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Soul Care

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Soul Care’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 6/28/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

Soul Care

Soul care is making time to care for yourself. The soul is comprised of the mind, will and emotions. Soul care is different from spiritual care in that our soul is different from our spirit: man is spirit, but we live in a body and have a soul. However, care for soul and spirit are certainly intimately related, in that our ability to care for our spirit will undoubtedly affect our ability to care for our soul, and vice versa.

There are three areas I’d like to address this morning when it comes to soul care: prayer, doing something, and doing nothing. All are important elements of properly caring for our souls. All help us to give our mind, will and emotions what we need to live life at maximum capacity.

Unfortunately, we have swallowed the myth that when we take time for ourselves, we are being selfish. The truth is that if we don’t make time for ourselves, we are no good to anybody at all!

Tank of Gas

Dr. David Ireland[1] tells a story of a woman he met at a college campus. As he was driving through campus, a security officer pulled him over. A woman in a car up the road had run out of gas. She was “well prepared,” and had a spare canister for gas in her car. The officer was not allowed to leave campus, so he wondered if Dr. Ireland would be willing to drive the woman to the nearest gas station, so she could come back and fill up her car.

He agreed. On the way to the gas station, Dr. Ireland got a firsthand look at this woman’s rationale. She explained that she frequently ran out of gas. However, she didn’t think it was a serious issue, as she always carried around a spare canister. Every few months, she would run out of gas while driving, but she would always be prepared with this method for refilling her car.

Dr. Ireland couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t simply plan to stop and refill her gas tank well in advance. She could save hours of time every month, and avoid ever running out of gas, if she simply made a decision to stop and refuel in advance! Wouldn’t that choice be so much easier?

So many of us are like this woman with our souls. When life gets hard, we push back even harder. When we work ourselves to the bone, we pray for strength and keep going. When our families complain that we’re never home, we convince ourselves that we’re “doing it for them” and keep on pushing. And then we run out of gas. We’re forced to take some drastic, time-consuming measure to refuel. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to recognize when we’re running close to empty, and stop to refuel in advance?

The Importance of Prayer

Prayer is the primary way we refresh our souls. Prayer is, of course, a spiritual discipline. However, it impacts our mind, will and emotions in such a way that it is impossible to ignore as a method of primary importance when caring for our souls. Prayer is the primary way in which we allow God to refresh us, and minister to us as only He knows how.

All throughout Scripture, we see Jesus withdraw from the multitudes to pray:

And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. – Luke 5:12-16

The key to Jesus’ ministry was staying in relationship with the Father. He did nothing without first receiving vision from His Father. Prayer was the mechanism through which He built relationship.

Jesus’ prayer time didn’t come easily. There were always more people to heal! There was still so much to do! Multitudes came to hear Him preach, and to ask Him to heal them of their diseases. But Jesus knew that spending time with His Father in prayer was far more important than anything else He could possibly do!

Jesus withdrew into the wilderness: a solitary place with few people around. The health of our souls depends on our ability to unplug: to withdraw from other people, and allow God to minister to us. When we give Him the chance, God will ease our minds, strengthen our wills, and calm the storm of our emotions.

As Jesus’ responsibilities and ministry grew, we see that He required more time in prayer – not less!

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles…. – Lk 6:12-13

Prayer is never something we graduate from, but rather something we are baptized into! The more advanced you are in your career, the more important  – not less – it is that you pray! The more years you have been married to your husband or wife, the more important – not less – it is that you pray! Prayer never ceases to be the most important activity we can perform to strengthen our spirits, and care for our souls.

Getting the time we need in prayer is not always easy. It will require us to give up other things to make more time for communion with God. Prayer is something that becomes more comfortable over time. I would, in fact, argue that we should “build” the amount of time we’re able to spend in prayer through practice.

Any athlete will tell you that daily practice is required to hone their bodies and learn new skills. They key to getting into shape – and staying in shape – is consistency: getting in the gym every single day. It would be counter-productive to skip the gym every single day of the week but one, and then try and pack a whole week’s worth of working out into one day! You would end up in no better shape than you started: only sore and exhausted!

Prayer is the same way. If we only make time for it – “get to it” – every once in a while, it’s going to feel painful. It will feel like we’re talking at God, and not to Him.

