Pangs of hunger. Most of us get them first thing in the morning. And within hours of eating a hearty breakfast, we get hungry all over again. Skip a couple meals and your energy drops off right away. Go without physical sustenance long enough and your body begins to break down.
There is a reason our bodies need to be regularly strengthened and revitalized with physical food. There is a reason hunger pangs are the strongest and most frequent desires we have in life.
God uses this physical reality to teach us that spiritual strength and health require a balanced diet of nutritious spiritual food.
In their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites were totally dependent on God, even for physical food. In Exodus 16:4, God told them He would rain manna from heaven every day at a certain rate in order to “prove them”—to see if they would obey His laws.
The Israelites’ physical sustenance was a miraculous gift from God! God provided it, but they had to go out and gather it daily, then work to prepare it for consumption. Numbers 11:8 says they ground it up and made cakes out of it. This was a laborious, time-consuming process—and absolutely vital for their physical well-being and health!
Jesus told us why God made them do it this way. It was for our learning! Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you …” (John 6:27). He explained that while ancient Israel ate “bread from heaven,” today we must consume spiritual manna from heaven—Jesus Christ, the bread of life (verses 31, 35).
Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus is called the Word—also the Word of life (see John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1). The Bible is that same Word of God—in print. “[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). This is the manna we need daily. It does take laborious work to gather and prepare these precious, life-giving words for our spiritual consumption. But it’s well worth the effort. This is, after all, food that “endures unto everlasting life”!
Are you filling up on this life-saving food? Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The Greek word for filled means to satisfy—to gorge! If we fill up on this, we’ll never go hungry.
In one of his earliest articles, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about the failure of churches to face the problems plaguing our youth. He said churches used to be a balancing, restraining influence on young people. But in 1927, Mr. Armstrong wrote that the average sermon was lifeless and boring—lacking in spiritual firepower. As a result, young people were giving up on religion!
Of course, other factors have contributed to youths’ waning interest in the Bible—like lack of discipline, the negative influence of modern education, and the pulls of worldliness. But when preachers cave in to these societal pressures and water down the truth of God, Mr. Armstrong wrote, it makes matters much worse!
The Apostle Paul told his evangelist Titus that to convince the gainsayers, he needed to use “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). He wanted Titus to give them something healthy and nutritious that they could sink their teeth into. That’s what the word sound means in that verse—to be healthy and in good working order. This is what families and congregations desperately need to be healthy and fit: good, strong doctrine (see also Hebrews 5:12-14).
In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul also wrote that while physical exercise profits for a short time, “godliness is profitable unto all things.” Just as it takes a healthy diet and regular exercise to maintain physical fitness, so it takes a steady diet of nutritious doctrine and spiritual workouts to maintain vibrant health spiritually.
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (verse 6). God says we are nourished, strengthened and made healthy by words of faith and good doctrine.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). To be in health comes from the same Greek word translated “sound” in Titus 1:9. Again, God uses physical fitness to symbolize our spiritual health.
When we break physical laws, we always pay a price in sickness, injury or death. The penalty for spiritual sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23), along with its related sickness and disease. Jesus taught that if you’re healthy, you don’t need a physician. It’s the sick and infirmed who need to be healed, He said (Matthew 9:12-13).
Compare that with Jeremiah 17, where it says the human heart is wicked and deceitful. The prophet describes the heart of man as being lifeless and sick! This is what we are, apart from God. This is why we need to be healed by the blood of Jesus Christ—and then sustained by His life-giving words (Ephesians 5:26).
Hunger for the nourishing words of God every day. Fill up on it first thing in the morning. And keep coming back for more. As Jesus said in John 6:58, “[H]e that eateth of this bread shall live for ever”!