The invitation was to drive from Sydney to Melbourne, some 900 to 1000 kilometres (around 600 miles), depending on which highway we took. It was to be a weekend round-trip, close to 2000 kilometres all up. My driving mate was a nice guy, but not a Christian in the way I would define that status, although I am fairly sure he would have thought of himself as one.

We were going in my Morris Mini, my third car and the first bought new.  The speedometer read in miles per hour and the petrol tank held gallons not litres.  I can't remember now how many gallons the tank held, but I do remember that when the engine was tuned correctly, I would get 50 miles to the gallon, a standard I still use today to judge fuel consumption. I am afraid I can't get used to litres per 100 kilometres - it seems to require the dismantling of my entire brain and just doesn't compute. I can sometimes relate to kilometres per litre, but it still doesn't become really meaningful until I see it in miles to the gallon!  I think I could get about 500 kilometres (300 miles) from a tank-full, but I could be wrong. I am sure it was not possible to reach Melbourne without refilling somewhere along the way.

My first car was a Simca Aronde, a cute-looking little French car. Everything inside seemed to be made of hard plastic, (brittle hard plastic), and so everything broke! It also boasted 32 grease nipples and needed servicing every 1000 miles! Before a trip around New South Wales, I had the thing serviced at a local garage and fortunately I watched. The mechanic put away the grease gun after attending to only 6 of the grease nipples, and I had to get him to do the other 28 by pointing them out.  As a result of this experience, I decided to learn to do my own servicing. When I bought the Mini, I learned to replace points, set the timing and dwell angle, and also to adjust the fuel mixture.  After a little practice, I could tune that engine by ear - could set it correctly just by listening to it purr. A tiny nudge to the distributor would make the difference between 35 miles to the gallon and 50.  And a quarter of a turn of the fuel mixture adjustment on the SU carburettor would make the same difference.  Eat your hearts out guys, envying all you are missing out on, with your fuel injection and electronic ignition systems!  The only reason I mention all this stuff, (that no one relates to today), is that I can vouch for the fact that my engine was beautifully tuned when we took off for Melbourne.

Another very relevant fact I must mention is that at the time my wages were quite low. I think $80 a week, before tax, may be exaggerating. After board and repayments on the car, there wasn't much left. As a result, I had run out of petrol a number of times!  So I knew exactly where 'EMPTY' was on the petrol gauge - just below the E.

In 1970, the highways weren't lined with all-night service stations, eager to fill your tank. We took off with a full tank of petrol in the late afternoon, Friday.  I can't honestly remember which highway we took. The Hume was the shortest, but was less likely to have all-night service stations than the Pacific/Princess Highway route. The latter was about 160 kilometres more in total distance.  I presume, seeing we were driving at night and not stopping to see the sights, we took the shortest route.

Just as we took off, I felt a burden in my spirit that the Lord never wastes any opportunity for us to learn. I prayed, without speaking, about what it might be, and suddenly I knew that God is always relevant. I knew all the discussions my mate and I had had about getting to Melbourne in one go, and so I committed the trip to the Lord and told Him I was going to trust Him to get us there without undue delay.

We got a long way in the Mini, taking turns driving and snoozing.  By the time the gauge was nearing empty, we would have been over halfway.  We passed through little townships, where all the service stations had shut up shop and street lighting was at a minimum.  It might have been midnight, but again, I can't be sure.  In between townships, there was nothing at all but blackness. The 'smart' thing to do at this point, and the thought had crossed my mind, was to pull over and wait by a petrol station till morning. But I was driving, my mate seemed to be asleep, and I remembered my commitment to the Lord.  Pulling over by the side of the road just wasn't an option.

So I continued driving.  The gauge, watched intently by yours truly, went down to the E, and then proceeded further. They used to say the Mini could run on 'the smell of an oily rag', but there was only petrol in my tank and I had run out a number of times before.  The gauge went down to where I knew it had to be empty, and I expected the engine to stall at any moment. But it didn't. I kept driving, my spirit lifting as I started calculating all the money I was saving by driving on an empty tank!! I began to think we would make it all the way to Melbourne on no petrol, and started praising His name for the miraculous provision!  I drove 30, then 40, 50 miles on what I knew to be an empty tank.

I thought my mate was asleep, but for the last 30 miles, at least, he had been eyeing the petrol gauge through squinting eyelids, wondering if it was parallax error that was confusing him, or whether I was losing the plot!  Had he been driving, he certainly would have pulled over and waited till morning. 

Then we were on a long straight stretch, unlit and with no development within sight. Shimmering ambient light came from the overcast heavens, and it was barely enough to make out the surroundings, competing only with the beacon cast forward by my headlights.  There was a slight hiccup in the engine, then another, and suddenly the engine lost power and the car ground to a halt. I sat there for a couple of minutes, unable to reconcile the circumstances.  My mate pretended to wake just then and asked what was happening. I said it looked like we had run out of petrol. Then I had an idea.  I tried starting the engine.  It fired, ran for a couple of seconds, and died again.

I got out of the car, still too confused to speak. I couldn't tell my mate the Lord had let me down, and I actually didn't believe He had. My mind just went over everything that had happened, trying to make sense of it all.  And there was no sense forthcoming.

Only minutes had passed when in the distance a pair of headlights appeared, coming towards us in the same direction we had been going. It was a small table-top truck and it pulled over.  The driver seemed to know what he was doing and asked what the trouble was.  We told him we had run out of gas.  He told us that was no problem. There was an all night service station just a few miles down the road.  Not only that, but he had a tow rope and he towed us there! The driveway to the server was down hill, so we didn't even have to push the Mini. It just rolled down to the pump and we filled her to the brim!

We then continued on our journey, drove all the way to Melbourne, and there wasn't another service station open the rest of the way!



  • God is totally trustworthy, and our faith in Him is never misplaced.
  • He will provide according to His will, but not necessarily in the way we are expecting.
  • Without faith it is impossible to please Him, but we must make sure we are unselfish in the things we are asking for.

The experience has helped me understand that very often, where a sensible secular or natural remedy to a problem or illness is available, God wants us to use our brain. I have seen too many Christians insisting on miraculous provision, only to be severely disappointed and having their faith shattered.  God doesn't give us blanket authority to claim healing or provision or anything else.  Whilst I have witnessed many miraculous healings, too many of us still suffer illnesses, to believe that.  Even Jesus had to surrender His will to the Father's, only to die on a cross.