Bread for His Service
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This article was written by Rev. John Heys in the April 1, 1964 issue of the Standard Bearer.
Here in these climes there are increasing evidences of the return of spring. In our complex life of today this has lost so much of its significance. In our pleasure-mad world the outlook of man is so different from what it was only a few generations ago. We live so far away from the soil today. That all our food is grown in the soil and comes to US directly or indirectly from that soil is to today’s child well-nigh a revelation. Yet the fact remains that we, who have been created out of the dust of the earth, depend upon that earth for the necessities of our life. Man has erected and runs some wonderful factories. But he can never approach the “factories” which God has created. Each and every plant is a wonderful factory that manufactures our food for us or supplies with food the beast of the field whose flesh we will consume or whose milk we will drink.
Two plants next to each other in the same soil, receiving the same amount of rain and sunshine will produce strongly contrasting fruits. Not only may the color be red instead of green, but the taste may be sweet rather than bitter. The flesh may be hard or soft, covered with a hard shell or have a pithy core. But each plant will produce its own kind. Without these plants we could not live, even though we could live without man’s processing plants and preserving and packing plants. Upon God’s “factories” we depend. Man’s factories make it easier for us to have fruits out of season and to ship them from one corner of our country to another. But how would we, who are of the dust of the earth and depend upon that dust, be sustained by it, were it not for these plants which draw out of the soil the minerals and elements which we need, combining them with the sunlight and oxygen in the air, and make palatable food for us?
Yet we are rapidly becoming a generation that lives out of cans and packages. We know our stores and supermarkets where these foodstuffs may be purchased. Our children see them as the source of all our food; and the farmer and farm behind that store are not known to them. Paul tells Timothy, however, that “the husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits” [2 Tim. 2:6]. It is rarely today that we get vine-ripened and tree-ripened fruit. It must be picked before it is ripe and has its best taste, for it must be shipped and be displayed on the counter or shelf. Otherwise it must be salted or heated and preservatives must be added. And we miss so much of that which our grandparents were wont to enjoy. All this is supposed to be in the name of progress. But all this surely does make us a step or more removed from the soil from whence our foodstuffs come.
This means that we are also a step or two removed from the consciousness of our needs and their supply by an almighty and sovereign God. Rain for us is nothing more than a nuisance. Sunshine is that which will give us a nice coat of tan. The two essentials which we get entirely free of charge are for us nothing more than either a nuisance or that which we can press into the service of our flesh. That rising of the sun each morning is such a common occurrence that we fail to see the wonder of it. We take it for granted and would consider it a wonder only if it did not come up tomorrow morning. The scientist will explain to you exactly what causes the rain, what conditions must be present before it can rain, and how much rain we can expect out of a certain cloud formation and approaching storm. It is all quite a natural thing, and the God, whose wonder it is is left entirely out of the picture.
The farmer who knows the value of rain and sunshine, who scans the sky the first thing in the morning and takes note of it in the evening before the sun has gone so far behind the horizon that no rays of light reach us any more, is not necessarily more spiritual and more apt to believe in God. He has a better opportunity to observe the works of God. But that in itself will never make him a better Christian or a more faithful steward of God’s goods and priest over his creation. But a life close to the earth, a life where we live more fully in the consciousness of our utter dependency upon God, has its advantages and blessings for the believer. There can be no doubt about it that our complex, highly specialized life with all the inventions and “labor saving devices” have all served to foster that carnal position in which God is not in all our thoughts. He is in so little of our thought. Between him and us we have allowed so much to be brought. We see little or no connection between his rain and sunshine and the can of food we have opened or the frozen vegetables we have heated for our meal.
So far have we separated ourselves from him in our way of life that we almost question the need of praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer Day services,—which are held the second Wednesday of March by the churches who hold on to the Reformed faith,—are rapidly losing their significance for us. There are so many other matters which seem so much more important. A special day of prayer for crops is overshadowed by the need for a special day of prayer for peace and the removal of the international tension of a cold war. Besides, we have our lockers and freezers full. The table is heavily laden with food; and man has learned to farm scientifically, so that there is an abundance of food, more than we can use and that must be destroyed because there is no market, and it spoils before it can be consumed. To pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” seems to be outdated, or at best it seems to be a prayer that we can pray only in times of famine and depression.
