August/September 2016 - Vol. 87

God's Word Is Our Daily
                  Bread of Life
Only God Can Fill Our Emptiness with an Appetite for His Word

by J.I. Packer

The biggest thing that keeps us from getting the full benefit of Scripture is simply that we do not feel needy enough. One of the problems of the pastoral role is that it encourages leaders to think that they are full of competence; they have got it made; they know it all. This self-sufficiency is a satanic temptation. A moment of realistic thought will remind us that we are as needy as the next person. 

I find it most helpful to remind myself at the beginning of my devotional period [daily time of personal prayer] who God is and what I am. That is to say, I remind myself that God is great, transcendent, that he loves me and he wants to speak to me right now. And I recall that I am the original sinner, the perverse and stupid oaf who misses God’s way constantly. I have made any number of mistakes in my life up to this point and will make a lot more today if I don’t keep in touch with God, and with Christ, my Lord and savior, as I should.

There is nothing like a sense of hunger to give one an appetite for a meal, and there is nothing like a sense of spiritual emptiness and need to give me an appetite for the word of God. Let that be the theme of our first minute or two of prayer as we come to our devotional times, and then we will be tuned in right. God says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

The quantity of theological notions in one’s mind, even correct notions, doesn’t say anything about one’s relationship with God. The fact that one knows a lot of theology doesn’t mean that one’s relationship with God is right or is going to be right. The two things are quite distinct. As a professional theologian I find it both helpful and needful to focus this truth to myself by saying to myself over and over again, “What a difference there is between knowing notions, even true notions, and knowing God.” My times with the Bible, like those of all pastoral leaders, indeed all Christians, are meant to be times for knowing God.

[Excerpt from Encountering God in Scripture: An Interview with J.I. Packer, published by the Alliance for Faith and Renewal, Ann Arbor 1990]                                                   

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