FENTON, MI – What I am about to tell you will certainly date me, but I can distinctly remember filling automobile after automobile with gasoline at my father’s Fina Service Station for the mere price of 19.9 cents per gallon for regular. Ethyl sold for the astronomical price of 24.9 cents per gallon, and was purchased by the guys who owned high-powered hotrods. On a Friday or Saturday night most of my business consisted of the teenagers in town pulling in and asking for a “dollars worth”. If it happened to be a motorcycle they would usually flip me a quarter and say filler up. To say the least, things have changed. A dollar will only purchase a third of a gallon of fuel and a quarter won’t even buy a candy-bar much less a gallon of gasoline.
I worked in that service station for several years, and as a result learned a great deal about discipline, people, and a small amount about running a business. My dad was a hard working man that provided well for his family, but to say he was a really good businessman would be a bit of an overstatement. Because of this, the service station never really produced much tangible income, but in reality cost my family more than it brought in. Many times my friends would want me to give them gasoline at no cost. Of course, they always had a good excuse or they would ask me to fill it up now and they would pay me later. My dad was very soft hearted and created a credit account for several in the community, and when we finally extricated ourselves from the business the family was left holding thousands of dollars of delinquent accounts that were never collected. They all wanted something for nothing. It was a learning experience, to say the least.
I came away from my “station days” with a new perspective on people and for that matter life. I don’t believe I was really jaded by those encounters, but I did become more discerning. My time there also helped me to be a better judge of people and their character. My gullibility level went down, but I still inherited the “softy” gene from my dad. People in need still get to me, and I would probably give away the farm if my wife would let me. I have also learned the actions and character of people today are very little different than those people in that day and time. People are people, no matter when or where they exist. I have learned those human characteristics that are common to all of humanity transcend into the spiritual realm as well.
I have found many people want to have a full and meaningful relationship with God, but they don’t want to pay the price for it. They just want God or someone to hand it to them with little or no sacrifice on their part. Many are well intentioned when they try to make deals with God, and reason with Him that they will do much better in the future, if He will just meet their pressing need right now. They want the blessings of God now, but on credit.
I have even seen some display the same actions and attitude of one fellow I remember that pulled into our Fina Station in a monumental hurry. He was in a mad dash and didn’t even wait for me to come out and start the pump and put fuel in his vehicle for him (In those days they were actually service stations and we actually serviced their cars for them! What a concept!). By the time I got out to the pump he shoved $5.00 in my hand, jumped back into his truck and told me to hurry and finish it up. Before I was half finished, he thought for some reason that his tank was full and he cranked up the motor and peeled out of the drive as fast as he could. The nozzle was still inserted in the filler neck of his truck and gasoline was still flowing as he pulled away. The hose came out and fuel was spewed all over the pavement because there were no automatic cut-off valves on pumps at that time. He was in such a big hurry that he never really filled up and left me with a mess to clean up.
Too many people today believe they can be spiritually filled without ever slowing down and stopping in the process. They are in such a hurry that they believe in a sort of “in flight fueling system” that doesn’t require a reduction of activity or actions. In order for us to get filled and full we must first get close enough to God for Him to provide what we need. We also must slow down and wait until the process is finished or we will go away with only a small portion of what we need or worse, still empty. Besides, running away from the work of God in you life before it is complete will always result in a mess. That is usually when you rely on the service station attendant (Local Pastor) to help clean up the mess.
The price of filling up today may be exorbitantly high, but the cost of running on empty is not something anyone can afford.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.