Hunger and Thirst

Scripture: Matthew 5:6, Psalm 107:9
Date: 12/12/2009 
God wants us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are promised that the Lord will fill us when we seek Him. We will be content when we take part of the right things.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I’ve done a lot of traveling this fall, some of you know. Some of you might not have known I was gone. I was in Australia for about four weeks and then home for about a week and a half and then last week this time I was in England. I don’t know if any of you saw any of the Streams of Light programs that we broadcast. [talking to someone in audience] So it’s good to be home, but it leaves you a little fuzzy when you go from Australia to England. They all speak sort of English there, but the time changes, I kind of feel like I’m living in the ozone right now, or something. [comments about choir, administrative items]

I was driving down the road the other day listening to the traffic reports. Coming home during rush hour sometimes I’ll switch over to the news, and they just briefly mentioned avoid Highway 50 because; evidently a motorist ran out of fuel and didn’t make it over to the side. Far as I know there was no accident, but my heart went out to that person. I thought, “Boy, how embarrassing.” To just have your car kind of go dead in the middle of the road and have all of those cars honking and going around you because you didn’t supply the fuel that it needs. Most of the modern cars have a little light. There’s a nickname for that light that tells you you need fuel. Your car sort of needs to be told it needs fuel because it doesn’t think for itself. It’s just going to stop running if you don’t put the fuel in. God has designed our bodies with these mechanisms that tell us we need to breathe. Most of you don’t think about your heart’s beating. Most of you don’t think, “I need to fuel my body. It’s been this many hours.” You’ve got a mechanism that tells you you’re hungry or thirsty.

And our message today is titled Hunger & Thirst. It’s based on a very short passage of scripture. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed,” happy, “are those who do hunger and thirst.” Now if you stopped right there you’d think, “Why would there be any merit or virtue in just being hungry? Do you get spiritual credit for being hungry?” But He doesn’t stop there. He says, “Blessed are those who do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” And the promise is, “For they will be filled.” Now the key to being filled with righteousness is you must first hunger and thirst for it. You know the words there in Greek (and I usually mess them up when I try to pronounce things in Greek) for hunger is [peinatos (I tried to look up spelling] and it refers to the desperate craving of a starving man who is famished for a meal, willing to eat just about anything. That’s that word. It’s not just where you elbow somebody and say, “You know, I think I’m getting ready for lunch.” When it says, “Blessed are those who hunger,” it’s basically talking about those who have a desperate craving, their famished for food. “Blessed are those who are famished for righteousness.” And the word for thirst that’s used there is not the common, “I think I need to wet my whistle,” thirst. The word there is [dipsato] and it means painfully to feel the need for water. It’s more than just a sip. It means you’re parched and dehydrated to the point of pain and death.

Not only are these two things that are required for life, but just for ongoing maintenance. God employs these two metaphors to talk about being filled with righteousness. Just to show you how practical Jesus is. Anyone here ever experience hunger before? Anyone ever feel thirst? When you first feel that if you neglect it does it go away? Sometimes if you’re fasting it’s really hard for the first day and sometimes after the second day you can actually get your mind off it. But it will come back, trust me. It’s something that cries and gets louder and louder unless it’s satisfied. So when Jesus compares our need for righteousness to hunger and thirst He’s talking about one of the most basic needs that every human has for this fuel to sustain life. And He says there’ll be a blessing. One of the first things a doctor might ask if you’re sick, he might ask you, “How is your appetite?” Your little boy goes to the doctor and he’ll check out some of the symptoms and then he’ll say, “How’s his appetite?” “Well, now that you mention it, he doesn’t seem to want to eat anything.”

I remember my brother, who usually had just a ravenous appetite, he lost his appetite and he started looking a little peaked and my mother took him to the doctor. My brother had cystic fibrosis, but turned out some other problem had cropped up. And this is typical more with boys than girls, but his intestines had begun to close up and grow together and he couldn’t eat. And he lost his appetite. And if we hadn’t done something about it he would have died. This was when he was 10 years old. I still remember, they opened my poor brother from bow to stern so that they could do this repair. But he had lost his appetite and that was a big clue for my mother that there was something wrong.

