I just finished a reading a book about the life of an American POW during WWII. He had been captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and held until liberation in 1945. His story is one of incredible survival and bravery while standing up for what was right. During his time in captivity he defended fellow Jewish solders from the Nazi’s who would have separated and killed them. Though there were many lessons that I took away from the book, I would like to focus on one.
During the time of his captivity and that of thousands of other POW’s, food was in very short supply. It was part of a systematic plan of deprivation that was intended to break down the will and physical strength of the prisoners. It is estimated that the food intake of each soldier amounted to around 500 calories per day. These men were then subjected to heavy labor and freezing temperatures. This resulted in many cases of death by starvation and the POWs who survived lost between 50 and 80 pounds each. By the time of their liberation in early April 1945, when Patton’s 4th armored division broke into Germany, most of the POW’s were barely hanging on.
This particular aspect of the ordeal stood out to me: the minimal amount of food that was provided, slowly starved those who ate it. Not only was the food low in quantity, it was low in quality. Much of the food provided was a kind of black bread that had as its main filler sawdust. This “bread” was eaten but not much, if any, nutritional value was found in it. I find in this a parallel to our spiritual lives and the food of the Word of God we consume.
In Matthew 4, Jesus was at the beginning of His earthly ministry and was in the desert alone. After 40 days and nights of fasting, scripture says that He became very hungry. It was at this time that Satan came to tempt our Savior to sin. The temptation was for Jesus to take care of His situation without guidance from or reliance on His Father. Jesus responds to the devil with scripture: “It is written man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus’s physical need was great, and His spiritual need was just as great and could only be provided by His Father. If Christ needed the Word of God to sustain Him how much more do we?
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is instructing Timothy regarding how things will be in the latter times. These last days will be marked by those who will fall away or walk away from the faith and will pay attention to false teaching. In a way these people were eating but the nutritional value was zero and thus led to lives that were wasting away. Paul tells Timothy to teach sound doctrine (teaching) to the believers, then they would be receiving good nourishment. Paul also says that it would need to be consistent and often. If the quantity of good food is low, then the results are the same as eating poor quality food. Paul encouraged Timothy that those under his responsibility must have good teaching and have it often. 1 Timothy 4:6, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” This would give the strength and vitality that their spiritual lives needed.
Another question we might ask is what kind of food are we eating? It’s so easy for us to be eating junk food. It tastes great at first, but it does not really have much value. If our diet consists of only the fluffy cotton candy of the world, then we will begin to suffer for want of better nutrition. We must be nourishing ourselves on the Word of God consistently. Otherwise we will look like the emaciated half skeletons that were liberated from the POW camps, spiritually speaking.
Not only may what we eat be of low quality, the amount we consume can also be an issue. If we are subsisting on what we hear just on Sunday or maybe a scattering of quick statements on the internet or radio, then it will not be long before we begin to suffer the effects. As Paul states in 1 Timothy 4, we must “constantly” be nourished on the Word. This is where our discipline comes in. We must regularly feed on God’s Word, daily even. So, the question for me is, am I subsisting on a starvation diet? Or am I regularly feasting on the good food the Lord has provided in His word?