Good nourishment provides the body with everything it needs for growth, strength, and health. We have food pyramids, nutrition apps, and even personal trainers to help us keep our bodies in good condition. Why do we spend so much time caring for the body while neglecting the state of our souls? What good is a healthy body if we are spiritually malnourished? We need to care for both.
Here are seven ways you can get the spiritual nourishment your soul is craving. I suggest you start with the one that sounds easiest to you. Incorporate it into your daily routine until it becomes a habit, then add one more. Feel free to adjust these practices to meet your needs or personality. It’s more important that you find a good way to nourish your soul in God than that you check each of these off the list. Don’t discourage yourself by being too ambitious or by chasing perfection. Small, easy steps over a long period of time is how we make big changes.
Enjoy the way that you read the Bible.
Bible reading should not feel like a chore. Find a way of reading the Bible that fits your personality. I like to read large sections of scripture in one sitting because I am a big-picture person. A more detail-oriented person might enjoy sitting with one story for days, weeks, or even months. Try tools like a daily Bible that has Old Testament and New Testament readings every day. Maybe you want to journal through scripture, writing down whatever comes to mind in reaction to the text. Try reading with a group of friends and talking over coffee each week.
If you can’t find any way of reading scripture that you enjoy, ask yourself “why?” Are you resisting scripture for some reason? Is there something in your past that is affecting your attitude or approach to reading? Explore what’s blocking you from spending time with God.
Read both widely and narrowly.
Read the whole Bible (even the boring parts). It’s important to read through the whole Bible as a single book from time to time. It’s also important to spend time in individual books or passages to get the fine details. Mix it up. I try to read through the Bible quickly (not rushing but not pausing to meditate on every little passage). I usually read four to eight chapters a day in this phase. Then I switch it up and spend an equal amount of time reading slowly. Here, I might read one chapter, one story, or one paragraph in a day. This allows me time to linger over the passage for several minutes. These two ways of reading complement one another in a way that helps me see new things almost every time I read.
Read for relationship with God.
As you approach scripture each day, recognize that God in his sovereign wisdom designed that you would be reading this text on this day. It’s his story and he is inviting you into it today. God wants to tell you what he’s been up to and what he’s working on. He wants to show you where you fit into this plan and how he is shaping you to be like Jesus. What you read today is a special gift from your Father. Read it within the context of that loving relationship.
Read in God’s presence.
Before you start reading the Bible, take some time to remember that you are in the presence of God. You are always in God’s presence. Psalm 139 makes it clear that no matter where we are, God is already there. Unfortunately, we rarely take the time to stop and notice our loving Father’s joy over us as we read. I like to take a few minutes of silence to focus my mind on God and to ask his Holy Spirit to lead me as I read.
Listen to the Holy Spirit as you read.
As you read, listen for the movements of the Holy Spirit in your soul. Is he convicting of sin? Is the text speaking to your heart in a special way? Is there something that provokes you, frustrates you, or makes you angry? What is the Holy Spirit saying through these emotions?
When I am reading through large portions of scripture, I like to read until my mind is fully engaged with the text. Then I continue reading until the Holy Spirit makes something stand out to me in a unique way. I then pause and meditate on that word, phrase, character, or story. After meditation, I’ll finish the chapter so I know where I left off for tomorrow.
Sit at the feet of Jesus.
I like to imagine that as I’m reading scripture, Jesus is teaching me like he did the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). When Jesus taught these disciples, he showed them how to find the Messiah in all the scriptures. No matter what passage I’m reading, I like to ask, “Jesus, where are you in this text?” It’s amazing how often he answers that question and the beautiful things he shows me simply because I was willing to ask.
Keep what God teaches you as a special secret.
It can be tempting to use our private time with God as a shortcut for teaching ministry. If we do this, it will no longer feed our souls first. Ministry should come out of our life with God, not replace it. One thing we can do to keep this from happening is to keep what we are learning a secret – for a while. Let the things God is teaching you work their way into your heart. When the time is right, these things will show up as you teach others. If you keep study for teaching separate from private devotion, your teaching will begin to flow out of your devotion to God. If you try to mix them, you will likely spend all your time feeding others without ever feeding yourself. You’ll present a buffet of God’s goodness to others while dying of spiritual malnourishment.
What are some ways that you find joy in reading scripture? What works for you?
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© Sean Nemecek, 2018. All rights reserved. Request permission.
Sean Nemecek, (M.Div. Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) is the director of The Pastor’s Soul, and pastor at First Baptist Church in Tustin, Michigan since 2001. A third-generation pastor, he grew up listening to pastors and their families talk about the realities of ministry. Now he wants to use this knowledge to bless the church. Sean is married to Amy, a poet and freelance book editor. Together, they have a 17-year-old son.