Just as a newborn baby begins with milk, then develops a hunger and need for more substance, so should we when feeding from God’s Words.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(1 Pet. 2:2–3 NIV)
I have believed in God my whole life, however, I did not commit my belief to Your will, not mine, come in and be LORD of my life until my mid-thirties. I can remember my first Bible as a child. I received it one Easter (in fact, I still have it). I can remember holding it to my heart and feeling drawn to it. I couldn’t understand the words. It all seemed like gibberish to me, but I knew that they were Holy Words from God, so I held them close to me.
After my baptism when I was thirty-six, I can remember sitting in the doctor’s office with my son, spotting an old King James Bible in a basket, and picking it up. I had such an overwhelming need and desire to read it, but I was so disappointed because again, I couldn’t understand the Word. The meaning of what I was reading went swimming around in my head, but just as when I was a little girl, I held it close to me because I wanted to know God’s Word.
I finally got an NIV Bible, started reading it, and became mesmerized. There were some passages that spoke to the very core of my being, and a few times I sat and bawled while reading it. The simple reason was that His Word gave me hope! I went to church, listened to the sermons, and took notes, but something in me felt like a starving man desperate for nourishment. I learned a lot from our pastor during those sermons, but I still felt a longing for something that I couldn’t explain. I was confused by what a lot of verses meant. Then one evening I stumbled across a daily Bible written in the New Century Version, and I started reading the passages that it gave me every day. Overnight, I began craving more and more. Little by little, God began to work His Word into me by giving me the milk that I needed in order to start growing in His Word.
You see, when a baby is born, that is what they NEED and start out on—milk—then as they grow they start eyeballing “big people food” but even then, you can only give them a little bit here and there. You cannot expect a baby to eat a steak. Even as a young child, they can only have a few bites! I quickly learned that it is the exact same way in our spiritual walk. As baby Christians, we need the simplicity of the milk of God’s Word. The problem was that I was going to church, I was reading the Bible, I was following along with studies, but I was choking on what I was trying to eat because it was too much for me. I needed milk so that I could begin to feed from God’s Word, but no one around me understood that.
When a baby giraffe is born, do you know what happens? It is dropped! The mother gives birth standing up, so the baby hits the ground! If we as Christians are not careful, then new Christians around us hit the ground as well! Baby Christians, as well as older Christians just new to His Word, need swaddling and milk, so that they can begin to grow in Christ. So often it is easy to be all excited when a new believer is baptized, but then that same new believer can get frustrated, and wind up falling away because they just couldn’t seem to get their footing!
Fortunately, this did not happen to me—I simply went to God, held out my arms and said, “Teach me, because I don’t get it!” God started leading me to simpler studies, and “baby food” devotionals. It can often be amazing to see how big a baby can become in one year by simply drinking milk! And that was me—I grew! Then I started noticing that the things that previously filled me up were no longer enough; I was still hungry! So God led me to deeper studies and started giving me “bite-size” pieces of meat from His Word. Now here I am, seven years later (as I write this), teaching the Bible! Who would ever have thought of me—in ministry—teaching from God’s Word? But God knew!
Jesus understood this hunger that comes from our spirits. He said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (NASB). This was shortly after He had just fed a multitude and they followed after Him. But He wasn’t fooled. He knew that many were seeking Him for the hunger of the flesh—and the substance He could so easily provide. Though He cared for their earthly needs, He was more concerned with their eternal needs, and tried to explain this to them. God knows the difference between when we are just hungry for personal gratification and when we are truly hungry for Him.
♥♥♥ There is so much to take from God’s Word! But it starts with simply opening the Bible. It’s great to listen to sermons, but if we are to grow in our relationship with God personally, then we each have to be able to spend some time in His Word with Him. It doesn’t take hours to do this each day—okay, for me it does because not only do I spend personal time with God in His Word, but I also have study time so that I can learn how to teach His Word. I am not saying that this is what YOU have to do. All of us are called to have a personal relationship with God, and He desires to speak to each of us in different portions and amounts of time.
New Christians should start by reading the “milk” of His Word. This way they can begin to learn the “simple” truths of God’s Word. Later, as Christians begin to grow in their walk, they can begin to eat the “meat” of His Word. This means they will be able to understand more of the difficult teachings from the Bible, and will be able to go deeper into studies as His Holy Spirit brings them into a richer knowledge and understanding. Sometimes, the simple truth is that we have to unlearn wrong teachings and create new mindsets before we can begin to walk with God. Drinking in the milk of His simplistic teachings will help to do that. But Christians shouldn’t just stay with milk—they need to be introduced to the “grown-up food” of God’s Word as well.
It is important to go to a Bible-teaching church and listen to the pastors—and even takes notes! But you should also set aside personal time to read by yourself, just you and God. When starting out in His Word, get a Bible that is easy for you to read as you follow along with your pastor (or Bible teacher), but consider getting a different Bible that you can use for your own personal walk with God—one that can be marked in, written in, cried in, and whatever else you do to make God’s Word your own.
There are different ways to read the Bible, and not everyone is going to grow in the same way. Allow God to lead you in His Word. Take the time to look up the verses that are given to you in sermons and from devotionals. Ask God to open your mind to understanding. This is what Jesus did in Luke 24, when He appeared to His followers, who had gathered with the two men from Emmaus.
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:44–46 NASB).
In the same way our physical body needs nourishment, so does our Spiritual well-being; if we don’t read the Bible consistently, then we deprive our spiritual body of much-needed food. Read Luke 4 with me:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry. The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone’” (Luke 4:1–4 NIV).
Though it is important to read prayerfully so that we can perceive God and hear Him speak to us in our hearts, it is also important to read systematically. The Bible tells us to “search the Scriptures.” It is hard to have a full understanding of the context if all of our reading is just a chapter here and there. The Bible really does fit together as a letter to us from God, and we miss the big picture and the fullness of His message if our reading is only in bits and pieces.
When drinking the milk of God’s Word, we can be deeply refreshed by reading selectively—meaning we take certain chapters at a time to allow God’s Word to begin to cleanse and refresh us. Then, as we get more comfortable with His Word (and begin to hunger for more), we can go deeper by getting into a reading guide that will take us through the entire Bible.