Thursday, April 14, 2016

Running On ‘Empty’ Promises

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “running on empty”? If you’re driving down a highway, it’s probably not a good thing – especially if you’re miles from the nearest exit. There are also times when we feel we’re personally “running on empty,” depleted of our energy – physical, mental and emotional.

It might happen at work, when we’ve invested much time and effort and have reached the point where we feel we have nothing left to give. We try, but we’re running on empty. Maybe at home, where relationships with our spouse or kids are strained and we feel sapped, lacking resources to make necessary changes or repairs. To rid ourselves of this empty feeling might just call for something little: pausing for a short break, getting a cup of coffee or a snack to recharge, or taking a nap. Instant recharge. If we’re really feeling empty, however, it might be necessary to get away for a while to regroup. Empty – most of the time – isn’t a good place to be.

Recently, however, it came to my attention that running on “empty” isn’t always a bad thing. I must credit my friend, Len Allen, for pointing this out. Leading up to Easter, Len observed on his own blog that some of the most treasured icons of Christianity – the manger, the cross, and the tomb – are empty. Which prompted me to realize it could be said, in a sense, our faith in Jesus Christ is based on “empty” promises.

Stating it another way, we embrace the promises of the Bible because the manger, the cross and the tomb – each of which once held the person and body of Jesus – are empty. The tomb, to be specific, was vacated because it was no longer required.

We're in the midst of a raucous, rancorous, reprehensible Presidential election season. Everyone, Hillary and Bernie and Donald and Ted, are making promises. From experience we know that as with all campaigning, lots of promises being made will prove to be empty ones. They sound good at the time, but ultimately we’ll discover there was little will – or intent – to carry them out.

On the other hand, the “empty” promises of Christ can be embraced exactly because we're assured they will be fulfilled.

During the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus with the tender scene in the stable, the tiny Christ Child lying in a manger – a common feeding trough. But He didn’t remain there for long. As for the cross, some denominations use the crucifix as a symbol, showing Jesus still nailed to it. But His body was removed from it before sunset the same day. And most important of all, the tomb in which the body was placed turned out to be just borrowed. The morning of the third day, an angel addressed the grieving women who had gone to the tomb. He told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he is risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6).

The manger. The cross. The tomb. All empty.

Because of this – and the fact that Jesus was resurrected from death, the promises He made during his earthly life continue to be kept today. He declared, “I have come that they (those who believe) may have life, and have it to the full (abundantly)” (John 10:10). He declared, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14:15).

Jesus promised, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He assured His followers, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

And regarding the meantime, Jesus vowed, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

During His time on earth, Jesus made many other promises, but if these were the only ones He made, wouldn’t they be enough? Think about it: A full, abundant life. A personal, first-name-basis relationship with the Shepherd. His continual presence with us spiritually. Full knowledge and understanding of the truth. And assurance of a special place for us after this life has ended.

Jesus, we could say, was kind of “old school.” Unlike today, when so many empty promises are eagerly and casually tossed out, soon to be forgotten, Jesus’ “empty promises” stand firm. His word is His bond.

The essence of Christianity amounts to “running on empty promises,” and despite growing cultural opposition, it remains running very strong.

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