In my 4th grade South African history class I learned that what put my country on the map (the first time) was scurvy. Without the Suez canal, ships sailing from Europe took months to reach India. We now know that one month without vitamin C leads to the condition of lethal malnutrition known as scurvy. From 1500 to 1800, two million sailors perished, starved of perishables. Explorers lost more crew from malnutrition than from any other cause— the condition claimed 116 of Vasco da Gama’s 170 sailors in 1499, while Magellan lost 208 of 230 crew members in 1520.
So, in 1652 Jan Van Riebeeck, of the Dutch East India Company, landed at the Cape of Good Hope to plant fruit and vegetables to restock ships rounding the southern tip of Africa. Incidentally, he also planted a church, and vineyards to service the congregation’s oenological requirements at the Lord’s Supper, with the serendipitous effect of establishing one of the finest wine regions in the world. I digress. No one knew exactly why plant consumption saved lives, but they knew it worked.
It wasn’t until 1795, when a small fleet under Commodore Peter Rainier, stocked with lemon juice, arrived in India after four months at sea boasting a perfect zero-casualty rate of the ruddy sailors who were healthier than when they departed Britain. The solution to the mysterious plague was simple: a tiny but steady consumption of vitamin C. Sailors didn’t require a freshly prepared three-course meal every day, nor a cornucopia of fresh plant matter to choose from. They just needed a couple of drops of citrus juice daily.
Obviously, a hearty volume of variegated fruits and vegetables is needed for a thriving mind and body. But if you are ever stuck on a ship or a space station or wherever for an extended period without access to what is good for you, then just a few milligrams of daily vitamin C and some water will mean the difference between life and death.
The same principle of essentialism can be applied to spiritual health.
If you can’t read, meditate, pray, sing, congregate, or serve as much as you would like to, don’t just give up. You can still survive spiritually with a steady dose of devotional micronutrients: Bible reading, prayer, and service.
I am NOT advocating laziness or even efficiency in your devotional life.
I am NOT promoting spiritual anorexia where you starve yourself of what makes you healthy so that you can glut yourself on what is useless or toxic.
Matthew 4:4 It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Anytime you allow social media, TV, sleeping, working, or even serving to completely edge out what God has designed your soul to crave—time talking to him and hearing from his word and gathering with his people—then your immunity to temptation and doubt will diminish, your energy for devotion and worship will decrease, and your vitality of assurance and joy of your salvation will slowly drain out of you, leaving you spiritually incapacitated and atrophied. What is the point of life if it isn’t to glorify and enjoy God passionately and deeply every day?
The more frequently and fully you can drink from God’s fountain, the less spiritually dehydrated you will be. There are many spiritual disciplines that will benefit your soul in this life and the next, and make you a more fulfilled, mature, and earnest disciple of the Savior.
We all have experienced the deflating disillusionment of seeing our best intentions get sabotaged by our weakness, which can lead to discouragement and then the worst response: resignation (which begets apathy and atrophy).
Jesus acknowledged this when he chided his near-narcoleptic disciples: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matt 26:41).
So, in order to survive this year, I am proposing that you commit to practice—at the very least, bare minimum, no-matter-what—this survival pack of basic spiritual essentials.
Three daily drops of micronutrients that mean the difference between life and death…
1. Read one chapter of the New Testament
There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. And there are 261 weekdays in a year. So here is my proposal for the bare minimum for a Bible reading plan this year: read one chapter of the New Testament each weekday. If you are unconscious due to surgery and thus miss a day or two or four, you can catch up that week the following Saturday. But if you cannot find time in your day to read one chapter of God’s word, then you are not living life correctly.
(And if you can add a Psalm, a chapter of Proverbs, and a chapter of the major prophets or narrative, on some days if not all days, that will always be better than not adding them.)
2. Pray one prayer
At the very least commit to praising God for one attribute/deed you notice in your reading. Confess one sin the Spirit convicts you of while reading your chapter. Intercede for one person other than yourself, and supplicate God for one need you have (spiritual preferably, but physical, financial, or relational if it is on your heart). And express gratitude to God for one blessing he has granted you recently. Try not to repeat the same one; this will force you to cultivate slightly more gratitude than if you just utter the same perfunctory “thank you for my salvation” every day.
3. One serving of service
On Sundays, if you are a Christian and you are not bedridden or on the International Space Station, you will go to a worship service with your church (see Heb 10:25). But you don’t need to wait til Sunday to serve the saints. Every day be alert to ways you can be a witness for Christ to unbelievers by serving them, or find a way to serve a fellow believer. This will prise your gaze off your problems and direct your attention to the needs of others. It moves toward fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This might be as simple as a text message to a church member encouraging them or reminding them of a Bible verse you read in your daily chapter. It could be a donation you make, or offering to help someone carry their groceries to the car, or sharing Christ with a beggar. The idea is to not only read and pray but to do.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Again, please let me reiterate that it is far better to read more of the Bible, pray throughout the day, tire yourself out with service, and engage in the multitudinous spiritual disciples that will invigorate your devotion to God. But in the background of whatever else you resolve to do this year, have this bare essentialism supporting your soul’s health with micronutrients and nourishment, and avoid the spiritual scurvy of devotional neglect.
Source: Clint Archer | The Cripplegate