You could also ask that regarding your spiritual health. How’s your appetite? Are you hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Are you hungry for the bread of life? If you lose your appetite for the word that’s often an indicator that there’s something going wrong with your spiritual health. So it needs to be satisfied. To be hungry for God is a good thing.

One of my favorite stories from history I’ve shared with you before is the adventure and the explorations of Sir Ernest Shackleton. He made a couple of attempts to reach the South Pole. At one point he came within a hundred miles, but he turned back because he didn’t want to lose his men. They made the mistake of trying to conquer the Artic the way the English conquered everything else by using horses. Amundsen, who ultimately made it said, “No, when you’re trying to go after the Artic you need dogs.” And on one of their expeditions they took these four ponies and all the ponies died. I don’t know if they ended up eating the ponies, but on the way back they completely ran out of food. And in Shackleton’s words he wrote in the book called The Heart of the Antarctic they trekked 127 days on their return journey. During that time, and they ran very low on food. Ultimately ran out of food. And they spent all their time talking about food. “Elaborate feasts, gourmet delights, sumptuous menus as they staggered along, suffering from dysentery, not knowing if they’d survive. Every waking hour was occupied with thoughts of eating.” After months of want, when they finally were rescued they encountered just an abundant supply of food and they were able to eat all they wanted of all this variety to their heart’s content. It says, “After months of want and hunger we suddenly found ourselves able to have meals fit for the gods,” this is interesting, “with appetites the gods might have envied.” They had these incredible appetites for food because they had been deprived for so long.

Do you feel the want of righteousness? Do you hunger for it? Or are you spiritually sick so you have lost your appetite? One reason I think that Jesus talked about hunger and thirst is because hunger and thirst are daily and ongoing needs. And so it is with your hunger and your thirst for righteousness. It’s something that must be continually supplied. It’s not like once you accept Jesus you’re satisfied and you’re never going to want more of Him. When you’re a Christian and after you’ve tasted and you see that the Lord is good you have an ongoing craving for what becomes your favorite food, this food of righteousness. Psalm 107:9, here David says, “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Salvation must be maintained by a regular reception of God’s grace. It shouldn’t make you doubt that you’re saved if you’ve been eating all your life and you’re still here. Let me say that a different way because I don’t think you caught that.

If a person continues to have a hunger for righteousness that doesn’t mean that they’re not a Christian. If you are unsatisfied and you keep craving more and more of God it doesn’t mean you have God now. How many of you have been eating most of your life? Is it going too far to assume the fact that you are here is evidence that He has supplied that need all of your life? Do you anticipate being hungry again before the day is over? Does that mean that you’ve never been satisfied? Does that mean you’re not alive? And so, for the person who is alive spiritually, just because you’re still hungry for righteousness doesn’t mean that you don’t have it. It doesn’t mean you’ve not accepted the righteousness of Jesus. And while I’m on the subject, I thought it was interesting that some theologians I studied that looked at this verse, they compared the hunger for food as sustaining sanctifying righteousness and the thirst for that living water as justifying righteousness. You realize ultimately we’ll get the glorifying righteousness which is when we sit down in the presence of God and He sups with us. But this side of heaven we need the justifying righteousness and the sanctifying righteousness, which the Bible compares to hungering and thirsting or eating and drinking. And we need those on an ongoing basis.

Worship, which we’re doing right now, does not satisfy our hunger for God. What it’s supposed to do is it whets our appetite so that you continue to hunger for Him through the week. And I told our fellowship many times, I hope you don’t depend on surviving all week long what you get from the sermon once a week. This is just supposed to be maybe dessert. You can live with or without it. Sometimes you get empty calories from me, but you should be feeding your own soul through the week. A lot of churches it’s the other way around. A lot of Christians they go to church and they say, “Well, I need the pastor to feed me today,” and if they don’t get fed by the pastor they hang their salvation on what they might or might not get from the preacher once a week. That’s not how it’s supposed to operate. Matter of fact, some services you might not even have a sermon. [You] might just have a testimony or praise session. We’re coming to worship God. We really need to be feeding our souls all week long.

