Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Problem of HUNGER - (part 4)

Why is there Hunger?

God has created us hungry beings. We need food every day—and it is not only us. Every living creature requires daily nourishment of some kind.

Why did God do this? Why is there even such a thing as hunger?

Certainly he did not have to make us so that we would become hungry. He could have created us so that we would not need daily sustenance. He could have created us so that we simply exist without the need for food. We may even think that in some ways, this would be more desirable. One way to end world hunger would be for God to abolish hunger. He could make us so that we do not need food.

But if we think about it for a couple of minutes, few of us would actually prefer that. Eating is one of the joys of life. We like to eat. We all have our favorite foods and we enjoy having a good meal after we have worked up a healthy appetite.

Besides that, the practice of having a meal is more than simply supplying nutrition for our bodies. There also is a social aspect to it, or there should be. We eat together as families so that we can have conversation and keep in touch with one another. In many situations with busy schedules, mealtime is the only time when we actually talk with one another in an genuiconversation.

Auspicious occasions also are nearly always celebrated with a meal. This is true in families as it is in social or business organizations. Birthdays, anniversaries, events to celebrate company achievements, church centennials… the list could continue at great length.

Eating is a time of communion and fellowship. It is more than our bodies that are being fed; it is also fulfilling our need for social interaction. Eating a meal with someone demonstrates friendship and companionship with that person. It is an act of solidarity.

It is no accident that Jesus made great preparations for the last meal that he was to eat with his disciples. The evening held deep meaning and importance for him. As he was preparing to depart this earth, he did not set his disciples down on the ground to give them a lecture and his last instructions. Rather, he had a meal prepared so that he could speak with them as they ate together.

There is a deep significance to the food that we eat. It is not simply a cold and utilitarian manner in which we supply the nutrients to our bodies so that they can function. It is more than putting gasoline in your car so that it will run.

God created hunger and eating so that we would know life does not arise on its own, and it is not self-sustaining.

The Giver and Sustainer of Life

One of the first facts that we learn about life is that it does not appear spontaneously and independent of a life-giver. That life-giver is God. God “breathed the breath of life” into Adam and made him a living being.

Life is also sustained through God. We need God’s life daily in order to continue to live. As King David wrote in the Psalms: 

How precious is Your loving devotion, O God, that the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from Your river of delights.

For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:7-8 BSB) 

More that the Food that We Eat

But we are not simply physical beings. An often heard phrase for proper nutrition promotion is “you are what you eat.” It may largely be true with the health of our bodies, but the phrase gives an incomplete impression on who we are as people. We are more than just bodies with bellies to fill.

We are also spirits. We are also souls. Our being is much more complicated than any book of human physiology would tell us. We have been made in the very image of God Himself!

Why is it that we would think that our spirits do not also require daily life-giving nourishment from our Creator and Sustainer? When our bodies become hungry; we feed ourselves. We know how to become satisfied in our bellies, but we ignore the hunger of our spirit. Our inner person is crying out for nutrition. Our inner-man, our inner-woman is starving to death and we do nothing.

Soon, much like a person who has reached the final stages of physical starvation, we will no longer sense the hunger of our spirit. Our hearts become calloused to this need of our souls. It becomes hardened to the cries of our spirits, and it becomes unwilling to change the way in which we allow our inner-persons to be nourished. We ignore our spirits, our hearts solidify into stone, and our spirits die (See previous post - Ailments of the Heart).

It is not only our bodies that require nourishment. It is also our spirits. It is also our souls. Why would we even think that it would be different than this? 

Recognizing Hunger in Your Soul

How are we to feed our spirits? How are we to maintain a healthy spiritual heart? Is there a book on nutrition to teach us this?

Actually, there is. It is the same book that tells us that all life comes from God.

The first step to having a healthy heart in the spiritual sense is to recognize the hunger for what it is. In those moments of contemplation, when you are asking yourself, “Is there not more to life than what I am doing?” the answer is not to have another beer or plan another vacation.

The problem that many people have is that when they feel an emptiness inside their spirits, they try to fill that void by doing something that is meant to satisfy their outer person. They are feeding the desires of their bodies and not their spirits.

After a time, they no longer are even able to tell the difference. Their spiritual hearts have become calloused and unfeeling. Any emptiness that a person feels is interpreted by them as a physical desire. They think that they are hungry for a new experience, a new adventure. They think that they are hungry for a new job, another house or another car.

And the difficulty is that it works for them. It fills the emptiness that they felt—at least for a moment. It works at least until the novelty of the new self-awarded enticement wears off. It then needs to be repeated. They multiply unto themselves houses and cars and possessions, but like any addiction, the same class of enticement is no longer sufficient. It now has to be bigger and better and to come in increasingly frequent intervals.

The Apostle Paul says of these people, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19 BSB). 

Amassing the Goods of this World

Jesus told a story about this very thing: 

The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. So he thought to himself, “What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?”

Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. Then I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!’”

But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?”

This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21 BSB) 

It is a simple metaphor, and one that we can easily see to be true. Not only do we know this instinctively, but also in a pragmatic sense and even logically we know it to be true.

“You can’t take it with you,” we always say.

But even so, we continue to live just as the rich man did. Perhaps we are not rich like him, but our philosophy is the same. We try to satisfy all emptiness inside by material methods. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” we say. And then we add, “for tomorrow we die.” 

