Life overseas is challenging. Keeping faith growing in a busy ministry proves a bigger challenge. How can I keep my spiritual walk with Christ growing and maturing as I minister to others? This is the question I asked as the demands of a ministry began. There were days when I was exhausted from language learning, strained from the demands of people, and drained from the intense tropical heat. I would fall into bed at night too worn out to read. I soon realized that I needed to make a consistent effort to nurture my walk with God. Over the years, I learned to take steps that helped me keep my faith growing as I ministered to others.
Be Disciplined in Bible Study
Being a missionary does not automatically catapult you into the category of spiritual giant. Growing in faith and walking with God requires discipline, so guarding Bible-study time is important. Have a planned time to study and pray, and make it a priority. How can we expect to minister to others if our own walk with God is not a priority? Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, says, “Many Christians remain in bondage to fears and anxieties simply because they do not avail themselves of the discipline of study. They may be faithful…yet the tenor of their lives remains unchanged. Why? Because they have never taken up one of the central ways God uses to change us: study.”
When my devotional time gets sloppy, everything else in my life gets out of balance—my attitude, my actions, my emotional state, and the way I view things. It is a clear indication that I have slackened on my time with God. Make Bible study a priority and stick with it.
Learn to be Alone with God
Sit quietly and give God a chance to speak to your heart. God longs to speak with us if we pause enough to listen. Many times I have found it is through stillness that God desires to speak. Some of my best memories are the times I used to have early in the morning when I would arise to read. I was alone with God. It was quiet, and I could read, pray, journal, or simply listen to God speak to my heart. The Lord spoke to me during those early mornings when my heart was still and quiet before Him. He spoke to me of sin in my life, comforted me in hard times, and helped me when I was fearful. I remember one morning God told me to walk to the village and claim it for Him, and to ask for a hedge of protection to be placed around all the Christians. I did. I will never know this side of eternity what God did because of that prayer, but I knew I needed to obey.
Do not rush through your days and weeks, never giving God a chance to speak. God created us. He knows our tendency to rush through life, and He gives us a reminder to be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). It is easier to be busy about many things like Martha than to be a Mary and sit at God’s feet. Learn to be a Mary. Find that quiet place where God can speak.
During one of our terms, a field leader and his wife came for a visit. During conversation he asked whether we read. We responded that we did. We bought books whenever we could and requested that friends, family, and churches send us books. If we did not have a new book to read, we would re-read what we had. He replied, “That is good. I have found in my thirty years of ministry that those who read for spiritual input are the ones who do best on the field.” As we read various Christian books, we get needed spiritual input when we are challenged and encouraged by others. Just be aware that, as with everything, there needs to be a balance. Do not let your reading steal time away from other important tasks, and do not let it take the place of your personal Bible study.
Remember that God is concerned with your ministry, but He is more concerned with you and your personal walk with Him. Take steps to be the best you can be. Develop your relationship with Him as a priority.