When the manna came from heaven there was one day of the week it did not fall. What day was that? The people were to be gathering manna for themselves the rest of the week. And you might study twice as hard on Friday because you may not get any on Sabbath. Isn’t’ that what happened in the Bible? They got twice as much, they gathered twice as much on Friday to sustain them through that day. And yet I listen to a lot of Christians and people gripe and complain and say, “I didn’t get anything out of the sermon.” And you listen to the context of how they state it, it’s almost like that was their weekly food; their weekly spiritual food is the sermon. We need to feed our own soul. Someday we may be isolated from church. And if we’re not learning how to feed ourselves then we’ll starve when that winter comes. Are you hungry? This would have been a good message just before Thanksgiving.

Satisfying hunger and thirst should be a pleasant experience. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst,” typically when people think about having their hunger and their thirst satisfied it isn’t painful, it’s pleasant. It’s not normal, when someone starts thinking about their obligation to eat, “Well, my alarm just went off. I guess I’ve got to eat again.” Sometimes it happens when a person is getting older and they start losing their sense of taste maybe and people are telling you, “You need to eat more.”

By the way, this is a little pet peeve of mine. I’ve had a couple people come to me and they say, “Pastor Doug, are you ok?” I said, “Yeah, I feel fine.” “You’re looking thin. You need to eat more.” And I keep saying, “Well, I’m not getting thin. I know what the scale says.” It may be shifting from place to place, but the scale is still telling me the same thing. You get older and you start to look gaunt or something. I don’t know what happens. Why is it it’s ok to tell someone you’re not eating enough? Is it ok to tell someone you’re eating too much? No, don’t do that. Then why would it be ok? In our day, when someone’s struggling with either anorexia or bulimia, you’ve got to be careful about saying you’re not eating enough. Because that could be implying something else.

If you’re healthy you don’t have to look upon eating as a drudgery. Most of us say, “Hey! It’s so good to see you. Let’s eat together. Let’s maximize the rejoicing of our fellowship with food.” Food usually enhances your time together, right? Anyone a social eater here? You like getting together. What do we do once a week at Central Church? Just about every week we get together and we call it a Fellowship. And we use that term loosely. Sometimes it’s more of a free-for-all. We get together and it’s nice to sit down and you say, “Let’s break bread together.” Doesn’t Jesus use that? We just had an Amazing Facts dinner Thursday night where once a year, typically once a year, we get together with the employees to show our appreciation. And we thank the volunteers and media department. We do it in the context of a wonderful meal because eating is supposed to be a pleasant experience. Now there’s those teenage years where you wonder if they actually, the food ever touches the tongue. It just kind of goes past the lips to the stomach. But we’re assuming that at least there’s pleasure in having that vacuum filled that’s down there. It’s amazing to me how much our boys at home eat sometimes. And I’m afraid to even comment on it because if I ever comment on, “Wow! How can you eat all that,” then they want to show they’re not even trying—they eat even more. And so I don’t even like to say anything about it because then if we say anything about it they say, “Oh, you think I’m eating a lot now, watch what I can do when I really try.”

So hunger is something to supply it that’s pleasant. Should we feel it is an obligation to hunger for righteousness? But yet so many people, when you get done with a message on hungering and thirsting after righteousness it’s like, “You better be hungry. You better eat good works.” And we come away feeling chastised like, “Oh, Lord, please give me some hunger for righteousness and I’ll choke it down.” Jesus uses the metaphor of eating because He wants us to think of it in something that is blessed when it’s satisfied. It is a good thing when your hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied. It will please you. It’s good to serve the Lord. And you listen to the Psalms that David has. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for you, O God. When shall you come and appear before my God?” And you think when that deer or that heart or roebuck out there in the wilderness, when it finds a stream and it’s been parched and it drinks it’s painful? Or is it pleasant? The satisfaction of your hunger and thirst for righteousness should please your soul. It should cause you to, here’s that word, rejoice. Amen? It should be a good experience.

