God has no concern about our organisations. When their purpose is finished He allows them to be swept aside, and if we are attached to the organization, we shall go with it. Organisation is a great necessity, but not an end in itself, and to live for any organization is a spiritual disaster. Oswald Chambers
“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?…” (Luke 12:42)
Following on from Being Fed, after the revelation of my own true state of spiritual starvation, through the depression I suffered, something very interesting happened. I would like to explain the spiritual principle that has been revealed to me.
God opened my eyes to see my true state of starvation. I was shattered by the knowledge that I could no longer rely upon myself –in any way. My body let me down, my mind let me down, with all my own resources at an end all I could do was cling to was Him. But this knowledge led me to a deeper relationship with Him, one in which I knew I needed to be fed and in fact that was the only hope left for me. He fed me with the Bread of Life and kept feeding me as I spent time with Him.
Then what happened next is the interesting point:
God then led me to start feeding others.
Because pride in my self, my abilities and strengths had been broken, I began to have a greater sense of compassion for others whom were struggling. A desire rose up in me to help others because of what I had been through myself. Out of that desire our food pantry ministry was born four years ago, in which we give out food parcels to people suffering food insecurity both in the Body of Christ and in the community.
And then, after some time, another hunger began to take hold of me, that was to “feed the multitudes” through street-preaching. This one came as a real surprise to me as the thought of preaching the gospel on the street to passersby absolutely terrified me! I remember the first time I went out there. I was so scared that I was shaking and I wondered why I was doing this to myself. Through the terror though there was a fire burning within me. I was so well-fed, I just had to share some of this food with others.
It somehow didn’t seem right for me to keep feasting when I knew there were others
out there who were starving. Just as Christ broke the bread and poured out the wine as a symbol of His life being poured out for us, He also calls us to be as broken bread and poured out wine for others. Being broken bread and poured out wine hurts. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not comfortable. Often it is difficult and something we would not typically choose to do ourselves. But Jesus is still moved with compassion for the great multitudes and just as He said to His disciples then, He says to His disciples now: “You give them something to eat”. (Mark 6:34 & 37)
If we look at the Apostle Peter’s life we can see this spiritual principle at work. Peter, at first, couldn’t see his own spiritual bankruptcy. Even though He had been with the Lord for about three years, seeing Him minister, learning from Him, Peter still didn’t really know his need of God. Self-confidently he had declared “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33) When the moment of truth came however, Peter betrayed Christ and denied Him three times as Jesus had foretold he would do. Peter was heartbroken. I believe in that moment his own true state was revealed to him. He saw the emptiness within, the starvation of his soul-poverty and he was broken by the knowledge. The revelation of his impoverishment caused him to retreat and return to the career from which Jesus had called him – fishing. In John 21 we see Jesus in His amazing mercy seeking out Peter in his failure. He calls out to Peter and the others with him, and look what He says, “Children, have you any food?”
Jesus immediately gets to the heart of the matter – do you have any food? Are there any inner resources left in you on which you can depend? Or have you come to the end of yourself? Have you seen your need of me yet?
The disciples are, of course, thinking merely in the physical realm, but nevertheless their answer is true both physically and spiritually – “No”, they have no food.
So what does Jesus do next? In His grace He provides the food they weren’t able to provide for themselves, and, as is God’s way, it is in abundance. “…and now they were not able to draw …in (the net) because of the multitude of fish.” (v 6).
He feeds them. “Come and eat breakfast,” He says (v12), and He “came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.” (v13) He came and fed them – but only after they had seen their need of Him.
Immediately after they are fed Jesus seeks to restore Peter. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times and each time after Peter declares his love for Him, Jesus says “Feed my lambs”;”Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep”. Why would Jesus single out Peter, the disciple whom had been the one to verbally deny Him, to feed and tend His precious sheep? It’s because of this spiritual principle – Peter had now seen his own bankruptcy and been broken by it. More so than any of the others he had seen his inner emptiness and it was because he could see it that he was ready to be used. Jesus could not entrust His sheep to merely anyone. He needed someone who had seen their own need, and therefore would be sensitive to need in others. He needed someone who knew that without God they could do nothing and would therefore be utterly dependent upon Him. Peter would not be a harsh and unfeeling shepherd, He would now truly love and care for the Master’s sheep because his own pride and independence had been broken.
