It was the highlight of the cruise. Seven nights cruising the Alaskan Inner Passage, and the
highlight was not glaciers, grizzly bears or breaching whales, but the final night of the cruise- the much anticipated midnight dessert buffet. Lavish chocolate sculptures loomed over cakes swirled with garishly tinted icing and topped with glistening sugar flowers. There were eclairs, crepes, and pastries; tarts, pies, and sundaes. There were fat-free desserts for dieters, sugar-free desserts for diabetics, and rainbow jelly cups for kids. Whatever your fancy, it was there.
But I didn’t feel like eating. Let’s face it- after six days of gorging on fine food (and not so fine food) - more food, even salted caramel pecan ice-cream, just isn’t that tempting. My appetite had been extinguished.
Actually, I didn’t feel like doing anything much. I felt a bit- well, slow. Apathetic. Unmotivated.
The cruise was years ago. And yet often I still think of all that food. It was really nice food! But after the first few indulgent meals it was mostly wasted on me because I wasn’t hungry any more.
In my little world of middle-class Christians, I think one of the greatest threats to our spiritual health is that we’re just not that hungry. Spiritually speaking, that is. We have available to us daily a smorgasbord of sermons both live and podcast from the best Christian speakers in the world, not to mention our Sunday top-up. We have more articles and books available to us than would ever be possible to read. We study the bible online and through our groups and courses and colleges. And yet, like baby birds, we cry, “Feed me! Feed me!” We demand, “I need to be fed!!”
Why do we ask for more when we already have so much?
Dare I say, many of us are overfed. We are in danger of morbid obesity. We are unmoved by the choicest morsels in the Bible, the most liberating truths. We are indifferent to commands that should cause us to push back our seats in urgent action. We recline and wave away the offerings of our average suburban pastors as being of no interest to those already sated. We just aren’t hungry- instead, we’re fat on the Bible and we keep shovelling in more.
Anyone who has been watching the tv reality series ‘The Biggest Loser’ knows there’s a simple
solution to obesity: exercise. Lots of it. But we all know that it’s not that simple really, is it? It means changing thinking and stepping out of comfort zones. It means working hard and pushing through challenges. It means action… and action takes effort. And effort is hard. We human beings default to easy, not to hard. So it’s no surprise that there’s a problem!
We tell ourselves that what we need is more sermons. More ‘teaching’. More bible study. But is this really true, or is it an excuse to avoid the hard work of exercise?
The answer, of course, is not to throw out the Bible. Jesus said ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Deprivation of the word of God would be as serious to our spiritual health as deprivation of physical food.
It’s more a matter of balancing things up- increasing our spiritual output to match the input. A good dose of regular exercise will burn off some of that flab. It makes sense, right?
Right. But Jesus takes it one step further. “My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
Christians, we follow Jesus. We strive to be like him. His presence is alive in us through the Holy Spirit. So, his food is our food. Doing the will of God the Father isn’t just the exercise, it IS the food.
It’s food that you can’t get fat on; food that will energise you and fuel you, and you’ll always be
hungry for more.
We could argue now about what God’s will is (because certainly that includes going to Bible Study groups, doesn’t it?!) but we don’t need to because Jesus spells it out. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35)
Jesus wasn’t speaking theoretically. He said these words directly after a conversation with
someone (a woman) who (in society’s eyes) he had no business speaking with. It was a countercultural, life-changing, community-changing conversation for her. And for the Son of God? He offered her living hope, and by obeying his Father’s will in this way, HE was fed. How remarkable!
Women of God, look out at the fields before you. Look at the refugees. Look at the asylum seekers. Look at the homeless and the widows and the broken and the oppressed and the depressed and the alienated and the abused and look at your neighbour.
Now, look at Jesus and the hope he’s given you. Look at how he has turned your life around. Feeling hungry? Want some food? It’s spread out before you. Go, feast.
About Belinda: I have spent the last ten years working as the Ministry Worker in team leadership of an Anglican Church plant on Sydney's North Shore. I absolutely loved it. Now wondering what next? Have completed 99% of a degree in primary teaching and 40% of a degree in theology. Married to John and we have five children and a dog named Sweetie. I love helping others to understand the Bible, and learning to understand it myself. Time and time again I have been moved by God's grace and kindness, by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and struck by the fact that Jesus is someone I really want to follow. I like to pray. I also like coffee, preaching, surfing when no-one's watching, singing and all things music, visiting my indigenous friends in the Northern Territory, playing Soda Crush (is it OK to say that?), watching Biggest Loser (or that?!!). I care about being authentic, about justice and about taking God's word seriously. I am learning: to play cello; to embrace middle age; that God actually does love me, a lot; to trust him.