Now this is also an important subject to consider because ultimately you become like what you hunger for. You are the sum total of what you eat. Have you thought about that? Your body right now today is composed of what you have eaten and what you have drunk over the course of your life. Your spiritual soul will be the sum total of what you eat and drink. Do we make choices what we feed our spirits? You look at menus sometimes when you go to a restaurant and you make choices. Sometimes those choices are based on what you think’s going to taste good. Sometimes what you think will be healthy for you. And hopefully they’re the same; you can find something that is good for you that tastes good, right? And that’s right on the menu; you also want to look at the cost. That’s the first thing I typically look at. Matter of fact, I don’t even pick the restaurant if I can’t afford it. I’m reluctant to go inside. And so it is with your food also, spiritual food. We can pick those things that are going to feed our spirits. A lot of what people feed their spirits will explain why they are malnourished. Empty calories. Eating the wrong thing. Not good for the soul.

Someone said, I think it was Adam Clark, “Hunger and thirst are appetites that frequently return and call for fresh satisfactions. So these holy desires for righteousness are satisfied through renewed pardons and daily fresh supply of grace. The quickened soul calls for constant meals of grace to do the work of every day in its day as duly as the living body calls for food.” Now you remember when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. In that story Jesus was thirsty and He was hungry. The disciples had gone to get food and they left Him sitting at the well. Here’s the water. I mean, He made the oceans; He made the streams and the rivers and yet He can’t get a drink because He doesn’t have a pot to lower in the water. And while He’s waiting there hungry and thirsty the woman of Samaria comes by. And you know the story in John 4. He has this exchange, this dialogue with her. At the conclusion of it He reveals He is the Messiah. She believes. She accepts it and immediately she goes and she tells others about this living water, that she’s found the Messiah. The disciples, right about that time, they come back. They have brought something to eat and drink from this Samaritan town where they were shopping. They said, “Lord, we brought lunch.” And what does Jesus say? “I’ve got food that you don’t know about.” So again, Christ is employing that same metaphor. Was He satisfied? You think He was smiling when that woman accepted Him and she went to tell the town? It nourished His soul. And when you have that righteousness within it will also nourish you.

Another characteristic of eating and drinking that I think is interesting. This is a matter of life and death that you eat and you drink. What happens if you stop eating? By the way, you can go longer without one than without the other. You are saved by justification then that salvation is maintained through sanctification. In the same way, you can live a little while without food. You can actually go days without food. But you can’t live very long without water. And you must live in a state of justification all the time. You may slip and need to repent in your sanctification. But both of them are ultimately a matter of life and death because if you are not justified and sanctified by Christ you can perish. What happens if a person doesn’t eat? And they don’t drink? They’ll die. And so these are life and death issues.

You saw I had a picture of a little chick that we put up there on the screen. It’s interesting, these little birds, we had some right outside our window and our backdoor. Every year these little finches come by and they have there. Nathan built a birdhouse and they moved in; they use it. You peek in there with a flashlight; you’d never know whether or not the eggs have hatched. And the only time you ever hear this very high-pitched squeak is when the mother comes to feed them. Other than that they risk their lives when they chirp. Little chicks, they alert all the predators that they’re there when they start chirping. They are as quiet as they can be until Mom comes with food and they’re competing with each other. And then they just open their mouths. Matter of fact, they look like one big mouth. They just open their mouths and they figure it’s the loudest one gets the mom’s attention and so they all compete, “Feed me! Feed me!” They’ll take whatever she stuffs in there.

And that’s often true with babies. Someone once described babies as a loud apparatus with hunger and thirst at one end and no responsibility at the other. That’s really what they are, isn’t it? They want to eat and they make a lot of noise if you don’t feed them. It’s a necessity. It’s a matter of life and death. The Holy Spirit, in the same way, creates new life in us that needs nourishment. Babies are born hungry. And if a baby is born and it’s not eating, the mother sometimes they’re really worried because a little time goes by and they say, “It doesn’t seem to eat.” And they’ll do whatever they can to encourage them to eat. You want them to eat. You want them to have that appetite.

