When You’re Running On Empty

Judd Drake

Easter Sunday
April 4, 2010

JOHN 20:19-31

Happy Easter everybody! 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is without a doubt the single most important event in history.  I say that without any fear of contradiction because every other event in history is dated by its relationship to the resurrection – A.D. or B.C..  Everything else is dated by this event.  This is the event that split history into A.D. and B.C..  When you say “2009” even people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ every day of their life use Jesus Christ as a reference point for their clocks, their calendars, and their schedule.  It’s all dated according to this event.

Easter proved that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be.  He said I’m the Son of God.  I’m the way to heaven.  And to prove it I’m going to let them put me to death.  I’m going to die on the cross for everyone’s sins, three days later I will come back to life.  That’s exactly what He did. 

If there had been no Easter, no resurrection, there would be no forgiveness for your sins.  There would be no hope of heaven.  There would be no purpose in living.  It is the most important event. 

It’s interesting and ironic that when Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross His followers fell apart.  They just scattered to the winds.  They were devastated.  It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.  In their mind Jesus Christ was going to set up a literal kingdom here on earth, a theocracy and ruin the Roman Empire.  All of a sudden He’s being killed between two thieves on a cross.  And they’re going “What’s happening?  Did we miss this?  Did we mess it up?”  When Jesus Christ was arrested all of His followers – they were called disciples – ran away.  They fled like cowards.  Some of them even denied that they knew Him.  They all just scattered to the winds.

So for several days until Jesus rose again these guys were bewildered.  They were discouraged.  They were defeated.  They were disillusioned.  They were demoralized.  They were depressed. 

In a word, they were running on empty.

Three days later, on Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ comes back to life and that night, Easter Sunday evening late in the evening, He goes to meet with His followers – the disciples.  What happens in that room so forever changes them that the transformation is unbelievable.  And those who were once cowards are now full of courage.  And those who were once empty are now empowered.  And those who were once defeated and discouraged and demoralized are now daring.  They’re full of boldness.  They’re afraid of nothing and no one.  They’re ready to take on the Roman Empire and the entire world.  They have ultimate confidence.  They’re full of joy and they’re not even the same people that they were three days earlier.  They are incredibly empowered. 

What happened?  What changed them?  How did Jesus refill their empty tanks when they were running on empty? 

The story of what Jesus did with His followers on Easter is recorded in John 20 in the Bible.  This is Easter night.  “On the evening of that first day of the week [Sunday] when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the authorities.  And Jesus came and stood among them and He said ‘Peace be with you.’  After He said this He showed them His hands [where He had the nail prints] and His side [where the centurion speared Him in the side when He was on the cross] and the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you.  [This is the second time] As My Father has sent Me, I’m now sending you.’  With that He breathed on them and He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins they are forgiven…” Then on down to verse 29 “Then Jesus tells Thomas ‘Because you have seen Me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet they believe.’  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing you may have life in His name.”

I don’t know what kind of week you’ve had.  And I don’t know what kind of month you’ve had or what kind of year you’ve had or what kind of life you’ve had.  But if you’ve ever felt like you were running on empty, just out of gas and thought, “I don’t know whether I can go on.  I’m at the end of my rope.  I’m ready to throw in the towel.  I’m at my wit’s end.  I feel like I’m going to resign from the human race.”  If you’ve ever felt frustrated, fatigued, fearful or just weary.  Sick and tired of being sick and tired – you’ve picked a good Sunday to come to church.  I’ve got good news for you.  The two things that Jesus did with His disciples that turned them from cowards into confident people are the two things He wants to do in your life this Easter.

1.  The first thing that Jesus does when He wants to refill your tank when you’re running on empty is He offers you forgiveness.

That’s the first Jesus did when He met His followers after He came back to life on Easter Sunday.  He offers you forgiveness. 

This is important because forgiveness is a huge re-energizer.  Because the two biggest leaks in your tank, the two things that cause you to run out of energy and drain you emotionally and physically are guilt and resentment.  The answer to both is forgiveness.  Guilt and resentment are the twin emotions that rob you of your energy.  You cannot be guilty and happy at the same time.  You cannot be resentful and happy at the same time. 

