Sunday, July 28, 2019

THE PROBLEM OF HUNGER - (part 5)



 
FAMISHED FOR THE WORD
 
In our speaking of hunger, we have seen a relationship between physical and spiritual hunger that is not often recognized by most people of the world. As a physical life cannot be sustained without physical food, neither can a spiritual life be sustained without spiritual food.

God has given us physical hunger so that we can learn that life itself depends upon him. It is not difficult to see that we need the physical food from his creation to sustain us in body. We become aware of that every day, usually around breakfast time.

From this observation, we should learn that even in our souls and in our spirits, we need his life-giving spiritual food. Receiving spiritual food is not simply a one-time event when we are saved, but just like our physical food, but we need it continually—even every day. As with our experience in our physical life, our spiritual life may have come alive when we are born again, but it needs to be sustained to remain healthy. 

The Physical and the Spiritual

Ours is a world culture that is centered on the physical. Watch any TV show, look at any of the advertisements, pick up any magazine, walk down to the mailbox and get your mail, look at the billboards as you are driving—in every single aspect of our life in the world, we see the emphasis on our physical well-being.

Health clubs, diet programs, food supplements to promote health, natural food alternatives; all are sold to us as the keys to caring for our bodies. Clinics and hospitals are available to care for our infirmities. These are all important. We need to care for our bodies.

But what about the care for our souls? What about the care for our spirits? God has been trying to teach us all throughout history that the daily food for our soul is not only just as important as the food for our bodies, but that it is more important.

This fact was the central lesson and actually the entire reason that God sent the earlier Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years. He was teaching them that life depends upon more than mere physical food, but as Moses told them, it depends upon “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Others writers of the Bible also referred to this lesson of the wilderness. Jesus mentioned it often in his teachings about spiritual food. He spoke of it with a crowd of Jews who had come to him looking for something to eat: 

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. (John 6:47-51 BSB). 

Nourishment and Life

It is all about life—not just physical life, but especially about spiritual life. No matter how we nourish and care for this present physical life, even in the best of circumstances, it lasts but a moment in time. Our spiritual life however has the potential to live for all time.

Which would you say is more important?

For the people who had come to Jesus looking for food, Jesus told them plainly: “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).

Nourishing our bodies is easy for us to understand, but how are we to nourish our souls?

I have previously quoted some individuals of ancient days who spoke of this nourishment that they sought:

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

The Simon Peter knew that to abandon the words of the Lord would be to abandon the only source of spiritual food that we have.

“Lord, to whom would we go?” he said to Jesus. “You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 BSB). 

A Craving for the Word

Peter later wrote to new believers, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2.2 BSB).

We are infants when it comes to understanding spiritual nutrition, so it is best to begin here—as newborn babies. We must yearn for the word of God as a newborn craves the milk of his or her mother.

This comparison may seem extreme to you. All of us have at least been in the presence of a newborn baby when he or she is hungry. There is nothing anyone can do to calm that little one except the mom giving her baby life-giving milk. The baby cares nothing about taking a walk, or being bounced up and down in your arms, or in other ways being distracted from his or her hunger. The infant cannot be distracted. The little one needs food!

For the sincere believer, especially a new believer, this food is the true Word of God. To someone new to the faith and sincere in their desire to grow, they seem to want to devour the Word! 

Growing and Maturing

Certainly a Christian must also mature. Babies do not continue to consume only milk. If they did so, they would never develop and grow. In the same way, we as believers in Christ must begin to take on some of the more difficult to understand truths of the Bible. We must grow and mature in our faith.

The Apostle Paul had more trouble with the church in the city of Corinth than perhaps any other church with which he had been involved. There were people in that church living in overt sexual sin, others with obvious problems of gluttony, others with alcohol, church members who treated one another in deplorable ways…the list could continue. And almost the worst part was that rather than being ashamed of their lifestyles, they were actually proud of their broadminded social practices (1 Corinthians 5:2). All in all, they were a troublesome lot.

Although the problems were many, all of these were merely symptomatic of the root cause. That problem was that since their spiritual infancy, the people had not grown in the Lord. They hadn’t grown because they refused to let go of their lifestyles and habits with which they existed before they were born again. They wanted the Lord in their lives perhaps, but by observing their immoral lifestyles, it seemed that they wanted the world more.