Hunger is described as, “that uneasy sensation that takes place in the stomach and we know we must get food or eventually perish. When the soul is awakened to its sense of its want it begins to hunger and thirst after righteousness and holiness, which is the proper food for the soul. And we know that we must be purified by the Holy Spirit to be made partakers of that living bread or we perish eternally.” Psalm 63. You know what we’re talking about here? You’re talking here about passion. They say that word, people always think of it in the context of maybe sex. And also the word desire. Are passion and desire wrong? Well that depends, for what? Is it ok to have a desire for food? Some people even have a passion for food. Well you make good food, that’s ok. That’s different from eating the wrong thing or eating too much. You can still have a passion for; some people do cooking schools. I think they have a passion for it. So when Jesus talks about hungering and thirst after righteousness you know what He’s also saying? That we often are passionate and craving the wrong thing. Instead of righteousness we are craving raunchiousness, as I like to say. I coined that word. I keep using it hoping it will catch on, I’ll find it in the dictionary someday. Listen, David says, Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God. Early I will seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you.” He’s talking about thirsting, longing for God, “in a dry and a thirsty land where there is no water.” And again, here’s the one I wanted. I think I’d read the other one before. Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven, but thee. And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Is God your ultimate desire? Do you hunger and thirst after God?

Henry Ward Beecher said, “There is not a heart, but it has its moments of longing, yearning for something better, nobler, holier than it knows.” All of life is really about hungering and thirsting for the right thing because sometimes we have the wrong hunger and thirst. This was our scripture reading. “Ho everyone that thirsts! Come to the waters and you who have no money come buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk.” He’s talking about eating. He’s talking about drinking. “Without money, without price.” Then He adds, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread? And your wages for that that does not satisfy?” Last night we had soup for dinner. It was good soup. Karen and Stephen made some potato soup and when I sat down I was looking through the refrigerator and she said, “What are you doing? We’ve got food here.” Typically, 99% of the time, we have tacos Friday night. It’s just a family tradition that we inherited I think from Bonnie and Ed. And it was fine with me. But there were no tacos on the table. It was soup. And so I’m looking in the refrigerator. She said, “Don’t you like soup?” I said, “I like soup, but I always look at soup as sort of like a side dish with the real food.” Because the idea of drinking my dinner just, I don’t understand that. And so then I detected a little bit of maybe hurt feelings with Stephen and Karen. Stephen was trying to put soup in my bowl. And so I had some soup. We did have some salsa for dinner, too. So I ate a lot of soup and salsa and then I went to Weimar to meet with the evangelists up there and I came home and I never eat late. I was famished because I drank my dinner.

You ever go out for what is it? What is the food that you’re hungry an hour after you eat it? Chinese food. I don’t know what it is about it, but if you eat a lot of Chinese vegetables it’s really good. It’s very satisfying. Two hours later you’re going, “Where’d it go?” I eat a big old starchy breakfast. I mix all these cereals together and different grains with Rice Dream and peanut butter. The kids say it looks disgusting. At least they told me that for years. Now they’ve started eating it. They say, “That’s not so bad, Dad.” But it stays with you. I typically eat twice a day and so I eat a good old; you can go marathon on a breakfast like that. And I don’t nibble between meals. When I’m hungry I eat. I went to England and they eat a lot of little meals. And then they call their final meal; they say, “Would you like to come over for tea?” Even the church members. And they’re not talking about drinking tea. They’re talking about some little snack and that’s what they call their meal. I can’t eat like that. When I’m going to eat, I’m going to eat. You fill up and then it holds you, right? I don’t fiddle around between meals, nibbling and noshing. But you want to be satisfied, right? You want to have that full feeling.

Some people hunger for the wrong thing. I read somewhere where a person said, “Advertising deals with exploiting wrong desires.” Fear, greed, anger, hostility. You name the desire and advertising will play on it. Isn’t that right? You look at how things are sold on the market. Jeremiah 2:13, “For my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they’ve hewn out cisterns for themselves that cannot hold water, that do not satisfy.” Always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It’s like the story of this man that was walking through an asylum one day. His guide walked him by a room and he looked through the Plexiglas window and he saw a man in there who was in a straight jacket and he was rocking back and forth. He kept saying, “Linda, Linda, O Linda. Why Linda?” And he said, “What happened?” He said, “Well, he had a wife named Linda and she left him.” And he went on to the next room. There was a guy in there going, “Linda, Linda, O Linda. Why Linda?” He said, “What’s his story?” He said, “He married Linda.” People always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and it doesn’t always prove true. We crave after those things that don’t bring any lasting happiness.

