In something I read online recently, a new Christian wrote of his intense love for the Word of God, taking it with him to work and on vacation and making every attempt to read it every day. He continued, “I cannot for the life of me understand people that say that they are saved [and] never open the book. Can we truly be living our lives for Jesus Christ and not (or rarely) open the word of God? How does a Christian learn to know God just by going to church or praying? I have a Christian friend that told me, ‘I already read the whole Bible once.’ Does the average newer Christian read the Bible for a few years and then put it up? Am I just a Bible nut? I hope and pray that 25 years from now, I still hunger to read his word (God willing I am still here).”
New Christians can really put us to shame, can’t they?
If a professing Christian has absolutely no appetite for God’s Word, it would indeed be good for him to check his heart and make he truly does possess new life in Christ.
Yet there are things that can affect spiritual hunger just as there things that can affect physical hunger.
1) “Spoiling our appetite.” Moms throughout the ages have told children they can’t have a treat before dinner because it would spoil their appetite. When we’re full of other things, we won’t hunger for God’s Word. Proverbs 27:7: “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
2) Illness. Many physical illnesses can cause a loss of appetite. We need to ask the Great Physician to examine us, search our hearts, and see if there is anything in our lives quenching our hunger for Him and His Word. Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 119:25: My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
3) Service. “But I thought service was a good thing!” It is, but not when it causes us to replace time with Him with our service. Mary and Martha are our classic examples of the difference between busy (and frustrated) service vs. choosing “that good part” of giving time and attention to sitting at our Lord’s feet. (Luke 10: 38-42).
4) Distraction. Sometimes people can get so busy they forget to eat. Mark 4:19 lists three “distractions” which “choke” the Word: cares of this word, deceitfulness of riches, and lusts of other things (Luke 8:14 calls that last one the “pleasures of this life.”) We need to “cast our cares on Him” (I Peter 5:7) and remind ourselves of what the Word says about the deceitfulness of riches and keep pleasures in their proper perspective.
5) Hardness of heart. I don’t know that there is a physical parallel with this one, and I am in danger of mixing my metaphors, but the parable of the sower speaks of one whose heart is “stony ground.” I think the parable is likely referring to an unsaved person, but throughout the Bible God’s people are told to “harden not your hearts.” Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”
6) Enemies. People can neglect or abuse their responsibility to feed others under their care. Prisoners of war have been given very little to eat, and then found themselves eating loathsome things because they were so hungry they’d gladly eat anything. Satan can use some of the other things already mentioned, but the parable of the sower mentions that, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19). Again, this is referring to a lost person (Luke 8:12), yet there is a parallel for saved people. When we hear or read the Word inattentively, sleepily, or hurriedly, we won’t understand it and whatever truth we were supposed to have gotten is caught away.
What’s the best way to develop (or redevelop) an appetite for God’s Word? Seek God’s help to diagnose and deal with any issues that are quenching our hunger for it. Then just start partaking of it. I used to hate to drink water, but due to health problems with caffeine and sugar (not to mention calories), I began to drink water rather than soft drinks with meals when we were out. I came to not mind it so much, then to actually like it. I grew up not eating broccoli, but developed a taste, and then a love for it in college just by continuing to try it. We need to set our priorities and put everything else in its proper perspective. We need to partake of it even when we don’t feel hungry for it, just as we need to eat to keep up our health and strength even if we don’t feel physically hungry. Perhaps a reading of Psalm 119 would whet our appetites by reminding us of how great and good the Word is and of what we’re missing when we neglect it.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. I Peter 2:2.
Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:12
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16