Feeding Yourself

1 Peter 2:2

April 13, 2008 | Brian Bill

If you and I are not reading the Bible on a regular basis, we will never know its truth and we won’t grow in truth. According to a Barna Research Group survey, less than 50% of Americans open the Bible in a given week.  82% think that “God helps those who help themselves” is directly from the Bible; 63% cannot name the four Gospels; 58% do not know that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount; and over half do not know the book of Jonah is in the Bible.

That reminds me of a story I heard about a woman who had to do a lot of flying for her work.  Air travel made her extremely nervous (I can relate to that), so she always took her Bible along with her to read since it helped her relax on long flights.  On one flight, she found herself sitting next to a man who chuckled and then smirked when she pulled out her Bible.

After awhile, he turned to her and asked, “You don’t really believe all that stuff in there, do you?”  The lady replied, “Of course I do.  It is the Bible.”  “Well, what about the guy who was swallowed by the whale?” he asked. She replied, “Oh, Jonah.  Yes, I believe that.  It is in the Bible.”  Still smirking, the man asked, “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?  The lady replied, “Well, I don’t really know.  I guess when I get to heaven, I’ll ask him.”  “What if he didn’t make it to heaven?” the man asked sarcastically.  To which the lady answered, “Then you can ask him.”

It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word

Last week we learned that spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic.  This week I want to borrow one of my pastor friend’s core beliefs as our sermon summary statement: It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word.

Longing for the Word of the Lord

Our passage today is found in 1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”  If we want to grow we must get the Word of God in us.  And we must crave it.  Just like a newborn craves milk, we must long for the Word of the Lord.  I love what Job said in Job 23:12: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”  The word “crave” is a command from a root word which means, “to burn” and is expressed in eager activity.  Similar to what we learned last week, you and I must take decisive action to intensely crave the Word of God.  We must be intentional because it won’t happen automatically.  Too many Christians are spiritually malnourished.  We must know the Word of the Lord if we want to grow in the Lord of the Word.  And like newborns, we’re to go after God’s Word fervently and frequently.

It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word.  Ok, that’s what we’re supposed to do.  But for many of us that’s a struggle. We know the “what” but we struggle with the “how.”

Before you just check out and start feeling guilty because you don’t really crave God’s Word, I want to spend the rest of our time together on the how question.  I received an email from a church member this week with some very honest questions: “How does one make oneself ‘crave’ pure spiritual milk?  I come away from every sermon determined to do better and I do desire to read and pray, and then I don’t do it…Is craving a gift from Him?  How do I learn how to crave?”

This passage gives us three ways to start craving the Word.  We started in verse two and now we’re going to go back to verse one and then we’ll go forward to verse three  Since the entire service has a different order, I figured the preaching could as well.

1. Remember your salvation. 

1 Peter 2:1 starts with the word “Therefore.”  That means we need to go back a few more verses to see what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:23-25: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’  And this is the word that was preached to you.” God uses His Word to save us.  We need to remember that.  Three times in these verses we read of the primacy of the Word.

  • We are born again through the living and enduring word of God.
  • The word of the Lord stands forever.
  • The word was preached to us.

I had the privilege of being with two people recently who prayed to receive Christ.  In both instances, I asked each of them to tell me what the date was.  After they said it out loud, I wished each of them “Happy Birthday” and explained that that day was their spiritual birthday.  Friend, if you’re feeling dry, travel back and remember your new-birth day.  The Word that changed your heart is the same word that helps you grow.  The Word that saves is the Word that sustains.  If you’ve not been born again yet that might be why much of the Bible doesn’t make sense to you.

