When service stations offered service, it was such a simple thing. He would drive his car in alongside a pump. A friendly gentleman would come out to see what he needed. All he had to do was tell him, "Fill ’er up, Mate!" and the job was as good as done.
That has all changed. We live in a do-it-yourself society. Sometimes you may demand to do it yourself - perhaps to save money doing the tiles on the bathroom floor. At other times it is thrust on you, whether you want it or not - and probably doesn’t save you a cent!
Twenty years ago in Brisbane I used to go to the local service station every week to put in $5 worth of petrol for our six-cylinder car. That’s all it took. Then a day came when I ran out of petrol - I hadn’t adjusted for increasing prices!
The fill-’er-up mentality has had to change in many areas of our lives. For one thing, reserves or fuel and other resources aren’t unlimited. But in any case, the prices of so many commodities force us all to weigh our spending much more closely than we used to do. We are learning to cut back - and we can find that a difficult and painful experience.
As I write, the world is on the brink of war with Iraq. By the time this is published, action may well have begun. Christians have many differing opinions about whether war is ever justified and about whether it is justified in this particular case. We have to respect one another as we pray to our common Lord who hears our prayers, knows the good intentions of our hearts and understands all that is going on far better than any so-called human "intelligence."
As the reality of armed conflict looms closer, the threat to our Australian society is being taken very seriously by authorities in Queensland. The Iraqi leadership has promised strikes against targets around the world. We need to be, not panic-stricken, but vigilant.
However, the greatest threat to our nation comes from our low spiritual stocks. Do we have the spiritual strength to face the very real challenges of the present time? Sadly, we have been "cutting back" in our relationship with God.
We used to "top up our reserves" by attending church every Sunday morning - and many went at night as well. But then the motor car gave us more mobility - more freedom to go somewhere, to visit the "rellies."
Then Sunday became the major sporting day. And the television gave us a range of programmes we wanted to watch - including some Christian programmes, so we didn’t feel so bad. Christmas Day and Good Friday became major days for church attendance - plus, of course, weddings, baptisms and funerals.
It’s not that the "cost" of God’s grace is going up. That has been all paid for when Jesus died on the cross. It is freely available for whoever desires to receive it. The reason we run dry is that we don’t "fill up" often enough.
We read that on the day of Pentecost the disciples of Jesus "were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2.4). Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus that they should "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5.18) - it has a continuous sense and means "be continually being filled with the Spirit."
And that highlights where we have been missing out. It even shows the danger of thinking that our church attendance - whether weekly or annually - "tops us up." Lots of people will say they believe in God - but do they live in a relationship with him?
What we need isn’t a religion - a set of values and observances - but a relationship with God. We need to come to him daily and ask him to "fill ’er up!" We need to "walk" the day with him - coming again and again to be filled up again.
Don’t get me wrong! When we have a relationship with God, we will live by a set of values and we will want to share regularly in worship with other Christian people. As we read in Hebrews 10.25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
These are disturbing and challenging times for us all. We need a strong faith in God and a network of support and encouragement around us. We aren’t meant to face it alone - but with him and with one another. The Lord will "fill ’er up" and we will build one another up.
© Peter J. Blackburn, Link, April 2003