Why is it absolutely imperative that we study the Bible and pray? What does it accomplish for a Christian? How do we take prayer and Bible study and convert it into spiritual strength and character?
One way that we can understand how the conversion process works is to look at how our physical bodies use food and convert it into energy. Both physically and spiritually we need to be recharged and energized! Physically, our bodies can get into a run-down condition. We need proper food and rest to build our bodies back up. Spiritually, we need to be recharged by the Spirit of God so that we might have the power to overcome.
We all start out as babes in Christ (Matthew18:1-6). We are not to remain children, but are to mature spiritually (Hebrews 5:12-14 Hebrews 5:12-14 12 For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
American King James Version×). A baby’s diet initially consists of milk from its mother. The first fluid that a nursing baby receives from its mother is called colostrum. This fluid is rich in protein and prepares the baby’s body to receive milk, by coating the stomach. It also helps to prevent susceptibility to certain diseases.
When God initially calls us to understand His way of life, the Spirit of God prepares our minds to receive spiritual food. God’s Spirit also helps us to fight off spiritually wrong thoughts and ideas. God doesn’t want us to stay on milk forever. He wants to us grow up and to go on to perfection (Ephesians 4:13-15 Ephesians 4:13-15 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
American King James Version×; Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
American King James Version×).
The Analogy of Food
Why do we eat food? What is the purpose of eating? We all like to eat. We realize that food gives us strength and energy. We know that we must sustain our physical life or we die. Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×explains that we must spiritually renew our minds. Just as the physical body must be renewed in power and strength, so must our spiritual batteries be recharged. We are to eat, or imbibe, the Word of God. It becomes a part of us. Likewise, when we eat food it becomes a part of the very cells of our bodies (John 6: 48-51, 63). Ephesians 3:16 Ephesians 3:16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
American King James Version×talks about a Christian being “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” and verse 20 also talks about “power that works in us.” The Spirit of God imparts spiritual power to us. That Spirit is renewed in us through prayer and Bible study. Children eat a lot when they are going through growth periods. They seem to be an appetite with skin wrapped around it! Do we stop eating spiritually after we have been in the church for awhile? Our spiritual development depends upon constantly eating of God’s Word.
How often do most of us eat? We generally eat two or three times a day. We seldom forget to eat because our bodies constantly remind us that we are hungry and have need of food. Notice 2 Corinthians 4:16 2 Corinthians 4:16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
American King James Version×: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” The physical is a type of the spiritual. The new man must be renewed on a daily basis. Colossians 3:9-10 Colossians 3:9-10 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
American King James Version×also demonstrates that the new man is to be renewed in knowledge. The knowledge and wisdom of God come from the Spirit of God and the holy Scriptures.
In order for food to be properly assimilated into the body it should be digested properly. We chew our food in the mouth to help break it down. Consequently, the acids in the stomach are able to further break down the food. Food has to be digested to be properly used by the body. There is a spiritual analogy to this also. When we study the Scriptures, we need to meditate on what we study. Spiritually speaking, we chew on it, or think about it. We break the Word of God down into understandable parts and apply it to our lives.
Food in the body is converted into energy and strength. It repairs the cells, fuels the body, and imparts the nutrients needed to sustain life. This also compares to the working of God’s Spirit. Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×shows that God’s Spirit imparts fruit. One of the fruits that it imparts to us is faith.
What is the power that motivates the true servants of God to obey, to overcome, to grow in grace and knowledge? It is faith! Hebrews 11 demonstrates that faith is what motivated the men and women of old to obey God. Obedience is faith transformed into action —transformed into another form. James 2:14-20 James 2:14-20 14 What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
American King James Version×explains that faith must be used—that “faith without work is dead.” The Spirit is depleted, or used up, through service,works and spiritual overcoming. Hard physical labor innervates us physically. After extensive athletic exertion we become tired. We eat to renew our strength. The spiritual power that God gives us is His Spirit (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×).