We need to do ourselves a favor and be realistic. What does alone time in prayer look like for you? Five minutes per day? Ten minutes? Do what you can every single day. Ask God to get you more comfortable in His presence. What we want to avoid is never getting time alone with God because we think it takes at least an hour to even get His attention. When we speak, God listens; and when He speaks, we would do well to listen to what He has to say!

For the New Yorkers: pray on the subway. When I worked on Wall Street, I used to pray in the bathroom stall at work. Any place, for any length of time, will do. Paul exhorts all Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). That means that whatever we’re doing, and wherever we’re doing it, we should be praying and seeking God!

Doing Something

I would love it if prayer were the only thing we needed to keep our souls healthy and well-cared for. The truth, however, is that we need more than prayer. We need to do things that we love to do. We need to find activities that give us life, and carry them out with some form of regularity.

I would love it if every single Christian’s favorite activity was prayer; but the truth is, that’s not realistic. Until we get to the place where prayer is our favorite thing in the world to do, we have to allow ourselves to recharge by doing things that give us joy!

Do you love movies? Allow yourself to sit down and watch one movie per week on a day off from work. Do you like to go to the gym? Getting that physical release for just 30 minutes a day can really pay off. God put desires in your heart on purpose; so don’t ignore them!

Let yourself relax. There is always something else you could be doing. You could always be doing something holier! But the difference between the people who find joy in life, and those who do not, is the ability to recharge through activities that give us purpose and meaning.

I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I spend my lunch break every weekday on the mats, training with a group of guys who have become like family to me. I know I could be studying Scripture. I know I could be meeting with people in the church. But I need that hour at the gym every day to take my mind off eternal things. I need that chance to let myself relax and focus on something that has nothing to do with church.

God put that desire on my heart; and recently, He has even been using my time at the gym to bring people to church! I’ve had the chance to counsel men going through a tough time in their marriage, right at the gym. I’ve had men from the gym give their lives to Christ because I extended a simple, no-strings-attached invitation to come to church. God will use every part of our lives to expand His Kingdom when we give Him the opportunity to do it!

Doing Nothing

Perhaps more important than doing something – finding those activities that give us joy – is the ability to do nothing. I realize that statement is going to grate against every fiber of your being. From as young as I can remember, my parents always taught me to be busy. Time sitting still was time wasted. But an inability to sit and do nothing will significantly increase the anxiety you experience in your life.

You will always have things you should be doing. There will always be things you could be doing.  You’re never going to wake up one morning and have an empty to-do list. It’s just not going to happen! So stop putting off rest until tomorrow, because you NEED it today!

Rest is important. Sleep is obviously important, and we need to make sure we get enough of it. If we miss out on as little as 1 ½ hours of sleep on a given night, our alertness decreases by as much as 32%.[2] What we’re talking about this morning includes the necessity to get lots of good sleep. But it’s also so much more than that! We need to get comfortable sitting and doing nothing while we’re awake!

My wife and I just got back from a beautiful vacation. We spent one week in New Hampshire, on a lake, out in the middle of nowhere. There’s something about being out in the open – under trees, and open blue skies – that increases our ability and willingness to make time to listen to God.

On the first day of vacation, I got down to pray. God spoke to me – immediately, and clearly. His voice was clearer than I had experienced in a while. He showed me a picture of a hummingbird, and then said, “You can stand here and flap your wings, or you can let Me teach you how to fly.”

The message was simple. I was doing way too much flapping. Hummingbirds flap their wings up to eighty times per second. But they don’t travel far. They also don’t have the ability to soar: to let the wind propel them forward in an effortless way, with their wings outstretched. God was telling me to do less so He could do more. He was asking me to get comfortable with His Holy Spirit propelling me forward, instead of feeling like I had to generate all the movement myself!

As a pastor, people ask me all the time: “How can I hear more from God?” The honest response is that we will only hear God’s voice if we make time to listen. My most significant moments of revelation from God – thoughts and plans for the future –  haven’t come because I went to a conference, or took classes at a Bible school. They’re come from simply making time to sit at His feet. So, do you want to hear from God more? Make time to listen.

Make A Change

Make the decision to take care of your soul today. Your mind, will and emotions are your responsibility. It’s on you to make sure every part of you gets the stimulation you need to live life to the fullest, and fully follow the plan God has for your life. So, start making time today!

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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