How difficult for us to live in his fear!
It would seem as though the only time we can live in his fear is when we are in need and in trouble. For the rest we can forget God and have little consciousness of need of him. He gave promise that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease till Christ returns. A promise like that we can easily believe as long as there is seedtime and harvest. Even the ungodly world after the flood found it quite to its liking to believe the word of God that he would no more destroy the world with a flood. That meant for them that they could go ahead with their carnal ambitions. It meant that they had time to subdue the earth and conquer it for the flesh without fear of being interrupted once again. That also explains why the followers of Nimrod dared to build their tower and city of Babel in the plain of Shinar. There was no attempt to build it on the highest mountain. O, the ungodly do believe. So do the devils. Even as they did not believe in the first flood, now they do not believe in another one. If there is that which is to their advantage, they will gladly believe it. If Jesus would only be an earthly king, the Jews would gladly have received him as their king and believed that he was the promised Messiah. And so still today, man is willing to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, that we will get sufficient rain for a harvest in the fall. Somewhere the sun will shine. Somewhere the rain will fall, and if it does not, man will in his ingenuity steer the melting snow in his irrigation ditches or pipe under pressure the waters of the rivers and ponds for his crops. It seems as though we are becoming less and less in need of God and can overcome his drought. There is need for us to reconsider.
There is need today for some serious reflection for the sake of our faith. It was not without reason that Jesus raised the question, “Shall the Son of man find faith?” It is not without reason that he declared that unless the days would be shortened the very elect would be deceived. They shall not be deceived. God has and will have his seven thousand who do not bow the knee to Baal. But it will be difficult for them and for their children. Make no mistake about that. The whole world under Satan’s influence and spurred on by the spirit of the antichrist, man in his lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life, all touch us and our children. And being by nature part of that wicked, depraved, and godless world, we speed along with the world in its godless thinking and progress.
Let us not try to live by bread alone. It simply cannot be done. One can exist by bread alone as the ox and the mule can live by earthly food alone. But no man has yet lived by bread alone. Show me a man whose life has been to this day sustained by bread alone. All have died; and it is appointed unto all men once to die,—even though some may attain to a far riper age than others. Adam and Eve found out that living by bread kills. They were to live by the words that proceeded forth from the mouth of God. Had they listened to that word and heeded it, they would not have died. Now they were driven from the tree of life and physical death began its destructive process in their flesh. They could eat and eat and eat some more of the same foods they formerly used, but that very eating now destroyed their bodies and in process of time wore them out. Now, as the world says, “You just cannot win.” We must eat to live, and yet the food we eat wears out the body and brings us ultimately to death.
For man is a spiritual being as well as a physical being. He needs spiritual food as well as physical. And he MUST live by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God. When he eats physical bread in defiance of that word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God, he will not only enter into physical death but into the eternal death of hell. All the earthly bread he may eat cannot keep him from that awful end. But living by the words that proceed from the mouth of God he may enter into physical death and live forever in the glory of God’s kingdom.
And so as the season is again at hand when our seed is entrusted to the soil, and we wait for God’s cheering rain and warming sunshine, let us not neglect the spiritual bread of life. We live in his fear only when we seek bread in order to be able to serve him. Paul declares that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” [1 Tim. 4:4]. Let us then receive all in thanksgiving. The creature is good. It is our use of it that is so very often sinful. We seek it to consume it in our lusts. It never reaches any higher than our carnal, selfish ambitions, even though it is God’s creature.
Of him and through him and unto him are all things. How necessary then that in our lives all things are consciously and willingly of him, through him, and unto him. In his fear we will live in the consciousness of our utter dependency upon him, we will be thankful for every creature which he gives us and then reveal this by using all of his creation in his service. In his fear is in his service. In his fear means that we know that he is God and that we manifest this in obedience before him.