2. Remove sin from your life. 

Check out the rest of verse 1: “…Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  These are “growth stoppers.”  It’s quite possible that the reason you’re not craving God’s Word is because there’s too much of the world in you.  It’s kind of like filling up with so much junk food that you get a stomach ache and then you’re no longer hungry for healthy food.  One of the sensational players for the Memphis Tigers ran into a problem last Sunday, one day before the NCAA national championship game.  I’m not going to use his name because I really like him as a player and recognize that I probably did the same thing when I was a college freshman.  One of his teammates said this about him: “He eats Gummy Bears and Starburst for breakfast, and Twizzlers and Honey Buns for dinner.  That’s why his stomach hurts.”

Peter knows that that some of the believers are on the bench because of some junk in their lives so he tells them to get rid of it.  The word picture is of someone taking off and discarding soiled clothing.  One commentator said it means to “cast it away with indignation.”  The early Christians used to demonstrate this with the practice of baptism by immersion when they would take off their old clothes before going into the water and then putting on a brand new set when they came out.

Peter then lists five vices that include both attitudes and actions that are often demonstrated in the community of Christ-followers.  We could call them community-busters.  Note that he uses the word “all” twice to show that we can’t be sloppy with our sins or half-hearted about holy living.

  • Malice.  This is a general word that means “evil-spiritedness” and the desire to harm other people.
  • Deceit.  The picture here is of “catching with bait” and refers to a deliberate attempt to mislead others.
  • Hypocrisy.  This means to pretend to be someone you’re not.
  • Envy.  This is not only wanting what someone else has, but hating that person for having what you want.
  • Slander.  This includes all kinds of unkind speaking and literally means to “run down” someone.  The sin of backbiting is way too prevalent among believers.

Friend, it’s quite possible that the reason you are stalled out spiritually is because you have some sin in your life that you have not been willing to get rid of.  According to the REVEAL survey, the main reasons behind why people are stalled spiritually are “gossip, judging others, gambling, alcohol, pornography and inappropriate relationships.”  As someone has said, “God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word.”  James 1:21 puts it this way: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Do you want to crave God’s Word?  First, remember your salvation.  Second, remove sin in your life.  That leads to the third way to increase your appetite for the Bible. 

3. Refocus on the goodness of God. 

If you’re still struggling to stay motivated in your Bible reading, check out verse 3: “Now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  Some of us have such a faulty view of God that we’re almost afraid to read Scripture because we think God is just out to get us.  Here’s some good news.  God wants to meet with you more than you want to meet with Him.  He loves you more than you know.  He is good and gracious…have you tasted Him lately?  Taste a little of the Lord and you’ll want a lot more of Him.  If you’re struggling to read Scripture, refocus on His grace and goodness and then start small and read just a little.  When we taste His goodness, we’ll eventually want to gulp God’s Word.

It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word.

Practical Helps

This past week I posted a request on my blog and sent out an email to several hundred people asking three questions about Bible reading activity. 

  • What’s your practice?
  • What keeps you going?
  • What do you do when you feel dry?

I was overwhelmed with the number of responses and the honest feedback.  I want to pass along much of what people said because I’m convinced that you don’t need a long sermon about why we should read the Bible but rather you and I need some practical pointers on how to read it.  You see, we’re more interested in transformation than just giving you more information.   And many of us just need some motivation.  

One of our elders gave me a hard time about this because he said I was asking other people to write my sermon this week.  I don’t think that’s so bad once in a while.  I share these ideas in the hopes that some of these practices will become your practice.  Remember that discipleship always involves discipline.  We can dream about where we want to be but until we make a decision and then practice the discipline we won’t grow in our discipleship.

Before I read these I want to mention two truths that jumped out at me.

  • Intentionality.  People who are growing in their intake of God’s Word are very intentional about it.
  • Individuality.  Of the 44 responses I received, I don’t think anyone is feeding themselves spiritually the exact same way.  


