By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Imagine the feeling of a wife who prepared and presented an elaborate dinner only to catch her husband in the kitchen grabbing a sandwich just an hour later. Consider the disdain of the poor husband who took his wife to a nice restaurant where she only ordered a salad, then complained about how hungry she was during the movie. As a child, we ate potato chips and cookies as we anxiously awaited our mother to fix dinner because we were so starved. When the meal was complete and placed proudly on the table, we could hardly force down a couple of forks of the meal. Just a couple of hours later, after all the dishes were washed and the food put away, we were searching the kitchen for something. The junk food had no staying power.
In college, my roommate and I had a food allowance of $20 each every week. We wouldn’t eat anything all day and save up for the all-you-can-eat country-style buffet. Starved to death, we stuffed ourselves full of chicken, steak, hamburger steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, and fried potatoes. The fulfillment unfortunately only lasted until about ten the next morning. These representations reflect many of our spiritual diets. We are filling ourselves with the wrong food at the wrong times or the right food in the attempt to satisfy our spiritual needs for an entire week. As a result, we are a hungry people.
Fancy Not Filling
A romantic meal at the dimly lit restaurant, complete with fancy menus and tablecloths, is great for the marital relationship, but the small portions rarely fulfill the hearty appetite. This type of meal is more for its experience than for nutritional value purposes. Comparably, a segment of the membership within all our churches is satisfied with the Wednesday, Sunday Morning, and Sunday Evening portioning. These members or attendees are not totally invested spiritually in the services but will return home and gladly place a checkmark for their attendance and godly favor for the week. They appreciate the experience of church and are proud to be part of its membership but are primarily fed by the world. Alexander Maclaren wrote that “full-fed flesh makes starved souls.”
In Psalm 1, the grounded and fruitful believer delights and “in [God’s] law doth he meditate day and night.” This contemplates more than a cursory reading through the Bible in a year on a day-by-day schedule or sporadic relationship with the Word of God. Certainly, this dedication has value, but the psalmist sang about how important it is to have the Word and its applications encompass our minds regularly and thoroughly. Further, Joshua 1:8 teaches us that the mediation upon the Word is a benefit toward our obedience. The dependence upon religion and the regularly scheduled meetings of the church to totally satisfy a spiritual appetite leaves one empty immediately following the services. Jesus in Matthew 23:27-28 rebuked the scribes and Pharisees as being hypocrites because they were “like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” A diet of religion and dedicated legalism leads to frailty and spiritual malnutrition.
Too Much Junk
The world attempts to feed our appetites with the sugar contained in material goods, conveniences, and momentary comprises. Just as sugar quickly but temporarily curbs our appetite with non-substantive empty calories, partaking in sinful action in opposition to God’s Word leaves the believer spiritually starving. Often, the detrimental consumption is not in direct defiance of God’s direction. No, He sometimes relents and gives us our constant desire for the flesh. Consider the prodigal son who demanded his inheritance prematurely and God’s people who were displeased with the menu in the wilderness and instead insisted upon meat. In each instance, the “father” acquiesced. The prodigal son received his inheritance early, and the Israelites were fed with quail.
Consequently, however, the instant riches of the son were wasted on the junk of the world. The quail rained down upon God’s people but resulted in “the Lord [smiting] the people with a very great plague” because “the wrath of the Lord was kindled” as detailed in Numbers 11:33. Thus, God sometimes gives us the objects of our lusts even though they become poison to our lives. Psalm 106:15 was written following the great provision and guidance that God gave his covenant people. In verse 15, the psalmist wrote, “And [God] gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” The people received their request for physical provision but suffered “leanness” accordingly. Junk food is high in calories and low in nutritional value. Similarly, the food of the world is high in cost and low value to our spiritual lives. By attempting to substitute what God desires for our spiritual health, we sacrifice our own spiritual, mental, and oftentimes physical well-being by the consumption of food for our flesh.
Photo Credit: © Pexels/Ray Piedra
The Sunday Spiritual Buffet
A third spiritually famished group is those who attempt to get everything he or she can on Sunday morning. This Christian participates in the Sunday School discussion, “amens” the pastor during the worship services, and knows all of the right “church words.” His or her desire is to put as much spiritual meat on his or her plate because it must “do them” for the rest of the week. The Bible will not be opened again, and his or her prayer life is non-existent. The only petition is for Sunday morning to hurry and arrive because of the spiritual hunger. The positive is that this “lean” believer has such a desire and realizes the need for more sustenance. God provided his people in the wilderness with manna each day. God promised Moses that He would “rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day” (Exodus 16:4).
The people could take as much as they needed for that day’s provision, but any left overnight “bred worms, and stank.” Interesting that on the sixth day, God provided twice the amount in order to “cover” the need for the seventh day. Possibly many within the church have the biblical feeding schedule backward. We are to “work and gather” throughout the week, and our time of communal worship on Sunday is to center around worship, praise, and our thanksgiving toward Him for all that He has continually provided throughout our lives. As such, Lamentations 3:22-23 promises us that the Lord’s mercies are “new every morning.” A steady, continual diet of His Word and His presence leads to the type of growth contemplated by our Heavenly Father. We hunger because we are starving ourselves during the week and, therefore, depend too much upon the once-a-week Sunday buffet feeding.
If the voids in our life are not filled with spiritual meat which promotes a closer relationship with Christ, we inevitably fill these gaps with worldliness. Nick Saban, the legendary University of Alabama football coach, is known for warning his athletes about being fed “rat poison” by fans and media. His athletes are among the highest-rated recruits in the nation, and accordingly, his Alabama teams do not lose many games. However, he warns his teams to beware of buying into the things said or written by fans and the national media telling them how good they are. This “rat poison” has the potential to hinder the athletes' desire to practice and get better. The Christian must be cognizant to the same warning.
Our promise of “eternal salvation” is a great blessing for the believer. However, spiritual leanness can quickly result if the necessary facets of prayer, Bible study, and meditation are neglected to be part of our regular diet. Psalm 107:9 testifies that the Lord “satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” The ingredients of His goodness are sanctification through the Holy Spirit, the desire for holiness, the meditation upon the Word, a fervent prayer life, and worship of Him for His faithfulness. Our Savior provides the “living” water which satisfies our thirst. His body and His Word are our bread. His rich, royal, and redeeming blood paid for our forgiveness. Only when we feast on the things of the eternal will our spiritual hunger be satisfied.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Thought Catalog
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and fill-in preacher. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.