Monday, January 03, 2011

Hunger and Thirst...

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6)

Did you know that the human body often confuses thirst for hunger? As a result we sometimes eat when we should be drinking. Our bodies are made up of 70% water and it is necessary for us to drink frequently to remain healthy and living. We certainly know all about hunger and being filled. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most folks put on lots of extra pounds. In fact, the very word ‘filled’ found here in Matthew 5:6 be satisfied in the sense of being stuffed after a sumptuous meal. There are times when we get really hungry...most noticeably when we are young and growing and our bodies demand food and between meal snacks. When we go without eating, we end up with headaches and a sense of gnawing in our stomachs. Yes, we know all about physical hunger and thirst, but how much do we really know about being spiritually hungry and thirsty?

Jesus drew the attention of the woman at the well when He offered her a drink of living water that would so satisfy that she would never thirst again.  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15) She was apparently weary of coming to that well every single day, pulling up containers of water and then carrying them home on her aching shoulders or head. We know that Jesus was speaking of Himself as the ‘living water’. He was referring to a spiritual thirst that is in every person. It is as demanding on our spiritual man as natural thirst is on our physical beings. Just as Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well about water, He also taught His disciples about food. They had gone to town to get some food and they encouraged Jesus to eat some of it. “But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32) then He went on to teach them what spiritual food is all about… “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34) Walking in obedience to God, doing His will and accomplishing the assignment was an important part of spiritual hunger being satisfied. That’s what righteousness is all about—not doing what we want, doing it our way, whenever we want to do it—but rather seeking to do His will, His way! So often we think of righteous living as just being holy, and not sinning. But true righteousness is walking in daily obedience to God and His will and plan for our lives. If we are trying to live on the spiritual junk food of entertainment, busyness, and good deeds, trying to make ourselves look good, trying to fill the void in the human heart with activities in which God did not ask us to partake—we are dying a little each day as we begin to spiritually starve to death. What we need to ask ourselves is—”What does God want me to do for Him today?” We need to spend time in prayer, spend time in His Word, carefully listening to His voice speaking into our hungry souls. There He will give us just what we need—direction for life. Our part is to trust and obey. It’s just like the old hymn that tells us:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

There are some people who are hungry but don’t know it. If they are ill, hunger sometimes fades into a distant memory. Some have to be placed on artificial feeding tubes to maintain their health. Those who do not know God are much like this in their spiritual lives. They are hungry for God, but don’t know it. They try to fill the hunger gnawing at them by filling their lives with the many seductions of this world, only to discover like the woman at the well—they just do not satisfy. They are hungry and thirsty, but in their lost condition, they don’t know what they are thirsty or hungry for.

We all know the old saying “You are what you eat.” In America, we just have to look around at any average crowd of people and we can see those who have overindulged on things that do not satisfy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that American men eat 7 percent more calories than they did in 1971; American women eat a whopping 18 percent more—an additional 335 calories a day! Our lives have become more sedentary, and our diets have been modified with fillers, chemicals and modified forms of sugar to make it all ‘taste good’. We may not be hungry physically, but we are not healthy either. Our spiritual lives are in much the same condition. When we feast on selfish indulgences in the church rather than fast, pray, and read the Word, our spiritual lives get out of balance. It’s time for a return back to the basics, both in our physical diets, (eating fruits, vegetables and lean meats) and in our spiritual diets (feasting on the milk and meat of the Word of God.) Anything else will bring disease and death.

Our main meal should be centered on the Bread of Life. 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...Jesus taught us in John 6:35. It is our desire to eat and be satisfied, but what we eat is the key. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray he prayed... Give us each day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3) We usually think of this as getting enough food for our daily physical needs. I believe Jesus was talking about much more—our spiritual bread. We need our spiritual man fed daily with the Bread of Life. Jesus goes on in this same chapter of Luke 11 to describe a man who comes to the house of his friend at midnight asking for 3 loaves of bread. He persists until the man gives it to him. Then he draws an analogy with God—who gives to us the Holy Spirit—”If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 We need to be persistently asking and seeking God for more of Himself, more of the Spirit...and yielding more of who we are to His control. God wants to satisfy our spiritual needs, and He has provided all that is required—the living water of Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is ask!

What are you asking God for today? Too often we get caught up into the ways of the greedy world around us. We crave the best car, the nicest home, the biggest pile of gifts under the Christmas tree and when we don’t get what we want, we go buy it and charge it on our the credit card. America is swimming in debt. It is trying to fill its emptiness with “stuff.” Our closets and garages are overflowing. Goodwill stores are stuffed to the rafters. We “feel good” when we shop and bring home just one more bag full of goodies. It’s time to stop! It’s time to feast once again at His table. There He will satisfy the soul, fill our spirits with Himself, and make us into the righteous men and women of God He wants and longs for us to be. Look once again at the verse we started out with: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6) Here it is again in the Amplified Bible: Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be [completely satisfied! I don’t know about you, but I want that. I want to so hunger and thirst after God, thirst for His righteousness, that God comes through—completely satisfying my needs. This prosperity is a spiritual prosperity. I am rich when I rest under His blessing, and when I am in right standing with God. When that happens, everything else just falls into place.

Are you seeking happiness? Find it in God and His forgiveness and righteousness. Are you empty? Nothing but God can fill the empty place in your life! Where are you looking to satisfy your deepest desires and longings? Just look at your checkbook or bank statement and see where you have been spending your time and money. Our values reflect our diets. We do what we love. Do we love Him more? He sacrificed Himself for us, but are we willing to sacrifice for Him? Parents, the things you value are being taught to your children. Do you value spending time worshipping God at His house? Or do you sleep in, telling yourself, we’ll go next week or next month—and the years slip on by. Soon the kids are teenagers and have no interest in God or church. Your values have become their values. You feel it is important to give a good tip at a restaurant for good service—but in church, well, God does not need my tithes… And so the blessings fail to flow—for Jesus taught—”Give and it shall be given…”

Do you want blessings to flow in this New Year? Blessings come to those who hunger and thirst after God and His righteousness. Nothing less will do! Take some time to go pray at your church. Your pastor might go into shock, and it might just spark a revival! Spend time praying with your wife and your children. Make prayer an important part of your daily life. Let them learn that when there are needs, we must go to God. God is the One who hears and answers prayer. If there are no prayer meetings at your church, start one! Men, if you want to be the priest and spiritual leader in your home, take the lead and lead your family in prayer. Anything worth doing is work and it will take determination and consistency. The reward is in the blessings that follow...your hunger and thirst will be satisfied and you will be filled to overflowing in righteousness.

J. Johnson