  • By reading in the Bible I learn more about God and his love and plans for me.  The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is have a word of prayer and then reading his word (I don’t even wait for coffee anymore).  My day would not feel right or go right if I did not start the day out with his word…When I think about the life he has given me through his love and sending his Son to the cross for me how can I not be happy and full of love and ready to serve him in anyway I can?  I love it when he tells me to slow down, sit down or get out of bed; it is time we spend some quiet time together.
  • I am going through the New Testament reading (behind but staying with it).  Our small group keeps us in the Word as well.  I have a small decorative card holder on my desk at work that comes with 50 verses on small cards that I continually keep flipping through to get a new verse each day-it amazes me how often the right one comes up for the situation I am in.  I listen to past sermons I have downloaded while I drive to work.  I listen to Christian talk radio also.  I have begun buying the Bible on CD’s so I can listen to the Bible being read to me while I drive to work. I pray and talk to God and he puts thoughts and understanding of past things I have read or heard into my head.  I forgot the obvious source I use to feed myself – I read your blog and the related links you include.  Now don’t get me wrong I am not Super Christian so I don’t do all of these things everyday, but over time I have found I do a number of them each day-the craving for knowledge grows stronger-the more I know the more I want to know.
  • I have never been one to follow a reading guide, but I do ask God each day to show me what He wants me to know and then I open my Bible and read what’s in front of me. The down side is that I really don’t know if I have ever read the entire Bible. When I feel dry, I continue my daily habits, knowing that the time will pass. I have gone through it enough to know that it won’t last forever… usually, I find that the reason I feel dry is because of my own lack of discipline in spending time with God and lack of discipline in treating my body as His temple (diet and exercise).
  • Frankly, I’m not doing so well at reading the Bible.  I need to be jump started or something. 
  • About 12 years ago, a woman of great wisdom and humility shared something with me and some other college students that I have not forgotten. She said, “Your life is just beginning. Do you want to see God’s promises and purposes unfold in your life?”  We said of course we do. She then said: “Don’t make a daily devotional life optional. Even if it is 1:00 AM and you are exhausted, make sure you’ve spent time in God’s Word and in prayer. He will honor you as you commit to this.”  That was probably the best advice and counsel I have ever received. I took her up on her challenge. I think I’ve missed a few days in 12 years, but very, very few…Of course, commitments mean nothing unless you can humbly come to Christ and say, “I cannot carry out any commitment unless You help me.” And He helps. And He also gives us an appetite for Him and His Word, the more we practice in it. 
  • I look for God’s light bulbs every time I open the Word. I then meditate on what God is saying to me from the passage. 
  • I keep several Bibles throughout the house so when the need or desire hits me it is within easy reach…I have to have it convenient, if I have to go and look for my Bible I probably would get side tracked before I get there.  This of course doesn’t include my daily devotional, I set aside specific time in the morning, first of the day, and seek out God, the other is just for those times where I’m like I wonder what God says about this.
  • There is always something new.  I can read the same passage, and at different times, get a totally separate inspiration, discipline, or/and encouragement.   [My husband] and I have “quiet” time together in the early morning, to pray and read the Bible.  Then, I try to read the Bible by myself later in the day.   [When I’m dry I] listen to Christian music, pray, get into the Word, talk to my Christian brothers and sisters. 
  • I have to get back to the basics, and that is realizing what my Lord and Saviour did for me. He died for me! Just reading one of the accounts in the gospels about his death on the cross, brings it all back into focus.
  • I have definitely hit some “dry spells” but the prayers of my church family have lifted me up out of a sinking boat many times.  I “try” to read my Bible everyday.  Sometimes Satan will work his evil and I forget or don’t have time.  But the days that I don’t read do not go as well as the ones where I do read.
  • What keeps me going is simply a desire to live biblically.  I wish I could say it was more than that, but if you go back to my past, I used to belittle Christian hypocrites, so I don’t want to be one of those guys…I want to live biblically, and I want to find out what God’s word says, not what some book tells me it says.  For all I know what they teach (or even what you teach every Sunday) could be wrong, and it’s up to me to be like a Berean and search the Scriptures to see if what I hear is Truth.
