~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Mark Crawford. You can hear the whole sermon, Caring for Your Soul, by clicking here.
A Fight for your Hope
There is a fight for the plans that God has for you. The enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy; he wants to steal futures – he wants to steal destiny. He will often use things like weariness, discouragement, despair, and lack to bring you into a place that you will give up. Notice that wording – “give up.” The enemy’s objective is for you to give up. He can’t actually steal your destiny from you. While that’s his desire, he can’t do that directly. He can, however, pressure you to give up – to give away your destiny. You’ll say “this is too difficult.” “This is too hard.” And you’ll decide not to keep going.
Tending Your Soul
Most believers have heard much taught in church about the spirit (and even the flesh) . . . but not so much about the soul. Here’s an illustrative story:
There was an old man that had been hired by an Swiss village to tend he stream that provided the town its water. In particular, his role was to live high in the mountains and clear the debris that would fall into the stream so that it would not become clogged and stagnant. The man was a faithful worker and with regularity the keeper of the stream moved about the mountain slope, removing leaves and branches from the pools of water along the stream. Because of his work, the stream became quite clear and beautiful – making the town a popular attraction for tourists from all over the world. Years passed, and one evening the town council met and began to question the salary being paid to this obscure “keeper of the stream.” The council decided to cut the old man’s services from the budget. For several weeks after cutting his job, nothing happened to the stream and the council members were smug with their shrewd financial acumen on behalf of the tax payers. Yet, by fall of that year, the trees began to shed their leaves and the stream soon became tinted yellow and even began to give off a foul odor. Tourists stopped coming to town and villagers became sick. Finally the town council realized their error, called a town meeting, and reinstated the keeper of the stream. Within a few weeks the stream cleared and the little town returned to normal.
You are the keeper of your stream (your soul). While some others will have input into you keeping your soul, nobody else is going to do it for you.
Training our Soul
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23) We are spiritual beings having some natural experiences. We are not made to have occasional spiritual experiences. When we came to Christ, we became a place in which the Holy Spirit is resident. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit – we take Him everywhere we go!
The soul is designed by God to be a bridge between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. The soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. The soul is meant to serve the body. The soul is great as a servant, but it likes to be the boss. While it likes to be in charge, it doesn’t do “being in charge” very well! For example:
- Your mind wants to think and rationalize things. It wants to work something out before it will believe it. It wants to see something before it will believe it.
- Your emotions want to be in charge. “I don’t really feel like doing that. I’m just so tired.” “It’s just to hard.” “It’s just too cold.”
- Your will likes to be in charge too at times. “We will NOT do that!”
Spiritual disciplines are excellent ways to train your soul. Speaking in tongues, for instance, trains your soul because it says to your soul (particularly your mind) “you can’t understand this!” Your soul needs to be trained and put into its place. If you let the soul just do what it wants to do, you will have difficulties; our soul needs training. Praying, fasting, reading the Word, meditation on the Word, speaking in tongues all help train our soul. That’s why setting a disciplined way of reading The Word of God is important. Disciplines help train our souls to be what God has designed it to be – the bridge between the spiritual and the physical.
Feeding our Soul
When we don’t give our soul what it needs, we risk burnout.
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 Jn 1:2) It is really important to prosper your soul because when your soul prospers, you are going to prosper in all things and you are going to be in health. So what does your soul need?
Your soul needs relationships. “God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone.'” (Gen. 2:18) God has never been alone. He has always existed in relationship – in community (The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit). He only knows community, so He only speaks out of community – out of a place of relationship. God has put eternity in the heart of man (Eccl. 3:11) so the primary relationship need of our soul is with Him and we additionally also need relationships with others. Your soul prospers in community. Yes, some people are extraverted and some introverted. Regardless of our disposition, we are made for community. The soul needs relationship and needs a place of community and like many aspects of soul care being part of community actually requires us to work at it – to be deliberate about it.
