Two things only the people anxiously desire: bread, and the circus games. –Juvenal, first-century poet
You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NASB)
Jesus lived as One from another world. Having been led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, He ate NOTHING for forty days. Forty days—almost six entire weeks! Of course, Jesus was God, so we tend to write off His actions as beyond the scope of human ability.
But what was Christ’s response when tempted by the devil? Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “I do not live by bread alone.” Instead, He proclaimed, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Do you see it? Those seemly far-off words are quite relevant; they apply to each of us (including women, because here “man” is used in a generic sense). Christ’s wilderness time was never intended to be unique to Him as an individual, but to provide a reflection for all who seek to know God.
Beyond the Palate
The human race is universally preoccupied with food; our existence revolves around breakfast, lunch, and dinner—with snacks in between. We need food to survive, so it makes perfect sense that its procurement would be at the top of our priority list. We all know, however, that our love affair with the palate goes well beyond simple survival.
Whether we speak of bread in the form of pizza, or bread in the form of rice, or bread in the form of pasta, our appetites rule the day. In my younger days, I supposed that sexual lust was the most significant temptation faced by men, but I now realize that the struggle to keep food in its rightful place presents a greater lifelong challenge for both men and women. Long after the twinkle in a man’s eye fades, the rumble in his belly continues to sound.
The “Bread” of Entertainment
Another form of bread has risen to the top of our priority list in recent years—the “bread” of entertainment. Sustenance, it seems, can now be found on a screen in a way that makes all else appear dull and worthless. Ah, what more fulfilling time can we have than to watch our favorite sporting events (or movies) while eating an array of mouth-watering foods? Now that’s living! Or so we think.
For many Christians, the danger lies in allowing that which appears as good to become the enemy of that which is best. One of the greatest detriments of a prosperous society is the vast array of distracting opportunities. Each voice clamors for our attention, promising to bountifully feed our souls. But material prosperity—and even Christian activity—matter little apart from a vital relationship with God.
A primary problem, it seems, lies not with any deficiency on the part of God’s provision, but with our lack of effort in pursuing true sustenance. In order to access the true and often inexplicable life of God, we must learn to move beyond the rumblings of our flesh. Yet make a decision not to watch your favorite flick, and you will feel your very soul cry out in agony. The same applies to our favorite sports teams, social networking sites, and smartphones.
And, if for some reason you would like to multiply the misery, skip lunch or dinner in the process. Attempt to sneak off in prayer and your appetites will undoubtedly follow, nipping at your heels with every faltering step you take.
The True Bread of Life
What life and vitality we miss when we fail to feast upon the true Bread of Life! When we turn aside to draw upon God’s words, a mysterious strength begins to rise in our souls.
Regardless of why it was initiated (or prolonged), every wilderness experience is intended to demonstrate that our lives hang on every word that proceeds from our Creator’s mouth. Grasping this one truth alone has the potential to change the course of our entire lives!
This post is drawn from Chapter Four of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.