I Timothy 6:6, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” But no matter what you have in the world if you don’t have Christ you’ll not be content. There’s a famine in the land, the Bible tells us. Amos 8:11-12, “For the word of God. Behold the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I’ll send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread,” notice again, “or a thirst of water.” Eating and drinking. Why does it say there’s a famine? Because people are eating and drinking, but it’s empty calories. They’re eating and drinking the wrong thing. “A thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they’ll wander from sea to sea and from north to east and shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord and not find it.” So notice what I just did there. I just read a verse that said if a person doesn’t have the word of the Lord they’re going to experience hunger and thirst and they’ll be famished spiritually. Isn’t that what that just said? And what satisfies that hunger and that thirst? Jesus does. He is the living water. He is the bread of life and you find both of those in the Bible. That’s the key for satisfying that. So are you hungry and thirsty for Jesus? Do you read the word? Ephesians 5:18, “Do not be drunk with wine,” which is excess. It’s just dissipation is what that says. “But be filled with the Spirit.” So it counters the wrong kind of thirst, the worldly thirst, the intoxication of the world, with the right kind of thirst: being filled with the word of God and the Spirit of God.

Now you’ll notice that Jesus tries to encourage hunger. Have you ever had somebody say, you invite them to lunch and they say, “Well, you know, I’d like to visit with you, but I just ate. Maybe I’ll just have a little something.” And so they say they’re not hungry, but then when you get to the restaurant and they see the display and they see the menu and it’s all arranged and designed with the pictures and the trappings to encourage hunger, all of a sudden they say, “Well, maybe I will have something.” You ever been to a nice restaurant, when you get done eating they say, “Would you like any dessert?” And they bring by the dessert tray and they roll it by you. And what you’re looking at may not even be real. It could be wax. But they create it. Why do they do that? They want to inspire a craving within you. You know, Jesus wants to do that. He wants to encourage and inspire with us a craving for what is good. He wants to encourage us to hunger and thirst after Him. By the way, that’s good evangelism. That’s good soul winning, is if you increase, if you create, inspire, instigate within another person a hunger and a thirst for God. That’s the idea. Instead of just beating people over the head with a Bible saying, “This is what you ought to be doing.” You’re not going to get anywhere. One of the things they do with a baby when it first may not be nursing. To get that nursing action going there in their little mouths sometimes they’ll take a little bit of honey. At least this used to be the practice in Bible times. And they’d put it on the roof of their mouth. This is before they invented peanut butter. And they put it on the roof of the mouth and they start going like that. And then you put them to the breast and all of a sudden it kicks in. They figure out how everything works. They get a little bit of encouragement.

But the Bible tells us that as children of God we should desire the sincere milk of the word. And the Lord wants to instill, to create that desire in us. Why do you think that He told the children of Israel, Leviticus 20:24, “But I have said unto you, ‘You will inherit their land,’ and I’ll give it to you to possess. A land flowing with milk and honey.” Why does God compare the Promise Land to a land flowing with milk and honey? Had they ever seen it before? The children of Israel that lived in the days of Moses, had they ever seen it before? So what would make them want to go there? He was wanting to create within their minds a craving. If you lived back in Bible times these metaphors of milk and honey represented the very richest, sweetest forms of food that you could eat and drink. Isn’t that right? And so He used this to create a craving. It’s like the Lord walked by with the dessert tray and said, “You want to go to the Promise Land? This is the Promise Land, flowing with milk and honey.” And they started going, “Yeah, sounds pretty good.” He was creating within them a hunger for it.

Why do you think there’s promises in the Bible for heaven? Does the Lord want us to have a craving for eternal life? All the blessings of heaven. All the good things that you read about. When God says, “There’s things I can’t even describe to you. The language is not adequate. I can’t tell you about it. You can’t imagine it.” Why do you think God tells us that? Because He wants us to desire. He wants us to have a passion to go to that place, that land flowing with milk and honey. Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have desired of the Lord.” What is the first thing that we should seek? “That I will seek after, that I might dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in His temple.” What makes you crave God? When you think of heaven and you think about, “Here’s the first thing I want to do when I go to heaven,” what pops into your mind? I’ll be honest with you. For me one of the first things is I want to try out my wings and see how fast they go. And then I want to take off. I want to leave the pack before anyone else, because there’s going to be millions, maybe billions of saved people, and I figure there are probably parts of the cosmos they haven’t seen yet. I want to be the first one. So I want to go exploring. And then when I realize that I say, “O Doug, what should be the first thing I want?” The first thing I ought to do is want to be in the presence of God and to thank Jesus for what He’s done.