In trying to help them, Paul threw up his hands in despair: 

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and dissension among you, are you not worldly? Are you not walking in the way of man? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 BSB) 

The writer of the book of Hebrews faced much the same difficulty as did Paul. He was attempting to teach his readers about the suffering and the high priesthood of Jesus. Some of this teaching involved a priest of the Old Testament named Melchizedek, a mysterious character of the Bible who was, as it says “without father or mother or genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life” (Hebrews 7:5).

However, like Paul, the writer of Hebrews knew that to continue his teaching would be useless. The people simply were not ready to hear. In apparent frustration the writer continues: 

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain, because you are dull of hearing. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food!

For everyone who lives on milk is still an infant, inexperienced in the message of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained their senses to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 BSB) 

Feasting on the Word

Maturity must occur. But it must begin by devouring the milk of the Word—learning and understanding the basics of the life of grace and faith through Jesus.

Call the thought of devouring the Word poetic language or call it a metaphor, the image of eating the Word of God is found several places in the Bible.

“Your words were found, and I ate them,” the prophet Jeremiah said to the Lord. “Your words became a delight to me” (Jeremiah 15:16 BSB).

So enthusiastic was the writer of Psalm 119 about the word of God that he mentions God’s word in every one of the one hundred and seventy-six verses of the chapter. He uses various terms to describe word of the Lord, names like “your precepts,” “your commandments” and “testimonies,” but every verse contains a reference to the word of God.

For instance, he wrote this: “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103 NAS) 

My Own Hunger

This is also my own testimony. When I first began to follow Jesus, I could not get enough of reading the Bible. I needed to know what it said! I devoured every page! I carried my little New Testament always in my pocket, and when I had some brief minutes to myself, I read a bit. Then, when I had to go about my work, I thought about what I had read.

As I read God’s words with sincerity, I understood much of what it said, but there were many other things that I did not understand at all. In fact, I will say that as I first was reading, I found myself asking more questions than I did finding answers to my questions.

But that did not matter to me. Like Simon Peter, I knew that I had found the source of life. Where else would I go?

This turning point in my life came to me when I was living in India. This was in the early 1970’s, which some of you also may have lived through. I did not go to India as a means of seeking truth, as many were doing in those years. It was a decade when very many people in the west had grown tired and disillusioned with the Christian church and its failure to address the questions of their souls.

I was one of those. The church to me had become as something dead—I saw in it all tradition and rubrics, but no real answers. Many Americans and other westerners, having become tired of all of this, began to turn to the east to look for answers. India and the Indian religions was one of the many places where they looked.

This is the time when I also went to India, but my purpose was not the same. I frankly was not interested in religion of any kind at that point of my life. My purpose is a story unto itself, and I do not have time to relate that bit of personal history right now, but allow me to say that my purpose centered not upon myself, but on others. As idealistic as it may sound, in my young and still teen-aged mind, I wanted to do something to help the people of the world. I had joined the Peace Corps and went to India as an agriculturist.

However, while living in India, my hunger for spiritual truth also once again became kindled. A fire for the quest for truth began to burn within me. I lived in the Punjab, the area of the Sikh religion. That is spelled s-i-k-h, but it is pronounced something like s-e-e-k, which is ironic, because that is what I began to do.

I lived near to a Sikh temple and was awoken every morning by big loudspeakers mounted on the temple roof and I think were pointed directly to my roof veranda where I usually slept outside. Every morning—“Bole So Nihal...Sat Sri Akal!

It was the Sikh call to prayer. If I hadn’t already been awakened by the squawking of the peacocks who had been perched on my railing all night, I was jolted awake by the loudspeakers.

I would sometimes go to the Sikh holy men – the gurusikhs, and ask them some questions. When I asked them about some of what I saw as inconsistencies in their beliefs, they usually got defensive. I was not being accusatory or trying to be contrary, but perhaps it seemed that way to them. But in truth, I simply wondered about these things.

It was the same when I spoke to western young people traveling through India in search of eastern religions. I was usually met with a wall of defense.

