The Best Thing You Can Do for Yourself


In the midst of instructing the elders of Ephesus regarding their ministries, the Apostle Paul said, "Be on guard for yourself" (Acts 20:28). One way you could take that might mean something like, "Take care of yourself."

Of course, that-and this is something of a no-brainer-can mean a hundred things, everything from caring for one's health to caring for his family, from guarding his thoughts to guarding his time, from being safe to being sound. My own observation is that one of the best gifts a ministry-person (that's you!) can do for yourself is this: "When you sense an appetite for something healthy, feed it."

Appetites come in all sizes and varieties, of course, some of them healthy and some suicidal. Some are cravings and some gentle urges, but most of us know what a good appetite is.

When we sense an inner pull to stop and read a good book, to turn in Scripture to a particular epistle, or to go for a long walk and talk to the Lord, those are great desires. We may be longing for fellowship with a certain friend or craving more quietness in our personal lives. We would do well to listen to our spirit.

A healthy person has a healthy appetite. A faithful child of the Lord will find himself/herself longing for more and more of Him. "(God) satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things" (Psalm 107:9).

Here's what I have learned about feeding a positive, healthy appetite:

1) It is fleeting. If I say, "First I want to watch this program, then I'll read the book," what usually happens is that I never get to the book. The moment came and went, never to return.

I had been at my church five years and felt in a rut with my preaching. All the conferences I attended seemed to feature the same speakers. Sensing the need for freshness in my ministry, I began to look outside my denomination. I went to the leaders of the church and asked for a six-week sabbatical. That summer, I attended a weeklong conference at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and a month-long seminar being held on a college campus in another state which featured a different evangelical leader each week.

That was thirty years ago, and I remember it like it was this month. Over four decades of ministry, I did two more sabbaticals, but none was more edifying than the first.

2) It is fragile. Nothing destroys an appetite like junk food. Potato chips and soft drinks have turned more people away from veggies in our day than anything else. Likewise, when we sense a desire for a time with Scripture or in sermon study or writing something in our journal, it's never a good idea to fill our mind with a television program, a ball game, or web surfing.

3) It is of the Father. Personally, the times when I'm most likely to sense the need to get up and look something up, write something down, or check on a fact is when I have stretched out on the bed and gotten quiet. Perhaps it's because this is the first time I've been quiet today, and the Lord has been speaking all along but I've not been listening.

Many ministers have learned to keep a pad by their bedside table in order to jot down those "things to do" or "insights to remember" that arrive unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Doubtless, they learned this lesson the hard way. The terrific thought that woke them up was so clear and so good, they knew they would still remember it in the morning. Alas, daylight came, and for the life of them, they could not recall what it was that brought them out of the sound sleep.

I awakened once at 2 a.m. with an article on my mind. It was something of a parable about ministry and it came with such clarity, I got out of bed and wrote it down. The next day, I fine-tuned it and sent it off to an editor. That magazine printed it on the inside of their back page and sent me a check. Over the next few years, from time to time, I would receive other checks-all of them small, of course-from other magazines that had picked it up and run it. That one article has appeared in publications on several continents.

Such gentle nudges are from the Lord; they are proofs of His love, signs of His blessings, and confirmations of His presence. Mary sang, "He has filled the hungry with good things and sent therich away empty-handed" (Luke 1:53).

4) It is a foretaste. In Heaven, the Father will sit us down at His banquet table and feed our heavenly bodies and souls as we have only imagined in this life. In the meantime, He gives us these hors d'oeuvres-these little morsels-to remind us of the smorgasbord to come. How many times did Jesus teach lessons about the Kingdom of Heaven by telling how a great king gave a banquet? Plenty!

Watching the Roman centurion express his faith, Jesus exclaimed, "I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:10-11). He had Heaven's banquet on the brain, we might say. "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).I've been invited. You, too?

Sometimes when I know a great meal is waiting for me later in the day, I skip lunchtime in order to make the most of the feast. What a shame it would be to arrive at the banquet with no appetite!

In the meantime, let us keep our appetites in working order. Let us "quench not the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We do ourselves a favor when we give in to those blessed urges that come our way-to write that letter, make that call, read that passage, take that walk, make that gift, pray for this person, visit him, encourage her, etc.

When a hungry and thirsty Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman, He found that His own spirit was strengthened. By yielding to the urge to speak with her, He had been fed. He told the puzzled disciples, "I have meat to eat you know nothing about" (John 4:32).

Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at

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