Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Empty Bottle

   For a long while, I kept seeing this bottle in my mind.
Initially, it was half-full. Then it kept reducing as the days went by till it eventually became empty. I was worried...that bottle  represented me, it represented my spirit.

Yes, I knew I was a born again Christian. Yet, I felt empty like something was missing. I was not feeling fulfilled, joyful or purposeful. My Christianity had become just a religion. Going to church, evangelism, serving, praying for lost souls had all become dragging activities. I was at my lowest point and I kept wondering how I would get back that revival fire that made me feel so alive, joyful and purposeful.
Even God seemed far away, like a Supreme Being far up in heaven. I couldn't feel Him; I wasn't close to Him anymore.

      I remembered that three years ago, the reverse had been the case. By the time I left secondary school, I was born again. I had a relationship with God and Jesus and prayed to them everyday. But I didn't immediately enter the Uni and was at home for a year. Because of the ample time I had then, I did a lot of exploring including discovering and learning more about God. That period, I came across books on the Holy Spirit written by men of God like Benny Hinn, Chris Oyakhilome and Chris Kwapovwe. For the first time, I learnt that the Holy Spirit was a person, just like God the Father and the Son. Before then, I used to think He was like a wind, dove or fire that gave people gifts and made people speak in tongues.
Like a person, we could have a relationship with Him. He's still God and not just something God the Father uses to touch the lives of people. One of those books asked, "Are you ready to have a relationship with Him? Do you want to let Him into your life?" The moment I said 'yes', I knew it was the start of a relationship with someone I knew so little about. 

During prayer time, I made sure  I had the 'Talking time' when I just talked to God without asking about anything. I began talking with the Holy Spirit as a person. I jut wanted to know Him, I was curious about the most 'spirited' of the Trinity. I found out that He was actually a person! He was like a friend that always seemed so happy, open and playful. He was that kind of person you could talk and laugh with. I talked to Him about everything including unnecessary trivial things. I asked Him many questions and He gave me answers. Prayer time became Conversation time. I began to feel happy and revived. There was that revival fire that kept burning in my soul. For the first time, I began to pray not just for myself and my family, but for others like wartorn countries, the sexually abused, the depressed, the poor. I did it even in the family prayers, my mum commented one day, "Ihuoma can pray for the world, eh." He gave me desire to read my Bible and to actually understand it. No longer did the Bible seem like  a book written by 'The Oga at the top' to dictate how we should live our lives. When I read it, it was like someone was talking to you through a letter. It opened my eyes to the meanings behind each verse. I could see God as a person not just 'The Big Guy Up stairs'. He had feelings too; He could be happy, hurt, jealous, angry, forgiving and loving. The Holy Spirit gave me ideas and inspiration. He showed me my purpose. I felt so happy, purposeful and completed. Because of that, I always looked forward to prayer/conversation time.

Then I entered the Uni. Of course I was still born again. The fire was still fresh. I went to church, joined fellowships, led people to Christ...but I made one mistake: I stopped having my quiet/talking time with the Holy Spirit. I was no longer Mary that just wanted to sit and talk with Him, I had become Martha instead. I was just so busy with school and religious activities, so I neglected my relationship with the Holy Spirit. I call this Martha's Syndrome. Gradually and unknowingly at fist, I stopped feeling revived. It started in my first year, progressed into my second year and was worse by my third year. I attended all the church programmes and fellowships I could but nothing could revive me back. I knew something was wrong somewhere. I was a Christian but I felt empty like an empty bottle. There was no fire, revival or passion. I sought for a cure. 

Then one Yule Tide season, I came across Benny Hinn's book: 'Good Morning, Holy Spirit'. Reluctantly I picked it up to read because I had already read it before...but I was desperate. While reading, He said something that struck me:
"What  happens  to  a  marriage  when  one  partner  ignores the  other?  After  a  short  period  of  time  bitterness  begins  to enter  the  heart.  Words  begin  to  cut  like  a  sharp  knife.  Soon the  animosity  turns  to  anger,  jealousy,  and  even  worse.  For many  it  results  in  separation,  divorce,  and  hatred.  But  the rift  can  so  easily  be  mended.  All  it  takes  is  a  fresh  surrender that  comes  from  your  very  soul.  And  a  renewing  of  the  vow to "love,  honor, and cherish." The  same  thing  will  happen  if  you  neglect  the  Lord. You  will  develop  bitterness  and  anger.  Suddenly  you  will be  out  of  fellowship  with  the  Lord.  That's  what  happened  to the  children  of  Israel  in  the  wilderness.  They  began  to complain,  "If  only  we  had  died  in  the  land  of  Egypt!  Or  if only  we  had  died  in  this  wilderness!  Why  has  the  LORD brought  us  to  this  land  to  fall  by  the  sword?"  (Num. 14:2-3).  And  the  Lord  said  to  Moses  and  Aaron,  "How  long shall  I  bear  with  this  evil  congregation  who  murmur  against Me?" (v. 27). The  children  of  Israel  went  from  saying,  "The  Lord  is God,"  to  complaining,  "Wouldn't  it  be  better  to  return  to Egypt?"  What  caused  the  change?  They  stopped  seeking Him,  and  their  hearts  became  hardened.  And  before  they understood what  was  happening,  they had  forsaken  Him. Don't  let  a  day  go  by  without  a  fresh  surrender  to  the Lord.   Paul  wrote,  "Even  though  our  outward  man  is perishing,  yet  the  inward  man  is  being  renewed  day by  day" (2  Cor.  4:16).  Surrender  must  be  continual,  a  never-ending emptying  of  self  to  the  Lord.  And  once  you  make  it  a  habit, you'll   begin  to  experience  God's  perfect  union,  perfect fellowship, perfect  understanding,  and  perfect  love. I  believe  it  is  God's  will  for  you  to  be  continually  filled with  the  Holy  Spirit.."

Then it dawned on me. All these while I had been feeling empty, it was because I had neglected my relationship with the Holy Spirit. For me to be always filled, I had to constantly be in His presence. From that moment on, I decided that I had to start my relationship with the Holy Spirit, all over again. It was like I had become born again, again. Talking to Him seemed new. It was like talking with some one you meet for the fist time. You would talk cautiously until you're free enough around the person to be yourself and talk about anything. Gradually, I began to feel revived once again. I began to ask Him questions about different things and He answered me. When I felt down, He comforted me. He reminded me about my purpose and began guiding me. 
Gradually, the revival fire flickered and began burning again; I began to pray for souls as before. I began to feel happy, purposeful and complete once again...slowly but surely. Like a child, I was growing....again.

     So if I may ask, do you sometimes have symptoms like: sadness/depression, feelings of emptiness like something is missing in your life, feelings of purposelessness, having lots of questions about the circumstances surrounding you, feeling that serving God is a chore, spiritual laziness/emptiness/shallowness, Martha's Syndrome. If you have most or all of these symptoms, the most likely diagnosis is that: your bottle (spirit) is empty of oil (the Holy Spirit/revival). Don't worry, the prognosis is good. The treatment I would recommend is that you start developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Dosage: At least once daily, preferably during your prayer/quiet time. Prayer time shouldn't just be a time we go and pour out our requests to God and run off in faith. It should also be a time we talk to God, especially the Holy Spirit. Discuss with Him, ask Him questions, worship Him, spend time with Him as long as you like and also importantly, listen to Him. He would answer your questions, help, teach,guide and comfort you when you're broken; that's why He's called the Comforter. 

Hopefully, as you begin this treatment regimen and never stop, your bottle would always be filled.

Leviticus 6:12a: "The fire on that altar shall be kept burning...It shall not go out...."