Most of us like to eat every day. We may not be proud of our diet, but we usually avoid hunger one way or another. In fact, many of us eat three or more meals a day whether we’re hungry or not. Students of nutrition tell us that our appetites are not the best guidelines for what we should be eating. Long distance runners tell us that if they wait until they feel thirsty to start drinking, it’s too late—they are already dehydrated. Many races have been lost because an athlete didn’t drink when he or she wasn’t thirsty.
How does all of this apply to the Bible and the subject of spiritual nourishment? God has a lot to say about the care and feeding of our souls.
Jesus once had an interesting encounter with the devil. Jesus had been fasting (a spiritual discipline you can read more about elsewhere on this website) for many days and was hungry. At that moment of physical weakness and need, the devil showed up to tempt Jesus. His first temptation seemed like a practical, almost insignificant challenge to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3). The dare was a simple test with short-term pleasing results (have you ever tasted bread baked in a hot stone oven?); yet Jesus recognized the devastating long-term consequences. He responded, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
In Jesus’ short answer we find a number of important lessons for us: (1) Jesus used God’s Word to answer a temptation. He didn’t argue; he answered. Why? Because (2) Jesus understood that a temptation always zooms in and magnifies a potential weakness. The devil was aiming at two possible places of vulnerability in Jesus—physical hunger and doubts about his identity. If Jesus had had any insecurity about his identity, he might have been convinced that creating bread from stones would prove it. (Actually, it may have proved that he wasn’t sure who he was.) (3) Jesus may not have had a Bible with him, but he had God’s word in him. The real point of spiritual nourishment, which results from “every word that comes from the mouth of God,” doesn’t relate so much to how much of God’s Word that passes through your mind, as to how much of it gets stuck there. It’s not merely ingesting (reading) but digesting (studying, meditating) God’s Word that really feeds us spiritually. (4) Jesus demonstrated that while he was obviously physically hungry, he was nevertheless spiritually well-nourished on God’s Word.
Consider attaching your spiritual meals in some way to your physical meals. What would happen in your spiritual life if you had a helping of God’s Word before one of your meals each day? How are you using God’s Word to answer challenges and temptations in your life? These are certainly not only great ways to obey what Jesus taught but also a significant way in which you can grow toward becoming like him. Any habit of Jesus’ is a habit worth having.