My grandpa and his buddy “Shorty” had a hobby business fixing lawn mowers. I don’t recall Shorty’s real name, his moniker came from the fact that he was nearly as wide as he was tall. That gave him the appearance of being shorter than he really was. Some days you could find the two older men in Shorty’s driveway with various mowers in different stages of repair. One day I stopped by to chat with Grandpa and watch the men work on engines. Out of curiosity I asked how they knew what needed to be fixed. Grandpa grinned and said “if you got fuel, and you got fire, something’s gotta happen!” So with that he began to teach me how to check if the spark plug is firing. I learned that if the spark is weak the engine may only sputter and die. Also if the spark plug fires at the wrong time the gas can explode in the exhaust causing the engine to backfire. Along the way I learned about carburetors and fuel delivery. The carb is really the heart of a small gas engine. It gets the right amount of fuel exactly where it is needed for the engine to run.
It seems almost every year since that summer day I have worked on small engines. Usually my own equipment but sometimes I help others in need. Most of the trouble I encounter with small engines is fuel related. I have cleaned several carburetors that were gummed up from gas left in them too long or from an additive that does more harm than good. For the past few years I have repaired lawn mower engines for friends who used a gas stabilizer and put the mower away for the winter. Problem is it caused the fuel to gel and that plugs the carb. As a result no gas gets to the engine cylinder. Can’t start an engine without fuel and spark.
I run into problems with my ministry engine sometimes. The same truism Grandpa taught me about engines can be applied to other areas of life. For instance we could compare scripture and prayer to fuel that allows us to accomplish God’s purpose in life. Motivation is the spark that ignites the fuel into action. Sometimes my motivation is weak and nothing happens or it is misplaced and a backfire is the result. Sometimes I allow my prayer life and study time to stagnate and become ineffective. There have been times when I relied on some formula of prayer or study to keep passion alive, kind of like adding stabilizer to a gas tank. A tendency that happens is what was fresh and new loses its power and starts to clog up my thinking. Just like gas left too long in a carburetor the value in God’s word starts mixing with the garbage in my life and my heart is not able to connect the fuel with motivation. One way to avoid this problem is just don’t mix scripture with worldly wisdom.
Some disciples of Jesus experienced an issue once when trying to cast out a demon from a boy. In the account found in Mark 9:14-29 we read that the boy’s father came to Jesus because the disciples were unable to get the demon out of his son. After Jesus frees the boy from the demon the disciples asked why the could not do it. Jesus replied “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” Although the disciples had the right motivation and were empowered by Jesus, they relied on their own ability. The result was a failure to get the fuel and fire connected.
I’ll leave you with this thought; Romans 1:16 (NIV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Keep your tank full with a fresh refueling of God’s word and prayer. Let it go through your heart to be ignited by a motivation to see others become followers of Christ and experience salvation. Then you will truly experience the power of His word.
Rev. Burt Schwab