You talk to little children about heaven. You say, “What do you want to do?” And they’ll say, “I want to reach my hands around the neck of a great big old furry lion mane and put my face. I want to slide down the neck of a giraffe.” And they’ll start telling you their little fantasies about heaven. We’ve probably planted some of those in their minds. But ultimately what do you think is going to bring the greatest ecstasy in heaven? The most sublime pleasure. The greatest satisfaction. I used to read where Martin Luther said, “To be in the presence of God will be enough.” And I thought, “Is that all he wants to do? Just be there like those angels above the ark, in the presence of God.” And you know the more I’ve read the Bible, the more I’ve come to know the Lord, and you think about how big and powerful God is. The Bible says, Karen’s favorite Psalm, “At His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Is that Psalm 16? 16:11. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. If He is the source of creating all things pleasurable, to be in His presence would be the greatest pleasure and provide the greatest satisfaction. And to be able to eat from that table that He’s prepared.

Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.” Not only does God say that He’s going to provide food for the hungry. He says, “I’ll provide water to the thirsty,” but you must thirst. You must hunger. He wants you to have that desire. The Spirit is given to those who thirst for it. Jesus comes to those who hunger for Him. We must ask, we must seek, we must knock. There needs to be a desire, a passion, a craving for God. Do you yearn for God is I guess really what I’m trying to say with this message. And I’m trying to inspire that also.

Do you have the right desires? I heard about a lady that went to a library, single young lady. And she saw a book in the shelf and the title of the book read How to Reach Men, Hold Men, Win Men. It Has Been Done. She got excited. She saw that. She checked the book out. She got home. She saw the fine print. “A manual on how to build a men’s bible study class.” It wasn’t exactly what she was thinking of when she bought the book. And sometimes we desire the wrong things. And they don’t satisfy. One of the signs that you’ve been born again is your carnal desires are subdued by your spiritual desire. There is an interesting story in the Bible. The ark of God is captured by the Philistines. How many of you remember the story? And the Philistines are plagued and they say, “We’ve got to get the ark back to Israel, but we’re not carrying it back because they’ll kill us. So how do we get the ark back in the land of Israel?” Someone came up with the idea, “Well, maybe these plagues have been natural and they’re not from Jehovah. But if they are from Jehovah let’s put the ark on an ox cart with a couple of milk cows that still have calves and let’s lock their calves up and put them on the road and if it’s the Lord He’ll speak to the cows and the cows will go against their natural desire to go back to their calves.” Any of you ever lived on a farm? You separate a mother cow from its calf and it starts to yearn and pine and billow and it carries on because it wants to be with its calf. And so they said, “This will tell us whether or not it’s from the Lord.” I Samuel 6:12, “The cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh.” That was towards Israel. “And they went along the highway, lowing as they went.” They’re crying for their calves. But they were going against their natural craving to be with them. “They did not turn aside to the right hand or the left.”

What God did for those cows He can do for each one of us. Doesn’t that encourage you? If He can do it for a cow He can do it for me. He could put that desire for me to go down the right road without turning to the right hand or the left, against my natural carnal desires. And He can make me hunger and thirst after Him. Francis Shaeffer said, “A desire becomes sin when it fails to include love for God and man.” Desires are not bad. The problem is most of our desires are selfish. They fail to include love for God and love for man. Someone else said, “No one can ever be content creeping when you feel an impulse to soar. You’ll never be satisfied creeping around where the devil has us crawling.

I like the way C.S. Lewis put this. While I don’t agree with everything he said. By the way, I was in his town last week. It was interesting. They took us to the restaurant where he and his friends used to debate great philosophy. Here’s what he said. “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he can’t even imagine what it might be like to have a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We’re too satisfied with these low things that don’t satisfy. And God is trying to put these great desires in us. Larry Crabb said, “The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things. It’s that we’re not passionate enough about good things.” We’re all hungering and we’re all thirsting. We all crave, but are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness? That’s the desire that ultimately will bring real satisfaction.

