We want to help you be at your best as a college ministry leader. So often as we lead, we focus more on the students than we do on ourselves. We forget that effective spiritual leadership is predicated on our own spiritual formation. For the next two weeks we will hear from Dr. Rick Spencer on spiritual formation. As you read these articles, take time to focus on your own spiritual health so that you can be at your best as you lead students this year.
Four Legs to Stand On
(Components of Spiritual Formation)
For short periods of time, humans can stand on one leg. Two legs multiply balance and mobility. Yet for a sturdy table or chair, four legs are the norm, creating platforms for work, dining, community and rest.
While there are many factors which contribute to healthy, growing spirituality, four components are essential. Just as each leg of the table is necessary, the balanced Christian life will have food, breath, family, and exercise/activity.
One leg of Spiritual Health-- In 1 Peter 2:2, the inspired writer insists that Scripture is vital sustenance for spiritual health, stating, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” The context of this verse indicates that the desirable spiritual milk is the “word of God” previously described as imperishable seed which produces salvation or new life (1 Pet. 1:22). The imperishable seed which brings new life also is the miracle food which allows a baby to grow into a mature spiritual adult.
Many pediatricians insist that the Mother’s milk is the best food for a growing infant since breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect a baby from illness and allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the child’s life.
In the spiritual realm, the Father’s Milk, his Word, provides great benefits to the new born believer; and the need for this spiritual fuel does not decrease with age. In fact, a believer never outgrows the necessity of the Father’s Milk.
The imperative to “crave pure spiritual milk” implies that one can develop a healthy appetite for Scripture. How do you think this happens? How frequently would a growing believer need to ingest and digest Scripture? Does your current practice for receiving and applying Scripture reflect a desire to “grow up in your salvation?”
A Second Leg— As essential as food is for life, even more immediately important is our need to breathe. The same Greek word used for Spirit (pnuema) is the word used for “wind” and “breath,” bringing to mind the challenge which the Apostle Paul addressed to the Christians at Ephesus, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). If Scripture can be described as spiritual food (“pure spiritual milk”), the Spirit is the breath of spiritual life, and the Scripture admonishes believers to be continually filled.
While all Christians have the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:9), all consistently face the challenge of yielding to the Spirit’s direction; and it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit while being filled with other things. Do any of the following compete with your ability to be filled with the Spirit? The fear of failure or embarrassment? Being concerned about the approval of others? Financial concerns? Personal ambition? Self-centeredness? Doubt?
One key in making space for the Spirit is displacement—displacing busyness with periodic silence, displacing activity with availability, Displacing fear with a promise from Scripture such as “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.“ (Ps. 46:1) Displacing worry with prayer. As Phil. 4:6-7 admonishes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In the rhythm of breathing, repeat the following prayer as an invitation to God’s Spirit.
“Breath of God, fill me.
Breath of God, heal me.
Breath of God, cleanse me.
Breath of God, use me.”
The first two legs of the table which represents spiritual stability and usefulness are Scripture and Spirit—our nourishment and breath. Two more legs will be mentioned in next week's article.
Dr. Rick Spencer serves as Regional Coordinator for Texas BSM.