That’s a problem.  Because we live in an imperfect world.  We live on a broken planet where there’s a thing called sin.  That means I don’t al ways do the right thing and you don’t either.  I make mistakes.  Sometime I’m selfish.  We hurt each other.  Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.  When I hurt you what I feel is guilt.  When you hurt me what I feel is resentment.  Those two things – guilt over the things that I’ve done wrong in the world and resentment over the things that have been done wrong to me – are the twins that keep me stuck in emotionally empty positions.  They drain the life out of me. 

If you’re ever going to be happy in life you’ve got to learn to let it go.  How to let go of your guilt to God.  And how to let go of your resent against other people.  There’s only one way to do that.  Forgiveness. 

That’s why the next thing Jesus said is this, “If you forgive someone’s sins they’re gone for good.  But if you don’t forgive sins what are you going to do with them?”  What’s Jesus saying here?  He’s saying, “Guys I have forgiven you.  You’re completely forgiven.  That’s why I died on the cross.  I died on the cross for all the things you’ve ever done wrong.  So you are forgiven.  Now, I expect you to do the same thing with other people.  Pass it on.  Cut them a little slack.  Show them some grace.”  Jesus said “I’ve forgiven you for everything you’ve ever done wrong.  Now I expect you to forgive other people.”  Why?  Because guilt and resentment keep you running on empty.

Guilt and resentment keep you stuck in the past.  You can’t get on with the future.  Guilt and resentment warp your personality.  You get angry, you get sarcastic, you get cynical the more bitter you become.  Guilt and resentment ruin relationships. 

Guilt and resentment ruin marriages and ruin relationships. 

When you’ve got garbage in your house you’ve got to take it out periodically or the house starts stinking.  You don’t just pile it up in the corner.  You’ve got to get rid of the guilt and get rid of the grudges. 

So who do you need to let go of today?  Who do you need to let off the hook?  You say, “I just can’t do that!  They hurt me!”  That’s right.  That’s why you need Jesus.  You can’t do it on your own power.  Forgiveness is not earned, it’s not easy and it certainly isn’t fun.  But it’s what lets you get on with your life. 

Last year there was a dear friend of mine – a close friend, a long-term friend, who started stabbing me in the back secretly.  I didn’t know about it.  Because of their pride and their jealousy they just started going around spreading rumors, spreading lies, spreading gossip, doing things to hurt me.  I had no idea this was even going on for a long, long time.  When I finally figured it out it hurt me so bad.  I just started going over and over it.  Why did they do that?  Why did they hurt me like that?  What have I done to hurt them?  Sometimes I’d go to bed at night and before I lay down I’d start to write these angry letters to them in my mind.  Have you ever done this?  “Let me tell you a word or two!” 

But wait a minute.  This isn’t helping.  All this resentment in me is not hurting that person one bit.  It’s just making me miserable.  I’ve got to let it go.  I said, “God, help me to let it go.  It doesn’t matter what they’ve done to me.  It’s not going to change the past.  So help me to just let it go.” 

That’s what God says He wants you to do.  Just let it go. 

Forgiveness is the key to happiness.  “Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven and whose wrongs are pardoned.  Happy is the person whom the Lord does not consider guilty any more.”  Circle “happy.”  Forgiveness is the key to happiness.  Because of the cross and because of Easter, we have been completely forgiven if we have accepted that forgiveness.  So we of all people have a reason to celebrate a reason to be happy.  Because I don’t have a guilty conscience.  It’s all been forgiven.  That’s a happy day.

I know you’d never know by looking at my body but I love Krispy Kream doughnuts!  It’s not just the doughnut.  It’s the cream inside – the Krispy Kream.  Friends, that filling is the nectar of the gods!  They haven’t invented a word to describe how delicious that cream is.  Actually, I think Krispy Kream is the Hebrew word for manna in the Old Testament.  What God actually showered down to them.

It’s interesting that whenever we’re empty on the inside we always have to have a filling of some kind.  I wonder what is your standard preferred filling when you’re running on empty. 

Some of you when you hit the end of the day and you’re tired and you’re wiped out and you’re fatigued and you come home you fill you emptiness with television.  You flop down on the couch, the sofa and you watch several hours of television.  And you fill your emptiness with entertainment.

Others of you when you feel empty on the inside you fill yourself with food.  Or you fill yourself with alcohol.  Or porn.  Or one night stands.

     Some of you when you’re feeling empty you head for the club.  The bar.  The singles scene – to fill up that emptiness. 

     Some of you when you’re running on empty you fill your self with pain pills to take away the pain.

