A Fuel Problem or a Service Problem?

January 15, 2017

by Dave Hutchinson

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My messages this morning included this from one of the Brazilian elders from the church with whom we share our church building: "We don't have heat at the church....any chance to be no oil?" I knew his assessment was correct. Here in New England, conservatively cool as we keep the building, we consume a lot of fuel in these winter months.

And I knew that it had been five weeks since the truck was last here, had been dreading finding the little receipt taped to our mail box giving the stats: gallons of heating oil, cost per gallon, and total cost. I don't mind that first number -- must have heating oil in order to have heat for the congregants, right? And the second number? Well, we locked in a pretty good rate last May when prices were at their lowest. But that third number? The actual total cost? That's the one that hits the church budget and that's why I wasn't in a rush to call the oil company. They come when they come, I reasoned, and even if the tank is getting low, at least it's not costing us anything.

But this morning, with no heat, I had to make that call. "You let us run out of heating oil and now the heat's not working, and there's church tomorrow," I said. The woman on the other end of the phone didn't like my accusational tone. "It sounds like a service problem and not a fuel problem," she said. "No, it's a fuel problem. We're out of heating oil," was my reply. Her response? "I don't think so. I'm sending a service tech."

But when I arrived at the church building 40 minutes later, both were here. And the fuel truck driver said we were absolutely empty. The service techs hung around to make certain it was just a fuel shortage (it was) and it's nice and toasty in the building, 1751 gallons of oil later....

The analogy? Is your spiritual life cold? Is it a service problem or a fuel problem? If you've been saved by God, delivered from spiritual death because of Jesus' substitutionary death for you on the cross, then it's not a service problem that has you shivering. From experience (both personal and pastoral), I can tell you that you are out of fuel. There's a cost -- time, mostly-- but it's worth the time and effort to avoid a cold spiritual life when you are equipped for heat.

The fuel to which I am referring is that regular, necessary time in God's Word, meditating on that Scripture that God has so graciously given to us. How's your Bible reading going? How about your prayer that you offer up to God in response to what He tells you in His Word? That fuel is what God will use in your life to provide warm comfort to others. As heating oil to a building, as nutritious food to our bodies, so is the Bible to the life of every Christian.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

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