In Yola, Nigeria, after a long day of learning about and reading the Koran, 200 young “almajiri” boys, ages 5-18, gather under a tent canopy or under the roof of an old schoolhouse building. Known for begging alms when not studying the Koran, these boys line up instead for their evening meal as apart of the “Feed and Read” Program put on by a Christian professor from the American University of Nigeria (source). Using perhaps the first set of bowls and cutlery they have seen in a while, they are given a meal of spaghetti, beans, and rice, and a sachet of water– maybe the only meal they have had all day. With stomachs full, the children are invited to take part in the Math or English lesson offered that night, which most take happily.
About 250 miles (402 kilometers) away, in the city of Maiduguri, the need for food is just as real, yet sadly unmet. Within Internally Displaced Peoples’ Camps (IDP Camps), over 400 children ages one to five have perished from malnutrition in 2015 alone (source). While Nigeria’s emergency aid is doing all it can, many young children are still suffering from the effects of hunger, either because of not eating the right foods, or from simply not having enough to eat, at all.
Where there is lack of food, there naturally begins to be a lack of healthy life. This is also true, spiritually; without Truth continually nourishing the souls of those who have found it, one’s spiritual life becomes more and more like a famished and malnourished child.
The Bible says, in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This says something profound about the spiritual implications of feeding on lies. Sadly, there are many people, dare it be said the vast majority, who truly believe that what they are feeding on is Truth. Deceived by the “sweetness” of what they’re ingesting, many believe that they are doing well, when in fact, they are like a small child after eating too much candy: experiencing obvious trouble because of it, yet always wanting more. In this world where “relative truth” reigns supreme, countless souls lie in spiritual death, separated from Christ.
This is the heartbreaking reality for many who claim to be “religious” or “spiritual”; but this could be no less true than in Northeastern Nigeria, where millions upon millions of muslims live. islam, a religion that is almost 1500 years old, is a religion which, though rooted in the patriarch Abraham like Christianity and judaism, is incredibly different from Christianity in many different ways; the main way being their view of who Jesus Christ is. Though islam acknowledges Christ, calling Him one of the prophets who came before the prophet Muhammad, they completely deny the Deity of Christ, and even deny that Christ was crucified, much less resurrected (Q’uran 5:116-117; Surah 4:157-158). Rejecting Christ for who He is, muslims, like billions of other people all over the world, feed on religion– their own “good works”– to save them; yet remain hungry and thirsty for something, for someone, more.
Jesus: the Living Water
Jesus speaks to this deep problem of spiritual hunger and thirst in the book of John, chapter 7.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
(John 7:37-39, NIV)
The “feast” mentioned in this passage of scripture refers to the “Feast of Booths” (also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles”), an important jewish festival that celebrated the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness. During this time, there was an eight-day celebration that included the imagery of water and light (source). It “on the last and greatest day” of this eight-day period that Christ declared this life-changing proclamation: that anyone who came to Him in a spiritually thirsty state would never grow thirsty, in this way, again– but rather, would overflow with His Living Water, the Holy Spirit.
The Bread of Life
As if it wasn’t amazing enough that Jesus claimed to fulfill mankind’s incredible spiritual thirst, He also claimed to fulfill the hunger of every person who came to Him. In the book of John, Jesus is quoted as saying seven “I am” statements. While each of these statements proclaims that Jesus is God (such as Jesus’ “I Am” statement, “I am the Good Shepherd” [John 10], which can be tied to Psalm 23), there is one “I Am” statement that Jesus proclaimed, regarding mankind’s spiritual hunger, found in John 6:32-35:
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.‘”
(John 6, NIV)
Speaking to another large crowd of people, the ones whom He had fed in John 6:1-14, Jesus tells the people plainly that He not only has the resources of spiritual bread to give them, but, in fact, is the spiritual bread that these crowds are desperately looking for. Though the crowds had originally come to Him to hear His teachings, they received much more: the miraculous, physical food He gives them, and the much more needed spiritual sustenance that they have been so hungry for their entire lives.
Only One Savior
One will notice that Jesus does not claim to be only “one type” of the bread of life, but is “the bread of life.” He also does not claim that a religion is this bread of life. Rather, He declares that He and He alone is the bread of life, and that all who come only to Him will “never go hungry… [and] never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Though many, many people have complicated Jesus’ message, or thrown it out altogether, the message still remains the same, because Jesus’ Word does not change (Luke 21:33). The message is this: that Jesus is God Himself, and came to earth to fulfill humanity’s deepest need: the need for a Savior, and to be reconciled to God.
In this world where “truth is relative,” and religion reigns supreme, may the world– like those boys studying the Koran, and those children in IDP Camps– be given what they truly need: a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Water and Bread of Life. Let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
Do you know Jesus?
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.'”
(John 6:53-54, NIV)
Jesus spoke this controversial passage of scripture right after telling the crowds around Him that He was “the Bread of Life.” Though it sounds scary, gruesome, even, it makes sense when one realizes what Jesus was about to endure.
Some time after proclaiming this to the crowds, Jesus, though innocent, would be crucified for the sins of mankind (Romans 4:25). Accused of blasphemy for declaring that He was God, Jesus was put to death because of the jewish religious leaders of the time, and sadly, all who followed them (John 19:7; 15). His body, beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, took on the sins of all humanity– and “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).
Jesus, in dying for the sins of all mankind, reconciled mankind with God, so that all who might believe on Him would have Eternal Life with Christ (John 3:16). Learn about this precious gift of reconciliation– and the One who gave it– here.
Praise Report!!! Praise Jesus for the “Feed and Read” Program!
Please pray for…
- The teachers and children of the “Feed and Read” Program. This program was created by a Christian woman; and, though it respects the study of the Koran for the study of these young boys, there is still definite opportunity to share Jesus Christ with these students. Please pray that Christ would raise up teachers who love and know Him, and who will love these children with the Gospel.
- The people of Nigeria, the Nigerian government, and President Buhari. President Buhari, and countless others, are muslim. Please pray that those who miss their kidnapped loved ones, and those trying to get them back, would come to know Christ as the True Fulfillment that they are seeking, as well.
- Those in IDP Camps. Pray Jesus would put His people in these IDP camps, and would send Christian missionaries into these IDP camps, to share the Gospel with the hurting, hungry people among them.
- Boko Haram members, and the Nigerian military. Pray that all people in this war on terror– from the instigators, to the soldiers– would come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, that they might be freed from their bondage, and fulfilled with His Love.
- The Chibok girls. At the time of this posting, it has been 695 days since the 219 girls still in captivity have seen their families, friends, Loved ones, and the free world. Please pray for their release! Christ hears us, and is working in the lives of these young women. Thank you!