Watchman Nee said “When once your back is broken you will yield ever after to the slightest touch from God.”
So to sum up:
- Here in the West we are spiritually starving. Starved of eternal relationship with our creator, the source and sustainer of all life, we seek temporal satisfaction elsewhere. We often don’t know that we are starving. In some cases this revelation can only be achieved through painful experience.
- Once we see our true state of starvation, through God’s intervention, we then naturally seek to be fed.
- God then uses us to feed others through the broken bread of our lives
It is my hope and prayer that this post has encouraged you to seek after the only true source of life and satisfaction –Jesus Christ, the Bread of life. If you already know Him I pray that you will seek Him in greater measure and that ultimately you will share Him with others wherever He may lead you. I will conclude with a quote from D.T. Niles:
“Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
Continued from Hunger
When once a hunger had been born in me for God’s presence then, naturally, I sought to be fed. The revelation of our own spiritual bankruptcy, whether by food shortage or some sort of crisis, is the catalyst for the formation of a hunger for God. When we are able to see our spiritual bankruptcy it is then that we can truly seek God in the way He should be sought. Not as a means to an end, or to fulfill an agenda of our own but by loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. It is because we have seen that without Him we are starving and dying, and in the desperation of soul-hunger we begin to seek after the Bread of Life. And that’s what I did. Suddenly the temporal, physical things that used to bring me some degree of satisfaction became empty and vain. I began to crave Jesus and His presence. My prayer time was in the evening, and all day long I would look forward to the evening when I could be with Him again.
Jesus said “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27)
God sees our need of Him. He knows that without Him we are starving. And He knew that man would reject Him in the Garden of Eden, in order to pursue his own way. That is why God prepared a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Because of His infinite mercy, God had already prepared a way to repair the breach between man and God and to bring us back into fellowship with Him. That way was by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus, to the cross to bear the dreadful curse for our souls. Before He was crucified Jesus said:
“I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven. If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoso eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood dwells in Me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me.” (John 6:53-57)
Jesus said this to the very people whom, the day before, had been miraculously fed with the loaves and the fish. He wasn’t referring to cannibalism, He was telling them to look beyond the physical miracle of the multiplied loaves and fish and to see the greater miracle standing before them – God’s own Son. His life was about to be given for them so that they may have life. He was going to be crucified, His body broken and His blood poured out for their sin so that they would no longer have to be separated from God by those very sins. There was no longer any need to starve spiritually. Here was the provision right in front of them. In verses 48 and 58 He says “I am the bread of life…This is the bread that came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
So here is God’s provision for our spiritual starvation right in front of us. It is Christ’s Himself. When we turn away from our sin of independence and pride and put our faith in the Bread of Life then we are filled with His life, by His Holy Spirit.
Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
He is the source of our life and He is the sustainer of our life. We need to be full of Him. Nothing else can satisfy, no religious duty or practice, neither anything in this world – only Him. We need to be in His presence regularly, feasting on the Word every day, allowing His Spirit to convict us, speak to us, minister to us and we need fellowship with others who are full of Him too. As David, we need to know how to encourage ourselves in the Lord. We need to know how to feed on Him.
We also need to maintain a hunger for Him. I find that that is more difficult when life is going well. Although I actually still need Him now as much as I did when I suffered the depressive episode, it’s easier for me to forget that need of Him now that I am free of depression. That’s why I need to read the Word because it convicts me, washes me and changes me. I also need to pray regularly because I find that the more time I spend with Him the more time I want to spend with Him and feed on the Bread of Life.
