I’ve got friends who will let their needle plunge to empty — and even then remark that they know their car is still good for “x” number of miles. Not me! I rarely let my tank get low enough to turn on the little warning light. And if that light does blink on, I immediately grab a hot pink rubber wrist band that says “Man Up!” (where did I get that?) and slap it on my dashboard as a reminder to get gas ASAP.
I wish it was as easy to detect when I’m running low on the Holy Spirit. I need a gauge that tells me that it’s time to stop and fill up — that I’ve exhausted my tank of spiritual resources and am in danger of stranding my life by the side of the road.
If you’ve been following the story of Samson in the book of Judges (see Scripture Union’s daily Bible reading schedule), you may have underlined in your Bible the tragic summary of this flawed hero’s sparring with the temptress Delilah.
He woke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.—Judges 16:20
What a terrible epitaph: He did not know that the LORD had left him. While I know that the Holy Spirit will never leave me, I am equally aware that God’s Word instructs me to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
I assume this means that I can be unfilled. That I can so neglect or resist the work of God’s Spirit in my life that my spiritual tank drops to empty. How would I know if this were happening to me? Is there a gauge I can check to see if I’m headed for trouble?
Let me ask you that same question with regard to Samson. As you read his story this past week, did you see tell-tale signs in his life that something was amiss? That he was draining his tank?
If you follow this blog (or have read my book, Walk), you know that I coach Bible readers to look for repeating words or ideas in each day’s passage. This is one of four kinds of observations to make in every text. (Can you recall the other three?)
Did you spot the repeating behaviors in Samson’s life that eventually drained his spiritual tank? I saw at least three of these. And they alerted me to look for similar patterns in my own life. These patterns are the gauges that will let me know if the Spirit’s filling is getting dangerously low — and that I need to stop ASAP and get refilled.
The first repeating behavior I noticed was Samson’s vindictiveness. Ironically, God used his pent-up resentment and hair-trigger temper to wreak havoc on the Philistines — but that didn’t make it morally right.
The Bible paints it as petty and self-centered. Like when Samson killed 30 men of Ashkelon, just because his wedding party guessed the riddle that he’d posed for them (Judges 14:18-19). Or the time Samson burned all the Philistine’s crops because his wife — whom he had abandoned! — had been given to someone else (15:1-5).
Even Samson’s final heroic act — killing a slew of Philistines by bringing down the pagan temple where they were reveling — wasn’t motivated by a desire to defend God’s honor. Samson was just getting even with his enemies for gouging out his eyes (16:28).
When my gauge drops from patience and grace toward others (full) to irritation and resentment (empty), I know that it’s time for a refilling of the Spirit.
A second repeating (mis)behavior that Samson ignored was his womanizing. An early sign of such was when he crudely told his parents: “’I have seen a … woman … now get her for me’” (14:2). Not long after that, “he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her” (16:1). That fix obviously didn’t last, so “he fell in love” (or lust) with Delilah (16:4).
When my eyes start latching onto good-looking women, when impure fantasies linger in my imagination, when I’m less-than-discerning in what I allow on my TV or PC screen — I know that it’s time for a refilling of the Spirit.
Here’s a third gauge that went unheeded in Samson’s life: Delilah’s repeated attempts to do him in. Were you as amazed as I was that Samson kept going back to this woman who was clearly collaborating with the enemy? Had he never heard the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?” Samson allowed himself to be fooled four times!
So, is there a temptation in my life that I keep going back to again and again and again? If I keep repeating the same sin, I know that it’s time for a refilling of the Spirit.
What do your gauges say?