  • I know you want to hear about reading your Bible but I struggle with it. The best I have done with reading my Bible as of late is when we did the Old Testament Journey and my small group studied along.  It made some confusing text seem valuable today.  That’s the problem with my generation; it’s hard to know what the Bible is saying or how it affects us today.  Small group really helps though and I think everyone should be in one. 
  • I try to meet with God daily, but if it doesn’t happen, I don’t beat myself up about it.  I just get back into the groove, so to speak, as soon as possible…It’s definitely a discipline and there are times when everything seems to compete with that time, but I try to make sure I keep that time with God…When I feel dry, I try to continue to read Scripture and pray.  I keep going to church and meeting with others (like Bible studies or woman’s groups).  I keep serving.  I feel other Christians are my support network and will help me keep going. 
  • I found that I MUST set aside a period of time just before retiring and determine to do it every day.  Right now I’m reading and re-reading the book of Romans until I’ve practically memorized it.
  • When I need to be refreshed, music does it for me in a big way.   Having praise music on is a big help, especially when you feel dry.
  • I can only say, personally, that the Bible can become a habit, which is good. But, that it has now come into our lives as an essential ingredient to our Christian life.  I don’t know how that happens, or happened.
  • A good discipline is to read the Bible during commercials while you are watching TV.  Each commercial break not only begins the next reading, but generally a review of the few verses previously read.  It is a good way to get the word into the memory and into the heart…and the conviction of the Spirit may change your TV viewing habits!
  • One thing that I try and do is read the Bible through every other year.  Each time I choose a different translation, a different method, or a different format.  For instance, I have the New Living Bible on CD.  When I used that I had a half hour commute to work and went through it quickly.  I was amazed at what popped out of the passages when I was listening rather than reading.
  • When spending time with the Lord I find it beneficial to seek Him in prayer with a thankful heart and then I open my Bible expecting to discover something new or to be reminded of a promise.  As I read I take notes as to what I think God is saying to me for that day. Then when dry times come I can look or think back on what I know to be true and remind myself that no matter what I am facing or how I may feel God is faithful, unchanging, and good all the time. I also find encouragement, and I’m energized as I read blogs and other publications written by believers. Taking sermon notes is also helpful.
  • I like the comparison of my heavenly father who takes care of all my needs and who comes to me when I cry out to Him.  One of the ways He speaks to me and reminds me He cares for me, is through His written Word.
  • What I have discovered reading the Bible comes from [the women’s Bible study]. To take each verse and really uncover what it means. Then putting together the passages to get the whole meaning of what we read. I find when I read it on my own; I don’t get into the depth…There is an accountability factor because I am a part of the group. When I feel dry, I find that reading the Bible or discussing things I don’t understand helps. The more I understand, the more I want. I am so thankful for being a part of the small groups; otherwise at this point I would probably not be reading my Bible…
  • I have found that I have to set aside a special time to read the Bible or I just don’t do it.  First thing in the morning is the best time for me.  I also write down what passages I read so I know exactly where I left off and so I can look back through the years and see where I have read.   For me what keeps me going is the thought that I have to feed my spiritual body just like my physical.  I love to exercise early in the morning but I know that “… bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things…” so I tell myself I have to feed on His word first, and then exercise.  For when I feel “dry” it is listening to praise and worship music that is full of God’s word.      
  • Sometimes I’ll read the Psalm or Proverb of the day – and pray to find one verse to chew on.  Then I’ll go exercise – meditating on that verse.
  • When dry like now I think I am only existing by God’s mercy and grace…When all has been eliminated just trust even when you think you can’t just trust. For those who are struggling sing a favorite Christian song if you can’t read. 
  • I get up in the morning and I read God’s word.  I find that when I read God’s word I am mentally prepared for whatever life throws at me. I Pray God’s word when I have problems in my life.