To the Laodiceans, who could not see their own poverty and need of Him, Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
Next part 3 – Feeding Others
Yesterday, as I was leaving the fruit shop, I saw an anorexic girl staring at me. She kept right on staring at me even as my gaze met hers and I looked back at her. It was rather disconcerting to be so openly stared at and I was momentarily caught off-guard. Eventually I smiled at her and she half-smiled back as she turned away. I don’t know why she was staring at me, but I felt God’s heart of compassion for her and she has been on my heart in prayer ever since.
Then last night as I spent time in the Lord’s presence He opened my eyes to see something. As I cried out to Him for my own hunger, I saw that our plight in the West is starvation. Yes, starvation. Here in the West, where we have an amazing variety and abundance of food available to us, we are spiritually-famished skeletons.
“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around and behold, there were very many in the open valley and indeed they were very dry.” Ezekiel 37:1, 2
Whilst much of the non-developed world suffers from food shortage, dire poverty and even physical starvation, the malnutrition in the West is of a different kind. We are surrounded by food, by comfort, by fast-moving technology and by science and its benefits. Even the poorest of us are rich compared to most of the world’s population. Yet, in general, we are starved. Starved of life, starved of love, starved of meaning and starved of the presence of God.
What is the reason behind this starvation? I believe part of it has to do with our society turning away from God and increasingly to humanism and its related philosophies. The outcome of this is that our lives have become empty of meaning and purpose.
It’s not surprising.
To accept the premise that human beings are nothing more than the product of primordial slime would logically conclude that we are of no greater intrinsic value than that slime. And a product of primordial slime could have no possible purpose to its existence either. The relatively recent rejection of the age-old belief that we have been wonderfully and purposely made by the hands of a loving Creator, ultimately leads to a meaningless existence, in which our lives become de-valued.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophies of the early 20th century have had a profound impact on the Western world, intellectually, politically and existentially. He (in)famously stated that “God is dead” and saw “nihilism as the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for meaning. He diagnosed nihilism as a latent presence within the very foundations of European culture, and saw it as a necessary and approaching destiny”. (Source: Wikipedia, Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche). Nihilism “(from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.” (Source: Wikipedia, Nihilism)
A society that rejects God accepts nihilism, and within that society a sense of meaninglessness is experienced individually. As human beings, we have been made in God’s own image and this is the basis of our inherent value. Each of us is valuable because we have been created in His image. There is also a purpose to each human life that God creates and that is to have fellowship with Him and to serve Him. We were created by Him, for Him. We were created to know Him, depend on Him and draw our very life from Him. To deny both the source of our life and the purpose for our life is to both deny the value of humanity and the meaning of life, which creates a vacuum within our very souls.
Actually this is nothing new. In fact it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when man chose independence from God rather than dependence on God. From that point humankind has been estranged from God, cut off from our Creator, the true meaning and purpose of our lives obscured by our own defiant, self-willed independence. To be cut off from the Source of life, even while we may have physical breath in our bodies, is to create spiritual deadness and emptiness. However, as nature abhors a vacuum, something must fill that emptiness and there are many ways that we seek to do this – consumerism, chemical substances, religion, food, pleasure-seeking, causes, materialism…just to name a few.
Unfortunately much of the church has not escaped this Western malady and is also starving. It’s all too common to find that worship has been replaced by entertainment; that prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit has been replaced by liturgies and programs; that the presence of God has been replaced by emotional manipulation and that the preaching of the Word has been replaced by motivational, self-help talks. Even as Christians it is possible to turn away from dependence on God, and once again go our own way in self-willed independence, even when what we do is under a “Christian” label. Once we stop relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, we again cut ourselves off from God, and become starved of His life and His presence. AW Tozer said it like this: “The blight of the Church today is spiritual starvation. People are famishing on rationalism, socialism, sensationalism, on lifeless bonds and bank notes and unwholesome pleasures. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?… eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:1,2) Are you living on the bread of God or starving while in the Father’s house there is bread to spare?”
