There is more to seminary, and the whole Christian life, than the necessity of pursuing daily soul survival in the Scriptures, but this need must not be overlooked. An otherwise impressive theology degree is utterly unimpressive if your soul has shriveled in the course of study. As Christians, daily Bible intake is to our souls what breathing, eating, and drinking are to our physical bodies. As the incarnate Word himself says, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
How to study the word for more than words:
First, seek to make your seminary studies devotional. Pray for God’s help before class, before studying, before writing a paper or taking a test, and during all these activities. Continually consecrate your studies to Jesus and ask him to freshly meet you in them, keep your spiritual blood flowing, and keep you soft to his grace.
It is important for every Christian, and perhaps especially for seminary students, to never come to the Scriptures with anything less than a devotional approach. Whatever the assignment, intentionally seek the growth and warming of your soul. There’s no spiritually neutral gear when handling the Bible. You don’t need to learn the lesson far too many have experienced about trifling with holy things–you either survive or shrivel.
Second, set aside at least a brief season daily to focus on feeding your soul. Find a good patch in the Scriptures (maybe through an annual Bible-reading plan), one you’re not studying in preparation for a class, a test, or a sermon, and graze a while, just for your spiritual well-being. Crumbs from such a meal will inevitably bless those to whom you minister, but try not to make your future flock (or present ministry) your explicit focus in this feeding. The aim is the daily strengthening and sustaining of your soul.
An often-helpful reminder to seminary students is to not read merely for information. Such information, glorious as it is, won’t keep your heart soft and your soul breathing. What we desperately need is spiritual sight of the living Christ. We need the person of Jesus himself, whom we find in and through the Scriptures. Our souls long for a living connection with the living God-man. We were made for this.
Therefore, be on the unashamed lookout for Jesus and his gospel, for soul-satisfaction that runs up verses and doctrines to a person, the God-man, rather than terminating on concepts and ideas. In an explicitly “devotional” time, set out to explicitly enjoy Jesus in the Scriptures as your great end, not as a means to anything else, whether it is a class assignment or ministering to others in some way.
You can never afford to settle for anything less than the words of the Bible, but extreme as it may seem, your soul needs more than words, more than facts, more than studies and new head knowledge. You need the Word himself. Your soul needs Jesus to survive. And for now, the devotional imbibing of the Scriptures is an essential way to find him.
This post was adapted from How to Stay Christian in Seminary by David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell.
David Mathis (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando) is executive editor at desiring God.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary. David and his wife, Megan, have two sons.
Jonathan Parnell (MDiv, Bethlehem Seminary) is a content strategist at desiringGod.org and has spent the last nine years of his life studying on seminary campuses in North Carolina and Minnesota. He and his wife, Melissa, live in Minneapolis and have four children.