Have you ever driven your car and pushed its limits on its gas? “I can make it a little bit further before I have to stop and get gas,” we rationalize. That gas needle gets lower and lower and we keep going and going. We say that we are running on fumes. Don’t we do that with our faith? We go and we go and we go running on our faith supply, all while our faith needle gets lower and lower and lower.
Lots of things cause this to happen. Words with friends (and not the game) can cause us to distance ourselves from others and faith. Choices we make like drinking from a red solo cup, or taking a hit off that joint, or joining in with the name calling, or ignoring someone on purpose, or hanging out with questionable people can lead us down the wrong path. Someone says something or does something to us and we get angry at that person. Our anger blinds us to see that person in any other way.
All of these (and many more) are like a dark cloud hovering over us distancing us from God, from holy living, and from the community of faith. Yet, we tend to keep going rather than stop and refill our spiritual tank. And when we do that, we find ourselves getting weaker and weaker. So, how do we refill our tank?
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, provided Christians with these General Rules for living in the Christian community:
- Avoid evil of all sorts (or do no harm)
- Do good of all sorts
- Attend upon all the “ordinances of God” (or stay in love with God)
Professor Ted Campbell talks about these Rules as a “kind of contract by which Methodists held each other accountable from week to week for their moral conduct.” In particular the community held each other accountable when it came to the “ordinances of God”. This included public worship; reading, studying, and preaching/teaching of the Scriptures; Holy Communion; private and public prayer; and fasting. These practices are also known as “means of grace.”
United Methodists understand means of grace as the ways in which God channels grace to humanity. When we come to the Table and receive the bread and the juice we are experiencing God’s grace. When we study the Scriptures alone, in a group, or during worship we are experiencing God’s grace. When we spend time in prayer we experience God’s grace.
When we participate in these private and public spiritual disciplines – when we really participate in these disciplines – we refill our spiritual tank. In essence the more time we spend in holy time with God, the more our spiritual tank will stay full. Because we need a full tank when it comes to choosing between what is right and what is easy.