Everybody has something.  It may be a hobby.  It may be a sport.  The number one filling that people have when they’re feeling empty is more work.  I’ll just keep working, and I’ll work harder and harder and harder.  Because I don’t like the way I feel when I slow down.  I don’t like the emptiness that creeps back into my life.  So I’ll just keep busy so when I go to sleep at night and put my head down I don’t have to think.  I just fall asleep.  And we overwork to hide our emptiness.

All of these things – the good and the bad – they all have one thing in common.  None of them last.  None of them keep you satiated.  None of them keep you filled up.  You get hungry again. 

Jesus Christ – God – offers you a permanent filling inside you.  He says I will put Myself in you.  I will put My Spirit in you.  I will fill you up with Me.  That will fill the emptiness that you feel. 

That’s the next thing that Jesus does to revitalize your life when you’re running on empty.

2.  He fills you with His presence when you’re running on empty.

Jesus said I don’t want to just be with you.  I want to be in you.  He says in verse 22 “Then Jesus breathed on them and He said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

What’s the Holy Spirit?  Is this Casper the friendly Ghost?  What is the Holy Spirit?  Jesus says, “I want to be with you… No.  I want to be in you.  All the time.  Moment by moment.”  The Bible calls this being filled with the Spirit.  Being empowered and indwelled and filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Does that sound kind of spooky to you, being filled with the Spirit?  Spirit filled.  What does that mean?  Is that going to turn me into some kind of weirdo?  Some wacko?  Some religious nut where all of a sudden I talk different and I wear polyester and have comb-over.  Or wear big bouffant hairdo.  I don’t even talk right any more. 

No.  God doesn’t need any more weirdoes.  There are plenty of them already in the world.  (Don’t look at them!) There are enough weirdoes in the world.  God doesn’t need anymore weirdoes. 

Actually when God puts Himself in you, you become more you.  You become more natural.  The glory of God is a human being fully alive.  If you’re a man it makes you more masculine and if you’re a female it makes you more feminine, it makes you become what God intended you to be in the first place before all the things of life broke us all up into pieces.  It doesn’t turn you whacko.  It makes you more normal.  It makes you more natural.  It makes you more alive, more enjoying of life. 

So what does that exactly feel like?  What does it look like, what does it feel like to be filled with God’s spirit? 

When God puts His Spirit in your  life is you start producing certain character qualities.  There are nine of them listed in the Bible that are called the fruit of the Spirit.  Because you kind of grow them slowly like fruit.  It doesn’t happen over night.  The Bible says “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace [those are good things.  I want to be more loving.  I want to be more joyful.  I want to be more peaceful] patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control.”  I want those things in my life.  They come from having God in my life.

When somebody says to you, “You’re ­­full of it,” is that a compliment?  It all depends on what the “it” is.  If they mean you’re jealous that’s not good.  If they say, You’re full of it and they mean you’re egocentric, you’re self-serving, you’re only think of yourself, that’s not good. 

But if they say, You’re full of it, and you’re full of love and joy and peace and patience and self control.  That’s good stuff.

Notice this verse “The Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid.  Instead His Spirit fills us with power, love and self control.”  Circle those three words “power, love, self-control.”  When you’re running on empty that’s the exact three things you need when you’re out of gas.  You need power to keep going.  You need love to build relationships.  You need self-control to keep from self-destructing.  He fills you with His presence. 


As we close this Easter service I’m going to pray a prayer like I prayed many years ago when I stepped cross the line and I invite you to follow me in this prayer right now.  Just say it in your mind and God will hear you.  It’s the reason God brought you to this service today.  Just say, Me too, as I say this prayer.  “Dear Jesus Christ, You know when I’m running on empty.  You know when I hurt.  And You know when I hurt others.  This Easter I ask You to revitalize my life.  Physically and emotionally and spiritually.  Thank You for meeting me where I am.  God, I need Your peace to handle the things that stress me out.  Thank You for showing Your love for me by dying for me.  I ask You to forgive all my sins and help me to let go of the people who’ve hurt me.  I ask You to fill me with Your presence.  I need Your power and love and self control.  Help me to discover Your purpose for my life.  Help me to believe.  And to learn to trust You more each day.  Today, with all my doubts I want to step across the line and begin a relationship with You.  I ask You to save and revitalize my life.  In Your name I pray.  Amen.”



Irwinton Toomsboro Salem United Methodist Charge
104 Brookwood Dr. . PO. Box 364 Irwinton, GA 30142
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