  • This is what I do, and I realize not everyone can do this.  I memorize Scripture so that I can recite it in my head anytime I want or need a verse for encouragement.  I started off by memorizing short verses from various books in the Bible, but that wasn’t challenging enough for me so now I am memorizing Psalms.  I have Psalm 27, 139, 33 (of course 23) memorized, and I am working on Psalm 145 right now… This is something that keeps me in the Word and I work on them daily.  My drive time to and from work is spent reciting the verses that I am memorizing that week.
  • First I had to “Purpose” to do it. For me it is first thing in the morning, as the Psalmist said “early in the morning will I seek your face.”  It starts my day out right with God and even though I have read through the Bible many times I always find something fresh that I never saw before that I needed for that day. How can I get to know my “Friend” if I don’t spend time with Him?
  • I try and read the Daily Bread devotional every day.  I also have a computer Bible and when things get rough I go and search for Scriptures that give me hope, peace or joy.  When seasons of dryness come I try and get with the Lord quietly so I can hear his small still voice.  This means no phone, no TV and no interruptions.  I often look up Bible verses that give direction and speak to my situation.  There is an answer for ALL of life’s problems and situations in his word.
  • I also usually read the Proverb that goes with the day of the month…by reading them over each month I begin to memorize them without having to put in a lot of extra effort.  I also always try to memorize Scriptures that God is really speaking to me so that they will become a life-long part of my spiritual vocabulary. I tell people that it’s kind of like learning God’s language. If we have a friend who only speaks Spanish and we only speak English we will only be able to listen and understand him as we learn more of his language. It’s the same with God. God speaks through Scripture, so the more we want to know him the more we must internalize the Scripture. We memorize it so he can speak it back to us.
  • What I have discovered is if I do not get up and give God my most precious time in the morning…I feel cheated throughout the day…I have a less than positive attitude, I feel like I have missed talking to the most important person in my life and I just cannot wait to get alone and say I’m sorry that I did not keep my priorities in order…What keeps me going is keeping a journal. When I feel dry I will go back and read through my old journals and before long I am in tears at how gracious God has been to me and my family. I also will write out a song from the hymnal and God will remind me through that that he is near and I am the one making the choice to “feel” dry.  Having a best friend in Christ that holds me accountable and prays with me is also another way I keep going when I feel dry.
  • I think reading and re-reading the Word is a great way to keep going, and keep absorbing it into your life and soul.
  • Spending time alone with our Savior is indispensable for relationship growth.  I have a good selection of devotionals, my favorite being My Utmost for His Highest, but nothing compares to reading the Word and pouring out your heart to God when you are burdened or dry…Once you learn the discipline and find the strength for your day you are hooked…The more you read, the more you see how limitless is the Word of God. 
  • I love the idea you shared with us back when you were going through the Psalms and recommended praying Scripture.  This is how I love to approach Scripture now.  Also, another great tool to keep me going is the New Testament reading guide….I love it along with trying to read Proverbs using the “day of the month” as the chapter reading guide. I get dry when I get caught up in “busyness” and don’t spend the time with the Lord as I should.  BUT, when I sit and refresh myself with God’s Word it truly refreshes me.
  • I like to have my quiet time with God in the morning and at night before I close my eyes to sleep. I have a couple of friends whom I talk to on a weekly basis and share about what I have read that week.  And they share with me what they have read and how God is working in lives…When I feel dried up I know that I either need to take a nap or get my Bible out to be reminded of God’s promises.  If I fall asleep, I know I needed physical rest and if not, I needed to get spiritual rest/peace.  Listening to a great worship CD and reflecting on what I have read and what he has done is also a great way to get my mind on the Lord.
  • I meditate on the verses that I rooted and grounded in my heart.  I have a willing heart to serve him so those words are not falling on dry, clumpy soil.
