There are four reasons why your spiritual life is still lacking nourishment.
You can only imagine how a lady would feel if she spent hours making a gourmet meal for her husband, only to find him in the kitchen an hour later, making himself a sandwich. Think of the disgust shown to the unfortunate guy who, after taking his wife out to a beautiful restaurant, had to listen to her moan about being hungry during the movie since all she got was a salad. We were so hungry as kids that we would snack on potato chips and cookies while waiting for supper to be prepared by our mother. When the food was finally ready and proudly displayed on the table, we were so full that we could hardly manage to eat more than a few bites. A couple of hours later, when we had finished eating and cleaning up the kitchen, we went in quest of something. Poor quality fast food has little staying power.
My college roommate and I split a weekly grocery budget of $20. We would fast all day in preparation for the all-you-can-eat, country-style buffet that evening. We were so hungry that we gorged on a variety of meats and starches, including chicken, steak, hamburger steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, and fried potatoes. Regrettably, the satisfaction wore off by morning eight. Many of the religious practices we do are reflected in these images. In an effort to meet our spiritual demands for a full week, we are either overeating or eating the wrong foods at the wrong times. That’s why so many of us are going hungry.
The softly lit, elegant restaurant is wonderful for strengthening marital bonds, but the little meals are seldom enough to satisfy the heartiest of appetites. There is less focus on nutrition during this meal and more on the whole experience. Equally as many people at each of our churches are content with only the Wednesday, Sunday morning, and Sunday evening servings. People like these may not be fully present during services, but they will eagerly write off “attended” and “blessed” on their attendance sheets when they go home. Church is a source of pride for them, and they like the rituals and fellowship it provides, but they still look to the outside world for their inspiration and motivation. “Fully nourished body produces starving spirits,” as Alexander Maclaren put it.
Psalm 1 describes the believer who is established and productive as one who “in [God’s] law doth he ponder day and night.” This goes beyond the typical “read the Bible every year” resolution, which may be based on a day-by-day plan or a sporadic devotion to God’s Word. Although this devotion is commendable, the psalmist emphasized the need for a consistent and deep immersion in the Word and its implications. In addition, Joshua 1:8 reveals that contemplating God’s Word helps us to be obedient. If you rely on religion and Sunday services to fill you up on a spiritual level, you’ll feel hungry again as soon as they’re over. When rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, Jesus compared them to “whited sepulchers, which indeed seem lovely exterior, but are inside full of dead men’s bones, and of every uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27-28). Spiritual weakness and malnutrition result from a diet of religion and strict legalism.
There’s an Abundance of Crap
The world strives to sate our cravings for happiness by offering us the sweets of material possessions, modern conveniences, and fleeting compromises. Sinful behavior in defiance of God’s Word makes a believer spiritually hungry, much like the short-term effects of sugar on hunger. When people drink to excess, it’s not always because they’re trying to rebel against God’s will. In fact, there are moments when He gives in to our insatiable cravings for the sensual pleasures of the body. Think about the ungrateful prodigal son and the God’s chosen people in the desert who complained about the lack of meat on the table. Each “parent” gave his approval. It was quail that nourished the Israelites, and the prodigal son got his inheritance early.
Unfortunately, the son squandered his sudden wealth on meaningless material possessions. When the quail descended upon the people of God, “the anger of the Lord was inflamed,” and “the Lord [smote] the people with a very severe pestilence,” as described in Numbers 11:33. For this reason, God often grants us our desires, even if they ultimately prove to be fatal. When God provided abundantly for and directed his covenant people, the psalmist reflected on those events in Psalm 106:15. And [God] granted their petition, but he brought famine to their hearts (Psalm 15:15). Although the people’s requests for physical aid were granted, they were left physically “lean” as a result. The calories and nutritious value of junk food are opposites. The food of the world is similarly expensive and spiritually unnourishing. Eating food for the flesh instead of what God wants is a sacrifice of our spiritual, mental, and, in certain cases, bodily health.
An Ethereal Feast Every Sunday
There is a third kind of spiritually hungry person who tries to cram as much as possible into one Sunday morning. This believer contributes to the conversation in Sunday School, “amens” the pastor during worship, and is fluent in the jargon of the Christian community. Because it will have to “do them” for the rest of the week, he or she is eager to stuff their spiritual bellies to capacity. A person who has stopped praying and never opens the Bible again. There is a spiritual void, and all everyone asks for is for Sunday morning to get here faster. The good news is that this “thin” believer has such a desire and is aware of the need of filling up on additional nutrition. Every day, God gave his people in the desert with manna to eat. For the people, God said via Moses, “It shall rain food from heaven for you; and they shall go out and collect a set rate daily” (Exodus 16:4).
For the day’s consumption, anyone might take as much as they wanted, but anything left the next day “produced worms, and stank.” It’s interesting to note that God “covered” the seventh day’s needs by providing double the amount on the sixth day. It’s possible that many Christians have gotten the biblical recommendations on when to eat meals backwards. During the week, we are to “work and gather,” and on Sunday, we are to come together as a community to worship God and give Him gratitude for everything He has done for us. Thus, the Lord’s mercies are “fresh every morning,” as stated in Lamentations 3:22-23. Consuming His Word and being in His presence on a regular basis produces the kind of development that pleases our heavenly Father. We rely too much on the once-weekly Sunday feast because we starve ourselves throughout the week.
Pretense of Saturation
If we don’t fill the holes in our lives with spiritual nourishment that draws us closer to Christ, we’ll eventually replace them with things of the world. Nick Saban, the famed coach of the University of Alabama, is famous for his warnings to his players about the “rat poison” supporters and media may feed to their performance. His Alabama teams, who have some of the best prospects in the country, seldom lose. But he cautions his teams not to believe everything they read or hear about themselves in the national media. This ‘rat poison’ may reduce the athletes’ motivation to train and improve. In the same way, Christians need to be aware of this caution.
For those who trust in Jesus Christ, the promise of “everlasting salvation” is an incredible gift. But if we don’t make time for daily prayer, Bible study, and meditation, we might rapidly find ourselves spiritually malnourished. In Psalm 107:9, the Lord is said to “satisfy the yearning spirit, and feed the hungry soul with kindness.” Sanctification by the Holy Spirit, a longing for sanctity, a devotion to the study of God’s Word, a passionate devotion to prayer, and praise for His fidelity are the components of His kindness. Our Lord and Savior is the source of the “living water” that quenches our thirst. He feeds us with both His physical flesh and the Word of God. His precious, regal, and redeemed blood purchased our pardon. Spiritual hunger can only be sated by partaking of everlasting goods.