Even today, the most significant way that God speaks to us is through the words of the bible. His words strengthen us, comfort us, guide us and allow us to learn more about and to grow in our relationship with Him.
MOVE, A survey of spiritual health amongst 250,000 Christians from over 1,000 churches discovered that:
“Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on scripture.
If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”
SOAPing is a great way to allow God to speak to us straight from His love letter to us; the bible. As we meditate on His words, so often the Holy Spirit will start speaking to us, illuminating life changing truths for us – if we slow down enough to listen and reflect. SOAPing helps us to do this. It helps us to not only discover what God might be saying to us, but also to reflect on the implications of this; how we can apply it in our lives.
So how do you start SOAPing? Just follow these 6 simple steps on how to SOAP:
First, start by reading the chapters in the Bible from the reading plan. ie for 1 Jan, the passages are Genesis ch 1 & 2 and Luke ch 1.
You may choose to do just a few of these chapters – ie the chapters in the New Testament or Psalms. If you read all the chapters, over the course of a year, you will have read the Old Testament in is entirety as well as having read through the New Testament twice.
Second, as you read, take note of or underline verses that stick out to you, or that you want to ponder further. If nothing really grabs your attention, just pick a verse anyway!
Third, write out the Scripture verse. This will help you to remember it.
Fourth, write out your Observation. This is just writing out what you think the verse is saying to you. The Holy Spirit will frequently bring insight and understanding as we start doing this.
Fifth, write out the Application. This is what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to apply to your life. It may be a command of Jesus to obey, or something to tell a friend, a sin to confess and leave behind, or something your feel the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do.
God’s word should always result in a response, some form of action or application. Life change happens when we apply God’s word to our life.
Sixth, write out your Prayer. Thank God for who He is and what He has shown you, confess any sin that you need to confess, and ask His Holy Spirit to help you in applying what you have SOAPed.
Here’s a brief example of a SOAP:
Now that you know how to SOAP, the next step is to start SOAPing! Like any new habit, it takes a while to get the hang of it. Some people may find it awkward at first, but as you get into the habit, it will literally be life changing!
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I miss a day?
If you read the passages for every day, you would read the entire New Testament twice in a year and the Old Testament once. But SOAPing isn’t a quest to do this. Instead it’s a tool to help you regularly meditate on the word of God and then apply it to your life. This is important because God uses His Word and His Spirit in partnership to shape us. That’s when his word becomes living and active in shaping us, or as the Message translation puts it, “His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. (Hebrews 4:12)
If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. You’ll probably only set yourself up for failure in doing this. Instead, go to todays date and SOAP on the scriptures listed for that day.
Can I read devotionals instead?
When we read devotionals, we read the insights and opinions that other people have gained from God’s word. These can be valuable and helpful. But they are not a substitute for mediating directly on God’s Word.
When we read God’s word and meditate on it, we seek the Holy Spirit’s opinion and insights and He will guide us and provide further illumination. By all means, read devotionals and other books, but don’t do this instead of SOAPing. Instead do this as well as SOAPing.
What if I grow beyond SOAPing?
I’ve been SOAPing for over 10 years now and regard it as one of the greatest catalysts for my own learning and spiritual growth, and I know many pastors and church leaders who say the same.
So often, the Holy Spirit shows me new insights and perspectives that I have never seen before, even on passages I have read many times. And often God uses my SOAPing to prepare me for circumstances, including life’s storms, that I don’t know are coming.
SOAPing is a way of opening the way for the Holy Spirit to mentor us from God’s Word.
How important is SOAPing to my spiritual growth?
In a study “Unstuck” of more than 70,000 Americans examining their spiritual lives, the importance of regularly engaging in God’s word was found to be the major influence in their spiritual health and growth.
“…spiritually and behaviourally speaking, we found that nothing comes close to having the bible’s impact on the spiritual lives of those who engage it….Our lives are dramatically different when we’re engaged with scripture four or more times a week…engaging four or more times a week is key – there are no statistical differences in the behaviours of those who read/listen to the bible one to three times weekly and those who spend zero days doing it.”
The study found that to “engage” in scripture, 3 things were necessary. Receive it, Reflect on it and Respond to it. SOAPing helps us do each of these things.
Why should I use a reading plan and not just read the verses I want to read?
Using a reading plan is useful because it ensures that we get exposed to chapters and books that we probably wouldn’t choose to otherwise read. For example, probably the last book in the Bible is the book of Job. But in reading Job and SOAPing on verses it contains, the Holy Spirit has taught me valuable lessons.
To put it another way, there isn’t any part of the Bible that isn’t useful and that God can’t use to shape us. Paul said it like this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17 NLT)
When we pick and choose which parts of the bible to read, and we ignore other parts, we don’t get the balanced diet that God wants us to get.
What happens if I don’t have time to read all the scriptures listed for the day?
It’s more important for you to SOAP and chew over a verse than to read all chapters listed for that day. If you are short on time you may decide (for example) to just read the New Testament chapter and SOAP on that.
Why can’t I just do my own reading and reflection?
You can do this, but we would encourage you to join with others in the church family and SOAP. There are a few reasons for this:
One, when people throughout the church share their SOAPs on the same passage, we so often get a beautiful picture of what God is doing throughout the church. It’s enriching when we see this, but when we all do our own thing, we often miss out on seeing this.
Two, being on the same page SOAPing helps us as a church be on the same page so that the Holy Spirit can take us on a journey where we can all learn and grow together. Paul said it like this, “…make my joy complete by being like- minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Phil 2:2)
Three, SOAPing is a simple and reproducible format that anyone can do. If we want people to regularly meditate on the Word, we need to show a simple and effective way that people can do this. SOAP is a great way of doing this that is being used all around the world.
Four, using a format like SOAPing empowers us all to help disciple others in how to meditate on God’s Word.