I don’t see this as often as I used to, but it still happens—the occasional sighting of a car pulled off the side of the road with its hood up, steam billowing from the engine. What causes this unfortunate and untimely interruption in our busy lives? Basically, the water in the car’s radiator has dropped below a critical level and the engine overheats, boiling the remaining water—and thus the clouds of steam. Sometimes the critical water level is crossed suddenly when a radiator hose springs a big leak. But more often than not, it’s the result of a slow, steady, drip-drip-drip. If enough water drains out of the system through a slow or sudden leak, eventually there’s not enough water to cool the engine—and the remaining water boils inside the engine and is released as steam through whatever exit point it can find—usually a radiator hose with a weak spot or puncture.
Besides being frustrating, water draining out of the radiator can be very expensive. Running too long on an engine in which the water has drained away will definitely cause the engine to overheat and crash—and possibly burn. The challenge is to plug the leaks before damage can occur.
If you stop and think about it, there is a perfect analogy in the spiritual life. I don’t want to push the metaphor too far—but I think it is safe to say that a Christian can experience the power of the Spirit draining out of his life. And like the vast majority of leaks in literal water systems, leaks in our spiritual reservoirs happen beneath the surface, out of sight, one drip-drip-drip at a time—until we realize we are completely without power or spiritual health.
Plugging the Spiritual Drains
The New Testament speaks of two ways Christians can lose spiritual power and resources: grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and quenching he Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Our choices can negate the work of the Spirit in our lives through:
1. The drain of negative influences. Inappropriate friendships and relationships can lead us away from God (Deuteronomy 13:6-9), impact our character and behavior (Proverbs 22:24-25), and cause us to become an enemy of God (James 4:4).
2. The drain of busyness. Spiritual growth and power take time and effort. Yes, the Holy Spirit does the changing in us, but we make ourselves available to Him through prayer, Bible study, worship, service, fellowship, solitude, meditation on Scripture, and others. The psalmist wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). But the Word doesn’t get into our life by osmosis. It gets there when we take time to study it, listen to it preached and taught, and discuss it with others.
3. The drain of materialism. Jesus said it best: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). In modern language, “mammon” is money—we cannot serve God wholeheartedly if our spiritual power is being drained away in the pursuit of materialism.
4. The drain of envy or jealousy. There is a temptation to envy those who do wrong (Psalm 73; Proverbs 3:31) and to compare ourselves with them (2 Corinthians 10:2). But Proverbs 14:30 says that “envy is rottenness to the bones.”
There are other spiritual drains, of course—but these four represent the tiny leaks that, over time, can cause our spiritual power to dissipate and vanish. And when that happens, we eventually end up like a car pulled to the side of the road with a cloud of steam billowing from beneath the raised hood. The insidious thing about these leaks is that they seem negligible and insignificant. And in the early stages of a drain’s activity, they are. A single envious thought or materialistic impulse is not going to sideline a Christian. But if those go unconfessed and are allowed to accumulate drip-by-drip-by-drip, a tipping point will be reached. To avoid being left by the side of the road spiritually, develop an awareness of spiritual drains and then put practices into place to avoid them in the future—stop the leaks!
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
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