“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are sorry for the delay, but it seems we cannot start the engines.”
Those are not the words you want to hear when sitting on a 747 jet in Japan hoping to make it all the way back to the U.S. from a mission trip. But those are indeed the words that came from the pilot as I sat on the runway in Tokyo.
We had already flown from Malaysia to the Philippines and then to Japan and all had gone well. But suddenly, the same plane that had just flown eight hours from Malaysia to Japan was no longer able to start its powerful engines. So there we were, sitting on the runway in a plane that could no longer fly.
After examination, it was determined that the issue was a clogged fuel filter. Ninety minutes later, the pilot announced that the fuel filter had been cleaned out and we would be taking off soon. By this point, my level of confidence had been a bit shattered. Almost two hours past our original departure time, we took off with a fuel filter that was no longer clogged and engines that would once again start and (hopefully) keep running throughout the upcoming 14-hour flight.
During the early hours of the long flight, I thought about our perfectly good engines being rendered useless by something as simple as a clogged fuel filter. (Or maybe I just didn’t want to sleep because I wanted to hear those engines running!)
I began to wonder about the spiritual lesson in that experience. Yes, there was a lesson in trusting the Lord to get you home safely. And there was a lesson in patience. And also a lesson in using the delay as an opportunity to share with seat-mates. There was even a lesson in overcoming the heat in the cabin over those two hours.
But the lesson that took over most of my thoughts was wondering if the “fuel filter” of my heart had ever gotten clogged and prevented me from being able to “fly” with the power God intended.
What might clog my “fuel filter”?
Perhaps not being intentional in studying God’s Word.
David tells us in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Being in the Word every day is my map for the day. It tells me how and where to “fly.” Philippians 4:9 reminds me to think on whatever is right, lovely and worthy of praise. My mind can stay focused on what really matters when I keep these things before me. But without having God’s Word hidden in my heart, it’s a little tough to know what really is right, lovely and worthy of praise. When I lose sight of that, I lose sight of the path that is lit. And soon, I’m left feeling burned out.
Or perhaps my “fuel filter” gets clogged when my prayer life is lacking.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing” (NKJV). Do I really do that? Do I pray for the Muslim woman I pass at the mall? Do I pray for ministry awareness? Do I pray for eyes that see the sin in my life? Do I pray for my enemies as well as my friends? When I feel as if my prayers stop at the ceiling, is it because my spiritual filter is clogged? After all, Jesus told the disciples when they could not cast out the demon, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 10:29)
Most of us, at some time in our walk with the Lord, experience burn out, fatigue and feelings of powerlessness. Our engines just won’t start.
The good news is we are still bound for heaven, Jesus is still our Savior, and the Holy Spirit is still very much a part of our lives.
But perhaps our weariness is a reminder to take a bit of a sabbath and “clean out the fuel filters.” Like that 747 plane, once they are cleared, we will be more than ready for the long flight ahead with power to spare as His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gayla Parker is an adjunct professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas and author of Active Compassion: A Calling to Care. She has served in ministry for more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, International Mission Board missionary and women’s ministry consultant for two state conventions. Her husband Freddy is pastor of LifeWAY Baptist Church in Little Rock. This column first appeared at the BiblicalWoman.com website of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)