Gladiators in the Arena of the World

The final part of that phrase is taken from something that the Apostle Paul wrote. Paul lived in the days when the gladiators fought lions and other wild beasts for the entertainment of emperors and crowds of people who came to watch the events as they would a sporting event.

He said, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for human motives, what did I gain? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Corinthians 15:32 BSB).

His point is that in many regards, we are all simply gladiators in the arena, fighting for life. In the end, we all die. If that is all that there is to our existence, then we may as well get as much enjoyment out of these fleeting and ephemeral moments that we have on this earth as we can, for there is nothing else—nothing beyond the grave.

Those whose hearts have turned to stone and who no longer hear the cries of their spirits may actually believe that this is true. But I do not believe this, nor did Paul. And if you feel that there must be more meaning to life than simply existing, even if you cannot define what that thing is, neither do you believe it.

Daily Requirements for the Soul

In feeding our bodies, nutritionists have come up with a list of “minimum daily requirements” that a body requires in order to grow and remain healthy. In a similar way, you may be asking, “What is the minimum that I must do in order for my spirit to remain alive?”

First of all, if you are thinking in this way, you have not understood correctly the importance of your spirit within you. Our present bodies are for a moment, but our spirits are forever. Our first priority in life should not actually be for our physical needs, but rather our spiritual.

The man Job, of ancient days said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12 BSB)

Recognizing Hunger

I have referred quite often to the passage of the feeding of the five thousand in these writings on what I have learned about hunger. The account of the feeding contains some of the central teachings of Jesus not only of physical hunger, but also on spiritual hunger.

Using and multiplying the lunch of a small boy, Jesus first fed the multitude so that their physical hunger would be satisfied, but he was more interested in teaching them about spiritual hunger—a lesson that they failed to learn.

On the following day after the meal, when the people again became hungry, they came looking for Jesus, hoping to be fed again. They were disappointed. Jesus did not again perform a miracle to feed them.

I am afraid that Jesus was also disappointed in the response of the multitude.

Jesus did not feed them, but instead said to them, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval” (John 6:27 BSB).

Jesus was trying to teach the people that rather than listening to the physical hunger in their bellies, it was more important to listen to the hunger cries of their hearts. This hunger cannot be satisfied with consumables of the world.

Jesus continues, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35 BSB). 

A Lesson Lost

The teaching went far over the heads of the multitude. They had no idea what Jesus was talking about. Jesus then attempted to clarify things a bit for them, while at the same time realizing that the clarification may even add to the confusion. The people simply were not ready to hear: 

Truly, truly, I tell you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh. (John 6:47-51 BSB) 

Jesus was trying to teach them a critical concept in spiritual hunger. It is a hunger that every man and woman has experienced, but one which few properly recognize. We are so focused on our physical needs that we misinterpret when our spirit is in need. Jesus was telling the people that the hunger that they actually felt was spiritual, and could not be satisfied with physical bread.

These were perplexing words for the followers of Jesus. They could not grasp this spiritual truth. “This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?” they asked. Many of them turned away and would no longer followed him.

I will not say that the twelve core disciples understood it any better. But there was a difference in the way that they responded. Even though they could not understand all that Jesus said, they knew the he was opening up for them an entire new way of viewing their existence. 

A Lesson Gained

After the multitude had left, Jesus asked those few remaining with him, “Do you want to leave too?”

Simon Peter’s reply expresses the attitude that all true followers of Jesus must have if we are to grow in understanding. “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 BSB).

Like Peter and the disciples, today’s true disciple has walked with Jesus long enough through the events of life and has seen that he merits our confidence, even when we are unclear about what is happening.

Today’s true disciple has come to recognize that the teachings that Jesus brings have always proven to be true. Many of the teachings are difficult at first, but as we grow in experience and understanding, we come to recognize that he speaks from a perspective that we do not experience in the world.

Today’s true disciple does not abandon the teachings of Jesus when he speaks of something too difficult for us to grasp. We know that in time and with more experience, we will grow in our understanding.

Again I compare this to our daily experiences. When we are learning calculus, for instance, and confront a new concept that is difficult to grasp, we do not abandon the entire teaching. That is, we do not if we are sincere in learning the subject.

Rather, we understand that we must expand our perspective to come to an understanding. Then slowly, it all begins to become clear to us.

Peter realized this not only when he expressed this confidence in Jesus, but he did so for his entire life. He later wrote in one of his letters concerning some of the teachings that God had revealed to the Apostle Paul: 

Consider also that our Lord’s patience brings salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom God gave him.

He writes this way in all his letters, speaking in them about such matters. Some parts of his letters are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 BSB) 

Our First Bites to Begin the Feast

But we need to begin, and the very first step is to recognize that our souls need to be fed. Hunger that we feel inside is not always related to the stomach. Much of it is related to the heart. God created us hungry beings and the hunger of our stomachs is meant to teach us that there is also a hunger in our spirits that needs to be satisfied.

Peter wrote in another of his letters, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 1:2-3 ESV).

He also wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 BSB).

We are to grow, and in order to grow, we need to correctly and adequately respond to the hunger inside. We are to feed our spirits and our souls. We are to respond to the hunger of our hearts.

If you would like to help the children of the Log Church Orphanage of Kisii, Kenya, you may make your check out to "The Log Church" and write "Orphans" on the memo line.

Send it to:

The Log Church
PO Box 68
Tripoli, Wisconsin 54564
Every nickel given in this way will be used for only aid for the orphans. It will be used for purchasing food, clothing, schooling, and other necessities of living. Nothing is held back or diverted for any other purpose

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