“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
I’ve been reading through the biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister in the 1830’s. The biographical sketch of his life is filled with excerpts from his daily journals and insights into his heart and mind for ministry. It is fascinating (and somewhat comforting) to read of another pastor from an entirely different time and place, who also struggled with a sense of never making the most of his time, who felt terribly unqualified for the high calling of ministry were it not for the Sovereign Grace of God, and whose greatest joy was to bring glory to God in sharing the Gospel.
Something struck me, though, as I was reading, that made me stop and think about my life in comparison with M’Cheyne’s. Early on there was this summary of the young pastor’s ministry:
From the first he fed others by what he himself was feeding upon. His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life. He loved to come up from the pastures wherein the Chief Shepherd had met him—to lead the flock entrusted to his care to the spots where he found nourishment.
(Bonar, Andrew A. Memoirs and Remains of R.M.M’Cheyne. (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1978)pg. 36.)
I have shared before my daily Scripture reading practice. I encourage everyone to read daily from the Word of God, and to read in a way that lets the Word really sink in, soaking the mind and soul with God’s revelation. There are a variety of reading programs out there, but the one I prefer, actually, was developed by M’Cheyne. In this program, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year, reading about four chapters a day, taken from different parts of the Bible.
I share this, not necessarily as an advertisement for the reading plan (though you can go here to find out more). No, I share this to warn you of a hazard of such a plan. Reading God’s Word ought to draw you deeper into the presence of God, knowing His will, revealing His love, and strengthening your faith. There is deep, nourishing, life-giving power in His Word. Still, sometimes having a reading plan before you makes you want to read to “get it done” so you can move on to the next thing.
How often do we read our Bibles, check the reading off the “To-Do List” for the day, close the book and move on? Are we just grazing in the grass, never really getting down to the roots? I have to admit, there are a lot of days when that’s all my Bible reading really is – just something to do. I skim the surface of the page, my eyes see the words, but the words never really touch my heart.
How can I expect to feed the flock unless I am first fed by the Word? If I am not sharing from the deep experience of my soul, if I am not “giving out of the inward life,” then the best I can give is but an anemic, watered-down, half-life of the Gospel. If I am not fed in the pasture where my Chief Shepherd as met me, how can I ever hope to lead others.
I read that M’Cheyne would rise well before the break of day to worship and fellowship in the communion with God, singing Psalms and hymns and reading God’s word. That time in devotion would so prepare him for the day that all of his studies, all of his conversations, all of his leisure, was permeated with the fragrance of the Gospel. He had been to the feast, and he was sharing the portion of the table of the Lord.
Why do we, why do I, fast from such a blessed fellowship today? Why do we starve ourselves spiritually, content to live of the scraps and droppings that fall before us, when we have been invited to the feast? God sets before us in His Word a smorgasbord of all the most soul-satisfying, life-giving truth that our hearts hunger for, and we ask for the “weight-watchers” menu. When we deprive ourselves of all that God offers us, we are essentially telling God we don’t need Him nor what He gives, and we’d rather do this life on our own and in our own way. (“How’s that working for you?” – Dr. Phil)
The simple truth of the matter is, God is God, and we are not. He provides our daily bread. He spins the planets and keeps them going. Without Him, we can do nothing. We cannot survive without every good gift that comes from His hand. And yet, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), and God would not have us famished spiritually. Rather, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eph 1:3).
Pull up to the table, to the feast of the Lord, and drink deep the blessing of His Word. Let His Word teach you, correct you, fill you, strengthen you; until His Word gives light to all of yours. Let your reading time, may my reading time, be a time of sweet communion in the Lord’s presence that give grace and substance to every endeavor through the day.