  • I always do my Bible reading in the morning when it is quiet and peaceful. Honestly many times, at first, my heart is not into it but I have found if I pray before, my fire is ignited…There have been many mornings when there has been a passage of Scripture that I have read many times…but something new and wonderful is shown to me and then, I don’t want to quit reading. I do not want to leave and go to work or run errands or clean house…I just want to stay with our Lord in that moment forever and one day I will!  On the flip side of the coin, when life and circumstances have left me empty, it will seem as though I don’t want to read the Bible but that is when I need it the most. And if I press on and begin reading, many times I will begin praying and I will cry out to God and all that is in me and is discouraging me comes out.
  • I podcast two different expositional teachers Monday through Friday.  It’s not only important to feed ourselves, but to hear others’ commentary to make sure we are sound in our conclusions.
  • Reading the Bible over and over is like looking at water, all you see is the surface, not getting into the depths of it without the proper gear and a guide. My practice is to open my Bible and reread the sections that I have highlighted, reflecting on the reason why. I pray to God to give me more understanding of the word. However I do understand that with more knowledge comes more responsibility. Whenever things get slow I read books on such things as heaven and hell. Because after all we’re all going to one place or the other.  In addition I get a lot of different perspective on God and religion from offenders while performing my missionary work inside the prison. 
  • I usually read the Bible the first thing in the morning.  Usually the Daily Bread first and then my scheduled 4 pages of the Bible.  Then I do the prayer list on the back of the church bulletin and then the praises and requests of my Bible Study group…Then I usually say a prayer for my own family and myself.  Sometimes I feel bogged down in my serving and invariably there will be something in the Scripture about serving and then I feel humbled and realize that God has just talked to me.  I firmly believe that I have to read the Bible, pray, and go to Church to hear the word and worship with other believers to keep from getting “dry.”
  • My practice as it relates to reading the Bible is: I will read at least one chapter (in order) every night just before going to bed. This helps me leave behind the cares and concerns of the past day and gives me a more positive outlook for facing what will come tomorrow.  There have been rare occasions when I’ve gone to bed and forgotten to do my reading. Even though I may be dead tired I will still remember that I forgot my reading and will force myself up to complete a chapter. If I don’t do this it becomes too easy to find other “good” reasons to not do a reading.  Needless to say I have read the Bible from cover to cover many times. Usually what helps me most when I feel “dry” is to read more than a chapter of a favorite part of my Bible (I love the gospel of John) and let the meaning of the words sink into my heart.
  • I know this is late, but I wanted to respond.  Currently I’m following a “read the Bible in a year” program on my PDA.  I combine this time in scripture with my morning prayer journaling and a daily devotional book.  This habit has kept me fresh, so much so that missing a morning causes me to feel disconnected and out of sync throughout the day.
  • My time spent in reading of God’s Holy Word gives me guidance and wisdom and also helps to keep my thoughts and emotions balanced and organized. This enables me to let Christ control my mind and to bring my thoughts captive to obey Him and let His Holy Spirit help me to cast down any imagination or anything that exalts itself against what He desires. I need more discipline to make time each day to be in the Word, and know that it is a choice of my will to purpose to spend that special time. I know that God has given His Word to communicate with me and when I take the time to be with Him, His Word ministers truth and wisdom that no other book can do
  • I found two things really help me desire the Word: First, a really good concordance in my Bible with cross references. When I’m reading through a book, I like to look at all the cross references for the text. I then write down my observations and anything that stands out to me from the passages. Second…finding an exegetical Bible teacher that really speaks to your heart is essential to me for growth in the Word. Verse-by-verse; Precept upon precept.
  • [I] was challenged to read through the Bible in one year chronologically.  We were also encouraged to read a literal translation…so I’ve been reading a NASB/NIV parallel Bible…God is so good to us.  How many times do I whine to the Lord and complain about something that is completely my fault, while he is just waiting to answer my prayer?  I would have zapped someone like me by now! 

I see three prominent themes that sustain people in Scripture reading.  

  • Small Groups.  Are you in one?
  • Serving.  Are you serving somewhere?
  • Singing.  That’s what we’re going to do right now as we move from preaching to praising.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?