Jesus Christ through good works used up the power of God. As Luke 6:19 Luke 6:19And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
American King James Version×says: “For power went out from Him and healed them all.” On another occasion Jesus healed a woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years (Mark 5:25-30 Mark 5:25-30 25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, 26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, 27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. 28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. 29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
American King James Version×). Verse 30 states that power had gone out of Jesus to perform this miracle. When we obey God or serve others we use us a certain amount of the spiritual power that God gives us. It has to be renewed. There is nothing constant about a spiritual mind in a physical body.
Herbert Armstrong stated in the past that the Spirit of God is like water that flows out of a Christian in good works. We must be constantly connected to the source of that water, or God’s Spirit.
Use The Spirit
Different work-related jobs expend different amounts of energy. A person who has a desk job does not burn as many calories as someone who does hard manual labor. Christ explained to His disciples that different problems require being close to God. The disciples had cast out demons through the Spirit of God. Yet we have an example in Matthew 17:14-21 Matthew 17:14-21 14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for often he falls into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him here to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
21 However, this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.
American King James Version×where they were not able to cast out a violent demon. Why were they not able? Unbelief or lack of faith! Christ went on to explain in verse 21 that “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” The obvious implication was that Christ had been praying and fasting and the disciples had not. Yet Christ did not indicate that prayer and fasting was necessary for every demon that is cast out—only certain types of demons. None of us know when we will be confronted with a major test that will require a great deal of faith on our part. The first epistle of Peter 1:6-7 shows that our faith will be tried to see how strong we are. We must be close to God at all times and not allow the self to coast spiritually and rest on past laurels or accomplishments. In a trial our faith is translated into patience.
Physically speaking you cannot always tell how much endurance and strength a person has by looking at him. There is a spiritual parallel. We all know members that we thought were spiritually strong and rooted firmly in the truth of God. Yet when a major trial confronted the church in the mid-nineties many of them did not pass. Others that you may have thought did not have spiritual depth did remain faithful. Our character and strength are measured by how we react in a trial.
Proper Spiritual Diet
We have all heard the expression “you are what you eat.” When it comes to our spiritual diet, what do we eat? Lets take a look at four different spiritual diets.
Starvation—If you stop eating food and drinking liquids, you will starve to death. The parallel is a lack of prayer and Bible study. Death does not occur immediately on a starvation diet, but if not corrected it will invariable lead to death. The same is true if we seldom study or pray.
Unbalanced diet—An unbalanced diet can lead to poor health and many physical difficulties. Spiritually, an unbalanced diet would be where we tend to study only one topic in the Bible—such as prophecy or history. The Bible gives us a balanced diet of spiritual food—including Christian living, prophecy, history, doctrine, etc. We may have a favorite section of the Bible that we like to study, but don’t neglect the whole Bible (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×).
Food fanatics—We have all encountered people who become extreme in their eating habits. I remember one gentleman that I encountered who basically just ate bananas. Spiritually, this would be a person who only studies one point of Scripture. This becomes his spiritual “baby.”
Balanced diet—Our physical diet should consist of a proper balance of foods from all the different food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, etc. A balanced spiritual diet would be to study the Bible in proper proportions. Sometimes we study according to our spiritual needs. Those needs will vary from time to time.
What happens when you eat a poor diet? Your resistance is low. As a result you could get a cold, flu, or some disease. When you’re sick you don’t want to eat, and you become weaker. When our spiritual resistance is low, almost any trial or test could throw us. Paul admonishes us in Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” The more we rely upon God and the closer we are to Him the more God’s strength is made perfect in us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I sought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
American King James Version×). We receive the power of God when we totally rely upon Him.
Very seldom do we forget to eat. We would not dream of only eating once a week. Yet this is what we do spiritually if the only time we study and pray is on the Sabbath. Every time we sit down to eat it should be a reminder that we need to eat spiritually. We must pray and study regularly for spiritual strength. UN