Running on Fumes: Soul Care for Spiritual Leaders
Too often spiritual leaders spend so much time helping others that they neglect their own spiritual growth and renewal. It is then that they find themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually burnt out and running on fumes. But is running on fumes what Jesus had in mind when he called us to ministry? Let’s start with an important fact: spiritual Leaders cannot lead people spiritually if they are not spiritually led! You can’t lead others to Christ if your spiritual tank is empty.
Busyness in ministry is as dangerous (if not more dangerous) than the busyness in the world. Why? Because the whole time we feel justified in doing what we are doing because it’s “the Lord’s work.” Sadly, many spiritual leaders today are really good at being “human doings,” but really bad at being “human beings.” Spending time alone with God so that he can fill our spiritual tanks is something we are not accustomed to in our hurried lives. We find ourselves consumed with one thing or another while never having time to spend with God, and we find our spiritual tanks depleted. So what do we do?
Well, we need spiritual RPMs. You know what RPMs are, right? They are revolutions per minute in a car’s engine, and they measure how fast the engine is operating at any given time. Yet, without fuel in the engine, the crankshaft couldn’t even make one full revolution. The same is true for our spiritual engine. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to fuel our inner being, then we won’t be able to make even one full revelation (see what I did there?) of God’s word in our lives or the lives of others. Spiritual RPMs is a spiritual discipline that comes from Ps. 143:5-6 (ESV, emphasis added; see also Ps. 77:11-13): “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”
In order to find strength in God, we must first allow God to fill us with who he is, was, and will always be. And so we…
Remember. We take time each day to remember who God is (and who we are not) and all that he has done. Take time to remember how God is present in your life (both past and present). Thank him for his presence. One of the recurring messages throughout Deuteronomy is to remember God and never forget. Deut. 8:2, 18 reads, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. … You shall remember the Lord your God.” When we truly take time to remember, we know that all we are and have comes from him (and not us)!
Ponder. We take time to ponder (to think about something carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion). We ponder the work of God. Yes, God is still at work in this world and in our lives. Knowing that God is working and active helps us realize that we are not alone, and it is God who is working through us in all we do. As Paul wrote in Phil. 2:13, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Before you take another step or make another decision, ponder!
Meditate. We take time to meditate on all that God has done by spending time in his word. As the psalmist says in Ps. 119:15-16, 97, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. … Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” A sad statement today is how few of our spiritual leaders are people of the word. Too often we only approach God’s word to prepare for sermons or for teaching. But Scripture should always be on our tongues and guiding our ways. For that to be true, we must meditate on the Bible every day. Remember, meditation is not simply reading, but is taking a long gaze at a particular part of God’s word for the purpose of allowing it to read you more than you read it.
Stretch Out. Finally, we stretch out our hands to God in prayer and worship. In life, we have the choice to worship only one of two gods. Either we worship God Almighty, or we worship ourselves. What we consistently stretch our hands toward and thirst for is our god. So who is your god? Take time to assess your day and consider what you stretched your hands toward the most. What did you thirst for most today? Ps. 88:1-2, 9 reads, “O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! ... Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.” Every day we must take time to humble ourselves before the living God and cry out to him.
When we take time to fill our tanks with these spiritual RPMs, then we will be ready to engage the world for Christ. I pray you take time to do just that. Don’t run on fumes! Instead, take time every day to be filled with God’s Spirit and feel his RPMs move you. It will be the best time you spend all day, and it will be the fuel for all that you do.