Jesus was in a miserable place. The desert sun scorched his flesh. He had no food to eat. And then, who should he meet there in that vulnerable spot but his mortal enemy.
The temptation Jesus faced is the one all of us face every day. We’re spiritual beings walking around in what we might view as “our earth suits” – our bodies. And the temptation we face is prioritizing the maintenance of our earth suit above the maintenance of our inner spirit man.
Jesus responded as we all should respond, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every rhema (that’s the Greek for “word” in this context) that comes from the mouth of God.”*
In other words people can go without food for 40 days, but they need spiritual food more frequently. You and I need to listen to the voice of our heavenly Father. His rhema words sustain our spirits.
That begs a couple of questions, “How do we hear this rhema word? And how does it sustain us?” I don’t know about you, but I was never taught to ask these most foundational questions of spiritual survival. I was taught to read my Bible (the logos word) every day, and yes, God did use that discipline to speak to me in a way that often sustained my spirit. But there were also times when God may have wanted to speak to me through the Bible and my heart condition wasn’t right. So, there were many days when reading the Bible did nothing for my spirit. Any routine can become stale over time. I was just reading words on a page.
Only later in life did I come to the place where I realized that God wants to regularly sustain my spirit by connecting with his spirit. He uses a lot of tools to do that – the Bible being one of them. But he’ll use all kinds of things to touch my heart.
Very often he’ll use the words of a friend to arouse my spirit. When a friend prays for me and senses that God wants to share something with me, that may be the very spiritual food that sustains me on a given day. It sustains me in the sense that it lets me know that my creator cares about me, that he is thinking about me, that he wants to help me with my struggles. It connects me to my purpose and encourages me to focus on the spirit realm all around me.
We don’t connect with our purpose as spiritual beings by feeding our stomachs, but a word from God will do that and will sustain us through whatever tests our enemy may throw at us.
The Bible tells us, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”** God wants us to pursue that gift because it will help us grow in our ability to give one another spiritual food. As it says, “Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”***
Let’s keep drilling down to try and understand this verse. If God uses you to fulfill this scripture in my life, how exactly does that comfort or encourage me?
Well, if you are speaking a rhema word to me, you are sharing something with me that God wants me to hear. If you’ve sought to hear God’s heart for me, then there’s no presumption in sharing what you perceive him to be sharing with me. We do that all the time for ourselves as we “see through a glass darkly,” attempting to understand everyday spiritual reality. And God knows it’s not easy – that’s why he gave us the body of Christ, people who love us, to help activate and sustain us. He tells us to help one another as we attempt to hear his voice and get the nourishment of a word from him.
**1 Cor. 14:1
***1 Cor. 14:3