Without the blessings of modern medicine and the Lord’s direct intervention, our little grandson would not have survived. His heart problems made it difficult for him to have the necessary blood flow to nourish his little body, and to complicate matters, he didn’t have much of an appetite because he didn’t feel well. So during the months he was in the hospital, he was nourished through tubes going down his nose and mouth. This became a big problem because he developed an aversion to having anything in his mouth. So he wouldn’t eat. He just didn’t understand the connection between eating and satisfying that empty feeling in his stomach. It was very frustrating. We would put a bottle in his mouth, and he would immediately push it out with his tongue. He simply refused. We were all very concerned for him. Our awesome daughter-in-law tried all sorts of things to get him to eat. Nothing worked, so they ended up waiting for him to start to fall asleep before they could feed him. It was an all-consuming major effort just to get him fed.
A year and a half later, he finally started to eat better. He even began to feed himself. We were relieved that he would not end up like many infants throughout history whose cause of death was listed as failure to thrive.
God has a way of turning negatives into positives as we turn to Him and trust Him. One of those positive benefits from this experience with our grandson is that our family has a better glimpse of God’s love for us as He struggles to nourish us with His good word while we fail to thrive spiritually. I more fully feel the yearnings of a loving Father in heaven when I read Jesus’s words in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
We certainly can see the Lord’s effort to nourish us as we consider all the effort and sacrifice made to record and preserve God’s word though the ages for our benefit today. We look at the sacrifices of Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German, and William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English and realize we truly owe a debt of gratitude to these and many other servants of God throughout history.
Previously people were ignorant of the word of God because they lacked access to it. In our day, people are starving spiritually because the word of God is buried under a tsunami of information clutter. Too many of us have become complacent in our own personal scripture study. We may feel that we are doing a great job by listening to the minister preach on Sunday. I fear that many of us view personal scripture study as a burden. Consequently, we fail to thrive spiritually.
We may tell our children Bible stories, read the scriptures as a family, and play scripture games, but until our children start to study the scriptures on their own, they will not receive the spiritual nourishment they will need to develop the strength to survive in this increasingly secular world. Just as our concern for our grandson eased as he learned to feed himself, all our efforts to spiritually nourish our children will not be enough until they develop the appetite and skill to feed themselves the word of God.
We feed an infant milk, but we serve ourselves meat. Out of necessity, only gospel milk is served to us at church. Spiritual meat is obtained by 1) exerting individual effort to study the scriptures, 2) taking the time to ponder and pray about them so that the Spirit can teach us, and 3) then live according to what we have learned. It is the only way to obtain substantial spiritual nourishment. Many of us have been active in our religion since childhood, so we have a fundamental understanding of the scriptures. But baby fat disappears as a child grows, and they need more than their mother’s milk to develop. Likewise, as we grow and face life’s challenges, we will need more than just a rudimentary understanding of the gospel in order to spiritually survive life’s trials.
Someone once said, “We talk to God through prayer, but God answers us through the scriptures.” Even though this is not the only way God answers prayers, it certainly is one of the major ways.
The word of God is not simply the scriptures. The Bible actually teaches us that Christ is the word. He is our strength. The gospel is the good news that through Christ, all mankind may be healed from their afflictions and saved from their sins. Our hope in Christ empowers us to endure our trials, and it converts our nature to become a new creature in Christ. The main purpose of scripture is to increase our faith in God as the Holy Spirit witnesses to our souls that the gospel is true.
The Lord promises us that if we seek, we will find, and if we knock, it will be opened unto us (Matt 7:7). But the converse is also true. If we don’t seek, we won’t find. Our spirits need constant nourishment just like our physical bodies, or they will become debilitated. I feel that many of us are like my grandson and just don’t get the connection between eating and filling that empty feeling inside. We must hunger and thirst after righteousness so that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 5:6). As we seek to learn and understand the word of God, it becomes a part of our being, just as the food we eat is absorbed into our body.
A young lady was part of the group I hung out with when I lived in Oregon. Over a period of time, it became quite noticeable that she was turning orange. She went to doctors, who were quite concerned. Was it liver failure, or was she jaundiced? They conducted all sorts of tests to figure out what the problem was, but they were stumped until one of them asked her what she ate. She replied, “Cantaloupe.” He asked what else was in her diet. She replied, “Just cantaloupe.” And it really was practically all she ate. When you opened the door to her refrigerator, every shelf was full of cantaloupe and nothing else. So the mystery was solved. Her body was absorbing the carotene from the cantaloupe and turning the pigment of her skin orange. The same thing happens when we have gospel hobbies. It distorts our perspective. It is like sitting down to our Thanksgiving meal and only eating the cranberries. Sure, they are good, but we are missing out on so much more. God offers us a complete feast.
The Savior taught a parable about a king who invited a number of guests to a wedding feast for his son. (Matthew 22:1-14). However, everyone who was invited was too busy to attend. One had some pressing business to take care of; another had a property that needed his attention; the other had just gotten married. They all had what they felt were viable excuses, but the bottom line was that none of them attended or enjoyed the feast. We have all been invited to God’s feast. We are on the guest list. But are we too busy to enjoy the spiritual feast that God has invited us to attend?
The Savior used a variation of this same story in the parable of the ten virgins. (Matthew 25:1-13). Each was invited to the wedding feast, but only half had enough oil in their lamps to last late into the night when the bridegroom arrived. When they asked the others to share their oil, they couldn’t. The type of oil that we need to last through the dark nights of our lives is not milk but the oil that we each individually obtain by inviting the Spirit to bear witness to our souls of the truthfulness of the gospel. We obtain that witness by sincerely seeking it and demonstrating that desire by caring enough to make the constant effort to study the scriptures and taking time to ponder them.
There is power in the word of God. I know that if we make the effort to study the scriptures and take the time to ponder them, we will be blessed to more effectively handle the challenges we face. It is one of the most effective means of inviting God’s Spirit into our lives. It can change our nature and help us mature to become more like God so we can enjoy life more fully. God offers us a spiritual feast, so let’s enjoy it rather than fail to thrive spiritually.