[This was written 33 years ago, as you will note by the reference to the IRA hunger strikers.]
“But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat” (Matt. 14:16).
Jesus was out in the hills of Galilee, and the multitudes came there to him to be healed and to learn of Him. As evening drew near, Jesus saw that the people would need to be fed before they could return to their homes. He told His disciples, “Give ye them to eat.” They thought He was asking the impossible of them, but when they told Jesus how little food, they had, He simply said, “Bring it to me.” And He blessed the few loaves and fishes, broke them, and gave them back to the disciples to distribute among the people. When all had eaten their fill, there was more left over than there had been at the beginning.
Perhaps our ministers often feel, like the disciples, that they hardly have enough for themselves. But as they are obedient to God and allow Him to bless and to break this little bit, it grows so that we all can be fed, and we find that we also have something to take home, to feed and meditate upon there, and perhaps to share with someone else. In fact, we find that as long as we are humble and obedient, this spiritual food continues to multiply itself.
The Gospel account gives no indication that anyone of the five thousand refused to partake of the natural food that was given to him. But perhaps most of us are aware of the tragic events presently taking place in Northern Ireland. There are a group of men who have been found guilty of committing acts of violence and have been sentenced to prison. They do not deny their actions, rather their reasoning has become so perverted as to feel that they had a just and righteous cause. Because of this, they are refusing to eat, and one by one they are dying. At the time of writing, ten have taken their own lives in this manner, and others are still following in their footsteps.
When God brings conviction to us, directly or through the Word, or through our brethren, and we begin to justify ourselves and proclaim our own righteousness, do we not place ourselves in exactly the same position as these rebels? If we refuse the spiritual food that is so abundant and so free because we think we have been misunderstood or misjudged, is it not suicidal?
Starvation is perhaps one of the most painless ways of dying. There are pangs of hunger when the first few meals are missed, but these fade away, and the body gradually grows weaker and eventually perishes. If we find ourselves starving spiritually, we can even quiet those hunger pangs with a false spirituality that seems to satisfy, but it gives no nourishment. Soon we can be dead in our sins, hardly remembering what it was like to be spiritually alive and delighting in spiritual food and fellowship.
Let us rather give heed when we first feel those pangs of hunger in our soul and just accept in humility what our Saviour is offering, for He knows exactly what we need to be spiritually alive and healthy.
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 1:19,20).
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . . . ” (Hebrews 2:3a).
–Bob Goodnough, Fullarton, Ontario