I think the BIG question is – do we actually recognize that we are starving? We may in fact be completely unaware of it because we are surrounded by food, technology and material goods in abundance. We are rich, in material terms, compared to the rest of the world. We don’t really need God, we depend on ourselves, on science, on man. We believe that independence is the way to go and that we can make it on our own. Like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 we “say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’”. We do not know that we are really “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (verse 17).
In undeveloped countries it is rather different. 25% of the world doesn’t have enough to live on, and 33% are destitute. A person suffering shortages in food, shelter, clothing and medicine is confronted with their own vulnerability every day. Their neediness is well- known by them because it is felt every day through physical hunger, thirst, cold or pain. So whilst much of the world is poorer than us in the West in material terms, I believe they are richer in one important way. They know their need. Once you see your need, of course, it is much easier to turn to God.
I have a friend who moved here from a struggling African nation. She explained to me that back in Africa she had had to get up at 3am every single morning in order to line up for six hours to get a loaf of bread for her family for the day. There were times when she would get to the front of the queue, after lining up for hours, only to find that the last loaf of bread had been sold. They then would need to drive to South Africa – another country – in order to find bread.
She knows what it’s like to need. She has had to cry out to God to provide her family with bread. She has had to depend on Him in a way that I never have had to.
Actually it is no different for us – spiritually we NEED Bread every single day. The difference is that, surrounded by our gadgetry, clothes and hair products, we cannot see that we are in desperate need of bread. Otherwise would we get up at 3am to seek for our Bread for the day? Would we miss out on sleep so we could find the living Bread to feed us and also our families? You see it’s hunger that drives us. It’s not hard to know why my friend would make the sacrifice to line up every day for 6 hours for bread, when both she and her family needed to be fed. I have kids, I understand the driving need to provide for them. But what about the spiritual bread? Is it less important? Would I make a similar sacrifice for the sake of mine and my family’s spiritual nourishment?
Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). We don’t hunger and thirst after righteousness if we don’t know that we are empty. Until we see that we, in the West are poor, wretched and empty, we won’t hunger and thirst for the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
However, once we see our need of Him it is much easier to hunger after God and to learn to depend on Him for our nourishment. But our eyes have to be anointed “with eye salve that we may see” (Revelation 3:18). Unfortunately it usually takes some sort of personal crisis for most of us to turn to God in desperation and to cry out for help. Essentially this is what happened to me. Although I was wonderfully born-again and saved (see Passover), I still hadn’t learnt how to be utterly dependent on God, or to hunger after Him. It took a crisis in my life to actually be able to clearly see that I could no longer depend on myself. I was brought to the point of being unable to trust even my own thoughts, let alone my own self.
The vehicle God that used in my instance was depression.
And yes, I was a Christian, truly born-again and in love with Jesus. (God-willing, I will write about this episode in detail at a later date.) CS Lewis said “Suffering is God’s mega-phone to a world hard of hearing.” And that really was what suffering was to me. My experience caused me to rely on God and to hunger after Him in a way that I never had before – simply because I had no other option.
To be in a place where my own thoughts frightened me, suddenly awakened to me the truth of my own vulnerability, and I clearly saw my need of Him and His ongoing presence in my life. My independence and pride had to be stripped away from me so that I could see I was starving, in order for that hunger to be born in me. Suddenly I saw that I needed Him, not just a doctrinal knowledge of Him, but a hunger for Himself. When I saw how “poor in spirit” I truly was, then “the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3) became mine.
Tomorrow, Part 2, Being Fed
It’s not about me.
Its not even about my ministry.
It’s not actually about being right.
It’s not about my perfection,
Nor my “self-improvement”
It’s about one, only One…
It’s about Him,
The Word made flesh
When all else is gone,
when nothing remains,
when our work is over
and our time complete,
He is eternal,
and will always be
Oh how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me
AW Tozer said it best:
“Wherever we turn in the church of God, there is Jesus. He is the beginning, middle and end of everything to us…. There is nothing good, nothing holy, nothing beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to His servants. No one need be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his own property and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him. Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done, but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more.”