But even with these experiences, those years of my life was actually a very nice time. It was a unique period of my life. It was a time when I had very many conversations with many different people from various parts of the world concerning different belief systems. It was a time when I learned a lot about my own beliefs. Through all of these experiences, I was eventually drawn to the Bible—the book of truth.

When I returned home to America, I enrolled in a Bible college and began to devour the Bible. I began to learn what it contained, and I began to ask questions. When I saw something that to me looked like an inconsistency, I sometimes was also met with a wall of defense from older Christians, but not always. Some understood that without questioning things that one does not understand or that just seem wrong, one never grows in understanding.

In any discipline of knowledge in life, to the beginner, the more difficult concepts at first do not make sense. As an example, it is only when one grows in the discipline of mathematics that the concepts of advanced algebra and calculus begin to be understandable. If the learner simply refuses to progress in his or her education, they will be left ignorant of what these more advanced concepts teach.

Many of the people of Jesus’ day, when they listened to some of his more difficult to understand teachings, said, “This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?”

But Simon Peter said, Lord, to whom shall 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).

This also was the point where I was in my life. A difficult teaching would not drive me away, because I realized that to do so would drive me from the very source of the knowledge of eternal life.

It did not mean that I stopped asking questions, or that even now that I have stopped asking. Additionally, it does not mean that I no longer see any inconsistencies in the Bible. There are still many things for which I have no clear understanding and which to me still even seem a bit wrong.

But it is all different now. I have come to know Jesus, and I know that he is the source of all truth. My hunger for truth is as active as it ever was, and as I feast upon the word of God, much of what I once saw as inconsistencies have become resolved to me. And many others I can see will be resolved once I am able to have the perspective of the eternal (please see the post: Two Rivers Become One from 14 April, 2019).

And I press on. As the Apostle Paul said, “I press on to the goal” (Philippians 3:14). That goal is God’s calling me home and giving me his perspectives. My appetite for spiritual food remains ravenous, and I daily feast on God’s provision.

The Upward Call

Some of my most-loved words of Scripture were written by King David in the Psalms. He wrote, “One thing I ask from the LORD and this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
 
Did you notice that word inquire? It is asking questions about things that we do not understand. It is feasting upon the answers that God gives us. It is having our hunger for truth and knowledge satisfied.

This is my goal. It is this that I seek.

Paul called it his “upward call” (Philippians 3:14). It is also a call consistently upon me. This present life has actually come to mean relatively little for me, for I know that the life that is true and complete still awaits me.

Nevertheless, as long as God has me breathing the air of this life, I will continue to serve him and I will never stop asking questions and seeking the answers in his word. No one or no thing will ever deter me from living in service to God. This life is part of me now and I cannot be separated from it.

This upward call and a new life is waiting for you as well—if you so choose. Begin your feast. Begin to inquire in God’s temple. Become one who seeks (that is spelled, s-e-e-k). Soften your heart, awaken your hunger, feed upon the Word of God.

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1 comment:

  1. you seem to be having great joy in the Lord.
    Gen. 49:22 . How does one get to be like Joseph?


    - because of the hand of the Mighty One v. 24

    - because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel v. 24

    - because of your father's God who helps you, v. 25

    - because of the Almighty, who blesses you...v. 25 Amen & amen 🎶


    Your meditation has me thinking alot about how all through the Bible there is teaching and then testing. The truth is always tempered with troubles. Joseph is a great example of T & T, Teaching & Testing: (Truth & Trials) Corrie ten Boom; Darleen Rose; Elizebeth Elliott...etc. I enjoy in my study time using a Bible tool titled “Figures of speech used in the Bible.” E.W. Bullinger and have been looking at The WORD and the words. (The Living and the written Word.)


    O.k. back to joseph.

    They hurt his feet with shackles; his neck was put in an iron collar. Psalm 105:18 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. Psalm 105:19


    O.k. How about Jer. 15:16

    Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts.


    The joy that Jeremiah mentions is preceded by verse 15. O Lord, Thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in Thy longsuffering: know that for Thy sake I have suffered rebuke…..wow ! Joy yes, persecutors and rebukes necessary.

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