Nina Atcheson, MRE, PedD, honoris causa, is a curriculum manager and senior editor for the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

The pastor sat wearily at his desk, face drained and eyes burning. He felt as if he were in a constant spin cycle—resolving conflicts, managing programs, preparing sermons, giving Bible studies, and running all week to meet the needs of church members—yet so spiritually depleted himself.

Reflecting on the past few weeks, he realized that as the shepherd of his congregations, he was trying to feed his people without spiritually nourishing himself. He had prayed on the run, read the Bible while preparing for his sermons, and had not received daily bread for his own soul for a long time. No wonder he felt so spiritually dry.

His shoulders slouched as he dropped to his knees beside his desk chair. “Lord,” he prayed, “forgive me! I have been too busy for You. Yet You are the absolute source of my strength. You are everything to me. But here I am, running to and fro, doing Your work in my own strength. I am tired. I have nothing left. My soul is dry. I need You to carry these burdens. I need Your Spirit to fall afresh upon me. Please, Father, through Your Living Word, speak a message I need to hear today. You know what I am lacking. You know what needs to be shaped in my character. Here I am, Lord. Please share Your words with me now.”

Then he opened his Bible to 1 Corinthians 3 and read these words: “God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. . . .

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (vv. 6, 7, 9).1

It could not have been a more direct message. After reading the words again, he copied them into his journal. It felt as though God had placed them in the Bible just for him. As he wrote, he began to see a very personal message—and a rebuke. Words of repentance and surrender flowed from his lips as he asked for God’s grace to cover him.

At this moment, the pastor was not rushed, not focused on the seemingly urgent matters of the day before him. Shut in with the Lord, nothing else mattered. God was refining something in him, and he knew he needed it. Tears flowed, and his soul was at peace as he claimed Psalm 138:8 as his personal prayer to God: “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; / Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; / Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

Living words

Perhaps you can relate to this pastor. You have seen God’s Living Word, the Bible, transform the minds and hearts of the people you shepherd. And you have witnessed it in your life, too, and perhaps that is why you accepted the call to pastoral ministry. Indeed, “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

But the question is: Do you still allow this living, powerful, sharp Word to pierce your own soul, or are you going through the motions of pastoring without allowing it to shape your thinking and character daily? God is waiting, wanting to draw you to Himself through His loving Word.

But to be drawn into a closer relationship with God, to know His will and way for your life and for the church you pastor, you must abide in His Word. So what does that look like? Do you need to be intentional about carving out more time in prayer and Bible study2 to deepen and enrich your own walk with God? Indeed, you cannot help others to grow unless you are abiding in the Vine (John 15).

In Job 22:22, we read an appeal from one of Job’s friends. Although Job was blameless and the appeal may not have been well-founded, it still can speak to us: “ ‘Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, /And lay up His words in your heart.’ ”

To receive instruction from God’s mouth (His words), we must spend quality time in His Word. To “lay up His words in your heart” means that we must allow them to fall on our hearts (as well as our minds) in a way that they will be retained and preserved. The words need to mean something to us and impact us in some way beyond just an intellectual exercise. When we truly receive instruction from God’s mouth and lay up His words in our hearts, they always prompt a response from us.

What might such a response to reading God’s Word look like in your life? Consider the following:

A drawing-close response. The Bible teaches us about God’s heart and His good intentions toward us. It is like a love letter or a long text message from God. If you read it with an open heart, the Holy Spirit will bring you into an even closer relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter the passage or story you read, you can see Jesus when you look for Him because He desires to draw us to Himself: “ ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; / Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’ ” (Jer. 31:3). When did I last feel this drawing close to God?

A personal-conviction response. When we spend unrushed time in God’s Word, we will always find both new and renewed messages of truth in the pages we read because God’s “ ‘word is truth’ ” (John 17:17). The Bible can be foundational in shaping our worldview when we humbly and openly search for and accept its messages into our thought patterns. As we dig for its treasures, we see how beautifully connected and how deep and wide God’s truth really is. We will stand in awe of a God who still loves to communicate with us (Rev. 3:20). As we lead people to know God through His Word, it is important to keep alive our own convictions of the Bible’s power. When was I last convicted of something I read in God’s Word? 3

A character response. When we humbly and prayerfully look for God’s messages in His Word, He does a special work in us. We realize how weak and sinful we are, and we are led to repentance, confession, and a shift in our thinking, along with an openness to learn from the Source of all truth. Shaping our characters is the work of a lifetime and comes from the grace of our Savior. As we infuse the messages of the Bible into our lives, we grow in His knowledge, love, and grace. What will change in or around my life because of what I’ve read? 4

A sharing response. When we taste and see the power and profound relevance of the Bible in our lives, we will be compelled to show and tell others about it. It is as though we will want to say to others, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. / Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Ps. 34:8, NLT). Witnessing will not be about simply adding numbers to our churches but rather wanting people to taste and see for themselves God’s incredible, beautiful, true character and what He has done for each person. The outflowing of our love for Jesus will be manifested in natural, joyful conversations about what God has done and is doing for us—and what He longs to do for everyone! Are my daily conversations infused with Jesus’ love and with an organic sharing of this love toward others?5

A living connection

The Bible is a timeless, inspired Book that continues to give any humble reader clear wisdom on whatever he or she may be facing in life. God extends an invitation to everyone to live in an abiding relationship with Him (John 15:1–16; 10:10). He has called you to help guide those in your spiritual care toward this goal. It is not enough just to talk about God and His truths, although that is important; your love and relationship with Him should also be lived and breathed into the lifeblood of your church.

How often do you candidly speak about your own walk with God and what He has been teaching you through His Word? What would happen if you spontaneously shared what God has been teaching you and your church members in His Word during your daily devotional time? This will allow you, as the church’s leader, to model that you have a living connection and that the Bible speaks to your daily needs. It will also show your congregation how vital that is for every believer.

A challenge

This week, I challenge you to try this: declare what God has been teaching you personally in His Word, perhaps at the beginning of your sermon or in a private conversation or Bible study with a church member or seeker. It will require you to be authentic and open, and while there will be certain aspects you may not disclose to others, there will always be something you can share about how God has been teaching you in His Word. For truly,

“The Lord GOD has given Me

The tongue of the learned,

That I should know how to speak

A word in season to him who is weary.

He awakens Me morning by morning,

He awakens My ear

To hear as the learned” (Isa. 50:4).

So today, sit down with God, and open your Bible. Pray for His Word once again to pierce your soul. Ask Him to reveal the beauty and holiness of His wonderful character. Invite Him to shape your character. And then request that He open opportunities for you to declare His goodness to those around you. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; / I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7).

  1. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture is from the New King James Version.
  2. See “Ways to Study Your Bible,” in Nina Atcheson, As Light Lingers: Basking in the Word of God (Madrid, Spain: Editorial Safeliz, 2018), 63–86.
  3. See Isaiah 50:5.
  4. See James 1:21.
  5. See 1 Corinthians 8:3.

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Nina Atcheson, MRE, PedD, honoris causa, is a curriculum manager and senior editor for the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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