No matter what your life looks like today, I bet you and I share at least one thing in common: at some point during most days, we enjoy a meal, often around a table.
What surprised me about life in Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya is the amount of time given to figuring out food.
I’ve spent days of my life learning what to buy at the market, how to cook with unfamiliar foods, how to navigate propane tanks, charcoal stoves, and high altitudes. I’ve made some pretty good meals, and I’ve had some disasters.
The need for daily bread is one way we are often reminded of our human dependence.
Just as the Israelites in the wilderness had to depend on God for his daily provision of manna, we need daily nourishment too. Both the Old and New Testaments explore the idea that our need for daily nourishment is part of a larger dependence on God.
We don’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God. We engage with God and depend on his grace through prayer and his Word.
When Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, he tells them to ask for “daily bread” (Luke 11:3).
Throughout his life, Jesus himself modeled prayerful dependence on God.
The Israelites in the wilderness had not always trusted God’s provision: “
They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’” (Psalm 78:19).
But when Jesus expanded on the manna miracle by feeding more than five thousand people, he offered thanks before the crowd was even fed (see John 6:11).
Jesus lived with expectancy that God would provide and with gratitude, even in a world full of needs.
As his ministry grew and expanded, Jesus took quiet time away to commune with God.
When his disciples needed to learn how to engage with the Father, Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer.
When he wrestled with his journey to the cross, he spent a night in intense prayer.
When he felt abandoned on the cross, he called out using Psalm 22 – as a prayer – asking God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Each stage of his life was characterized by dependent prayer fueled by his intimate knowledge of God through Scripture.
For me, missional work in a cross-cultural setting required more effort to the rhythms of eating and nourishment.
I lived in places with no restaurants, no refrigeration, and no electricity.
So cooking and eating looked different, and I realized daily the importance of working to make sure there would be enough food.
Though initially challenging and disheartening, I came to love the process of learning new ways to find daily bread.
There are also many ways that work in missions can make your normal patterns of spiritual nourishment less accessible.
You may not have access to regular church services in your primary language.
You may not have options for small-group Bible studies or discipleship groups.
You may be expected to have spiritual leadership or expertise.
At the same time, you will also experience spiritual battles as you seek to share the truth of Jesus in new places.
It can be disruptive to have come somewhere to share your faith and then find your own spiritual life feeling dry.
Just like I needed to prioritize new and more purposeful ways of finding food in Sudan and Bundibugyo, so we need to prioritize new and more purposeful ways of cultivating spiritual dependence on God through prayer.
This is the only way to walk through the many different seasons of a missional life with grace and joy.
But even as Jesus offered fish and bread to the five thousand – he also showed that we need something more.
While prayer and God’s Word are sustaining, they themselves are not the true bread we need. They connect us to the source, but they cannot produce life in and of themselves.
Jesus became for us the Bread of Life.
He offered up his life so that we could find our life in him. Christ’s body broken for us is the source of our life.
“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”John 6:33
Though the ways we access and prepare food may look different, all people need daily nourishment for health and thriving. It is the same with the Bread of Life: we need him wherever we go, and prayer and Scripture are conduits that connect us to him.
Every day, God prepares for us a table in the wilderness. He brings manna for our daily neediness.
Prayer provides a way for us to commune with God, and through that, we can offer life and hope to a hungry and dying world.
Consider these gospel truths –
- Jesus gave his body to be broken for you when he died on the cross.
- God forgave your sins
- You are a dearly loved child who calls on God your Father.
- Your heavenly Father will give good gifts to His children.
- You have access to God himself, the source of eternal life, through Scripture and prayer.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, we hope you will consider finding some time to sit with your Father in prayer. You may even want to ask Him for some needs you usually neglect to include in your requests.
Jesus calls us to a whole life of daily asking, depending and receiving – for every need both physical and spiritual. Surrendering our needs to God frees us to give up our need for control and find rest in God’s sure hand.
He is our comforter and the Giver of all good gifts!
Book excerpt by Bethany Ferguson from The Mission Centered Life available now at newgrowthpress.com.
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