You know I like the promise in the last part of that verse. It says, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they,” might be filled. They may be, they could be, perhaps. I like when Jesus uses the word shall. It says, “they shall be filled.” This is also found in Matthew 14:20. Remember, there was a crowd that was hungry? Did Jesus feed them? Was everybody filled? Did everybody get all he wanted? How do you know? If they didn’t it was their own fault because there were leftovers. Does the Lord create a need without providing a way to satisfy that need? Who is it that gives us hunger and thirst? Is that part of our natural design? And in the garden did God provide a way where they could drink from those rivers and eat from that garden and satisfy those desires? So if the Lord is telling us that we should hunger and thirst for righteousness, get this. Is it possible for us to be filled with righteousness? Will He give us a desire without a way for it to be satisfied? If He provides a way for us to satisfy our natural hunger how much more, even in this sinful world will he provide a way to have our spiritual desire satisfied? God will not plant a desire without providing a way to satisfy it.

Faith That I Live By,” page 109, “Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice is righteousness obtained, but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it.” Again, from the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, page 18. “No human agent can supply that which will satisfy the hunger and the thirst of the soul. But Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and I knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door I will come into him. I will supp with him and he with me.’ He will come in and satisfy that longing.” Even in the Last Supper, does the Lord provide two symbols that represent eating and drinking? That bread and that grape juice represent eating and drinking. He said, “Unless you drink my blood, unless you eat my flesh you have no life in you.” John 6:54, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

Are you craving after God, friends? It says you’ll be blessed if you hunger and thirst after righteousness. And the Bible says in I Corinthians 10:31 that we are to eat and to drink to God’s glory. To hunger and to thirst to God’s glory. Christ, He is that living water. He is that bread of life. He is the word that will satisfy us. So are you feeding on those things that will really satisfy? You know, we’re approaching a new year. And I wanted to get a jump on that. And have you be thinking about this is a great opportunity, 2010—a nice even number. Where we can say, “Lord, by your grace, we want to have a revival in our personal devotional life.” To make sure and carve out that time. I’m hoping that I’ve whetted your appetite a little bit where you’re craving after spiritual things; you’d like to have that satisfied righteousness. And it’s something that you need to maintain every day. Would you like to say, as we conclude, “Lord, create within me a passion, a desire, a yearning, a craving for Jesus, for that living water, for that bread of life. Give me that hunger, Lord.” Maybe you’ve been sick spiritually and you’ve lost your appetite. One of the ways you’ll know that new life has been born is you’ll begin to cry like a baby bird. Say, “Lord, feed me with that bread of life.” And yearn for it. He promises you can be satisfied. Do you believe that?

For our closing song we’re not singing from the hymnal today. We are going to sing a familiar chorus that’s based on that verse, “As the deer pants after the water.” How many of you know this? And so you’ll see the words up on the screen.


There’s another verse in this song we’ll sing in just a moment, but before we doe there may be some here who are saying, “You know, Pastor Doug, I’m just wondering how my spiritual health is because I’ve lost my appetite. Perhaps for God’s word, for prayer, for spiritual things and I want to be healed within. I want to have Jesus within. I want to open that door.” He promises He’ll come in and He’ll supp with me. Wouldn’t you like to feast on that spiritual food again, to have that spiritual hunger and thirst after righteousness? Maybe you have some special need in your life that you’d like to pray about right now. If that’s the case, as we sing this second and final verse, come to the front. We’ll have special prayer for you.


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Are you hungry, friends? Are you thirsty? Would you like to have even more hunger and thirst? You’ll never run out of Jesus. Amen? He’ll supply that need. Let’s ask Him together.

Loving Father in heaven, we’d like to have that experience that David reflects, where the greatest and supreme desire in our souls is that hunger, that thirst, that craving for you. Lord, so often we’ve tried to substitute that for things that are not bread, for things that do not satisfy. Forgive us, Lord. We pray that you’ll perform a miracle and correct our appetites so that they will long for that spiritual living water and that bread of life. I pray, Lord, that you will place within our hearts a desire to also encourage this craving for that land of milk and honey in those that we meet, that we all might be satisfied with your righteousness. Bless us, Lord, that this message that’s filled with beautiful metaphors might become real in our lives today. We thank you and we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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