Christian Living

Starving your belly thoughts

Reflections from John 6 for today

When the crowds followed Jesus in John 6, they weren’t pursuing life, they were pursuing bread. Jesus challenged them to change their priorities. They needed to stop thinking materially and start thinking spiritually. Their material thinking – what I like to call ‘belly thoughts’ – were denying them a right understanding of Jesus. Their belly thoughts would deny them belief that leads to eternal life.

The outcome was inevitable. When Jesus’ teaching got too hard to stomach (so to speak), the crowds grumbled and even some disciples departed. But the ones who saw clearly remained. The ones pursuing truth were rewarded. Peter famously answered Jesus, “where else can we go? You alone have words of eternal life.”

Today, we are confronted with the same challenge. How do we think spiritually in a material world? How do we see spiritually when the world blinds us with the material? How do we pursue the food that lasts? The crowd had two problems. They did not listen to Jesus’ words, and they gave in to their material impulses. I have two suggestions for us: we need to fill up on the Word, and we need to starve our belly thoughts.

First, what does it mean to starve your belly thoughts? It means to find the things that distract you from truth, and then begin to eliminate them from your life. For example, what is shaping your view of the current pandemic? Is your view of the pandemic shaped more by social media and journalists than by the God of the universe? As you commend the vaccine to people, are you also commending the gospel of Jesus Christ? Has the 11am NSW press conference[1] become an idol for you? If your belly is telling you that a pandemic is the biggest problem our country is facing today, then you need to starve that belly thought. Is Covid worse than hell? Our biggest problem hasn’t changed: people do not know their God. But our priorities may have become diluted. We need to starve our belly thoughts. Before tuning in to the press conference, how about we stop and pray – put a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget. Let God shape our view of the pandemic and let God provide the solution to our greatest problem. I am not advocating for ignorance – of course, stay informed! – but I am advocating for wise perspective.

Australia presents so much spoiling food that looks so sweet. Perhaps one of the reasons we have found the pandemic so challenging is that the carefree life Australia encourages us to pursue has been disrupted. Food that spoils cannot satisfy, and it will not last; when it is gone, you are left feeling empty. Pursue instead the food that leads to eternal life. Ask yourself, what are the belly thoughts that pull me away? Start starving them.

My second suggestion is to get back into active Bible reading. I know, it sounds obvious and tedious. But listen! Don’t read passively, don’t tick boxes. Remind yourself these are the words of the God of the universe, written for you! What is your heavenly Father telling you right now, today? What will it look like to read the Bible in that way? Starve your belly thoughts, and replace them with the living word of God.

When Jesus offers eternal life to the crowd, they cannot comprehend it as a solution to their daily needs. But what they haven’t seen, is that eternity has already started. I used to think eternity started when you die. But we are already in it. Your next step is a step into eternity. What will you step away form? What will you step toward? Make your next step, a step toward food that lasts.

[1] This piece was written just before the daily presser was changed in its frequency – Ed