A few days ago I was driving to work on a sunny Monday morning, which was unusual because I usually catch the bus or go into Leeds on the train. But occasionally when Karen is on holiday I get the luxury of a lift into work. On this particular day it had not been planned until the afternoon before. You see West Yorkshire metro have recently introduced a new ticketing system whereby, in theory at least, you can go to a selection of local shops and update your shiny new electronic pass with either a week pass for the bus and train or a month’s worth. Due to Karen and I having been to south Wales on the Friday and Saturday previously I had not had chance to renew my pass over the weekend, but thought nothing of it. I thought it won’t be a problem I’ll pop to one of these local shops to get my top up on the Sunday after church.
Best laid plans and all that, I walked into the local shop and asked for a week’s bus pass on my shiny new electronic pass only to be faced with a blank look by the lad behind the counter.
“Err, I’m not sure how to do that, they haven’t told me how to do it.” Was his stuttered response.
Undeterred I handed him the pass which he duly scanned and from the question he asked it was obvious that had I been trying to top up my electricity or gas meter I would not have had a problem, but the bus pass was just a top-up too far. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, and not wanting to loose £22.50 on a transaction that might go pear shaped I retrieved my pass and thought I’ll try somewhere else.
Getting back in the car and explained to Karen my dilemma, she made the suggestion that she take me into work and then I could go to the bus station in Leeds where at least I know what they are doing when it comes to this new-fangled electronic bus and train passes. That seemed like a good idea to me and it meant that I could steal and extra hours kip on that morning as I would not have to get up at silly o’clock to get the 07:02 bus, Always a bonus.
So there we were, something like 9:20 in the morning myself, Karen and Chris and John just pulling onto the M62 at junction 26 hurtling headlong towards Leeds when the engine died on the car!
I thank God that we had left a little later than normal (one of the benefits of flexi-time) and whilst busy, the M62 was not as busy as it would have been had we been an hour earlier. I had to quickly check my rear view mirror and the passenger side door mirror, indicate to the left and pull over to what used to be the hard shoulder, but now with this new multi speed controlled motorway was just another lane, albeit the nearside lane. Again another reason to be grateful to God, there was an ERA (Emergency Rescue Area) near to where the car had decided that it was going to go on strike, so I was able to coast the car into that and we were thankfully able to park up clear of the carriageway.
I have gone into this detail because over the past few days or so I have reflected on the events that led up to this incident and the incident itself and have concluded that God had his hand on us even in this ‘ordinary’ situation. You see, Karen and I had done a 475 mile round trip the previous weekend and what we found out had gone wrong with the car could have gone wrong during our sojourn to South Wales!
Anyway to cut an otherwise longer story than this has already been a little shorter, we were eventually rescued by a Green Flag man, who by the way was of a most generous disposition, offering us chocolate, tuna sandwiches and juice as a form of comfort and refreshment for us (a modern day Samaritan type maybe?), and we were transported eventually to the repair garage where we had purchased the car from earlier this year for it to be repaired.
What our knight in shiny green armour discovered was that we had a major fuel leak somewhere around the fuel pump which of course was not going to be fixable by the road side. So our engine starved of one of its essential nutrients, namely diesel, had taken us as far as it could on fresh air then just died.
There are two analogies which have been wrestling for attention in my mind over this situation (not including the picture of the modern day Good Samaritan, which has just come to mind as I type this). I have not known which one it most relevant or which one to run with for the purposes of this blog post, so I am going to share both with you, and I simply pray and hope that they speak to you in some small way.
Firstly, the engine dying and being starved of diesel is a little like our lives when we stifle the work of The Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you but I suspect if you are anything like me there are cracks in your life, after all none of us are perfect are we? Like our fuel pump which we discovered had developed a crack, the diesel leaked out until there was nothing left. Cracks in our life can be a bit like that with The Holy Spirit. Those cracks are usually identified by sin in our lives, not necessarily those that we are as of yet unaware of, but those that we keep perpetuating through our own force of will. If we keep perpetuating sin in our lives, cracks form and The Holy Spirit is not as effective as He would be otherwise.
The crack in our fuel pump on the car developed because the pump was under pressure. Our lives are under constant pressure and sometimes we crack and when we do we sin. This is something I think we need to guard against and I know in this that I am talking to myself as much as anyone who might read this. I want Jesus to fill me with His Holy Spirit and for the out working of the Holy Spirit to be powerful. You see, if we had realised it, we would have thought something was wrong with the car before it got to the stage of cutting out on us. Why? Because in retrospect we realised that there was not the same power there that there should have been. The right amount of fuel was not getting into the combustion chamber because some of it was leaking out and falling to the floor or evaporating off into the atmosphere. Now, with a new fuel pump on the car we can feel the full benefit of the 149bhp engine that is under the bonnet. I wonder is it like that with the Holy Spirit? Is my walk with God and the influence for good that I have on other people thwarted by the cracks in my life and the Holy Spirt not being allowed to be as effective as would otherwise be the case? Do I project outwards as much of The Holy Spirit that in His Grace, God endows me with? I find myself challenged by that thought.
The second idea that has been swimming around in the maelstrom that is my mind is the thought that something so small could bring such a large powerful vehicle to a standstill and stop it working completely so easily. Now in this I defer to St Paul who in in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 14-31said this:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Now this passage is often talked about in terms of the local church and rightly so, it gives good advice on the different functions needed to run a local congregation and to encourage everyone in the local congregation to play an active and vital role in sustaining that local congregation. But I think this passage can be applied to the church universal too. We all have a role to play, some are big noisy and obvious roles, many are quiet, sometimes mundane roles, but whatever our role it is vital. Our fuel pump played a vital role in getting fuel in the right quantity and at the right time into the combustion chamber of our car. When it failed to do that, the car stopped!
So my question is what role do you play and if you are not fulfilling that role are you making the car of the Church underperform or in more drastic situations stop altogether? I need to ask myself regularly am I underperforming. I’m afraid to have to admit that often the answer to that question is yes if I am brutally honest with myself, the next question that I should also ask myself is that underperformance due to the first issue I have talked about in this blog. Have I got cracks, are they due to unresolved sin in my life? These questions are painful and difficult to ask and to answer honestly, but if I want God to work powerfully in my life then they are questions that I need to ask and probably ask repeatedly.