The spirit, soul, and body all need “fuel.” The body needs food, sleep, exercise. The spirit is fueled by The Word of God, praying, fellowship with God, worship, community with other believers, speaking in tongues. The fuel that is intended for one of these parts will not fuel another part. For example, you can be extremely tired and need sleep, but prophesying “I am awake and alert!” is not going to really fix it. It is no different with the soul. Interestingly, whereas every person’s body needs the same basic “fuel” and every person’s spirit needs the same basic “fuel,” every person’s soul has slightly different needs.
For isntance, some of the things that can be fuel for the soul include:
- Reading a good book
- Going for a walk
- Going to the beach
- Sitting at the ocean
- Sitting on top of a mountain
- Being around people (for some people)
- Having time alone (for other people)
- Watching a good movie
- Watching a funny movie
Your soul needs feeding and part of feeding your soul is identifying which items from this list (or not on this list) really feed your soul in particular.
Your Soul needs Hope
Your soul also needs hope. Biblical hope is an “earnest, confident expectation for good.” Hope is the seedbed of faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (Heb. 11:1) Your soul needs to know that your best days are ahead of you. Joy and peace actually bring hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Joy (laughter) is even good medicine! Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore a sign of how much you have let the Holy Spirit work IN you – a sign of spiritual maturity. David said “My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; It shall rejoice in His salvation.” (Ps. 35:9) Even in the toughest of circumstances each new morning is designed to come with joy! (Ps. 30:5) Being filled with joy and peace brings hope -and that hope feeds the soul. Your soul needs you to laugh! Start practicing laughing! We ought to be people that are abounding in hope! The word “abound” means to have plenty for you, plenty for your family, and plenty to give away! We ought to be people that are having plenty to give away! Christians need to stop looking like they have been baptized in lemon juice and start behaving like they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit! Being filled with joy and peace activates an abundance of hope so that you have plenty to give away!
Some signs of Soul Fatigue
- Little things seem to bother you more than they should. Traffic is ticking you off. Someone next to you is chewing gum and it is getting under your skin. The way someone else is eating their food is bothering you. When things that you could normally put up are really troubling you, it is a sign of soul fatigue.
- It’s hard to make up your mind – even about a simple decision. If answering, “what are we going to eat?” is taking way too long, it may be a sign of soul fatigue.
- Impulses to eat, drink, spend, or crave . . . and you can’t resist them like you normally would. Whereas you would normally find it easy to resist a certain impulse, you just feel like “I can’t resist.” This is a sign of soul fatigue.
- Being more likely to favor short-term gains in ways that leave you with high long-term costs. For instance “buying now and paying later.” For instance, Israel was fatigued, grew tired of waiting for Moses and God and they made a golden calf. That cost them hugely – and all because they weren’t prepared to wait.
- Poor judgment. Soul fatigue causes your judgment to suffer.
- Less courage. You are normally courageous but you are just being a wimp – because your soul is fatigued.
What to do for your Soul
- Talk to your soul. You need to talk to your soul. David said this: “soul, why are you downcast? Why are you feeling like this?” “Soul, you are the servant here. Why are you behaving like this?” (see Ps. 42) Self-talk is really good. Talking to you soul and telling it what to do is evidence that you have trained your soul to obey you and not vice versa. No sensible dog owner would allow the dog to “run the show” but would instead talk to their dog and direct it. We are likewise supposed to be masters over our own soul – to tend and direct it.
- Jesus of course is a perfect example of soul care. He took care of His soul by praying, having a close circle of friends that He shared life with, engaging in regular worship, feeding His mind with scripture, enjoying God’s creation, taking long walks, welcoming little children, hugging them, and blessing them, feasting with non-religious types, and spending time in quiet places.
- Ps. 23:1-3 says “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Where is your green pasture? Where are your still waters? What are they? Go there! Because when you go there, God says “I’m now restoring your soul.”
Will you take time to restore your soul? You really do not have an option. If you can’t find time for your soul then you are already on the way to soul fatigue! When the tank gets down really low, it takes SO MUCH time to fill it back up again. If you keep filling up your soul tank, you will prosper in all you do. You’ll be in good health. Find the things that really fill you up and have a good laugh!