How Hungry Are You? Matthew 5:6

Have you ever been really thirsty? I remember hot summer days playing sport running non-stop for 80 minutes and then downing two pints of lemonade without taking a breath. One mid-summer we climbed Snowdon up the ridge of Crib Goch in the blazing sun, only to find that the café at the top was closed. We have had holidaysin hot countries but the place I was most thirsty was when I was visiting missionary friends in Uganda just ten miles from the equator. The temperature was in the 40s Celsius and I discovered that there really are some places where only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”. In countries like that, you need to drink a gallon of water a day just to stay alive. People can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. In desert countries where a well or an oasis is a lifesaver, people REALLY know what it means to be thirsty. It was in a country like that, under the heat of the sun that Jesus taught his disciples, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

Television brings us pictures of droughts and famines around the world. It is hard to believe that people who are hungry or thirsty could ever be “blessed”. It all depends what you are hungry for. Some people are permanently hungry for food and that is not good. Others are hungry for power, or hungry for success, or hungry for promotion. In extreme all those kinds of hunger are obviously bad! Some people are hungry for love or hungry for affection and that is sad. But Jesus points us in the fourth Beatitude to another kind of hunger and Je says that is very good because it leads us on to real blessing.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

In God’s Upside-Down Kingdom, hunger and thirst can be good things – when what we are hungry and thirsty for is righteousness.

Righteousness means a number of things in the Bible. It can mean being in a right relationship with God. That aspect of righteousness is God’s free gift to us through Jesus Christ as we share in the benefits of His saving death and His resurrection to eternal life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be in a right relationship with God,” Jesus is teaching. It is good to long to be in the state where our sin is no longer separating us from God. It is good to want a relationship with God. It’s GOOD to have an appetite for the things of God, to desire to know God more and more!

But then righteousness can also mean living the kind of life that pleases God. So Jesus is also saying “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty to live the kind of life God requires.” It’s good to want to be holy and try to live a pure and holy life, obeying God’s commands and running away from sin! An appetite for a relationship with God, and an appetite for holy living!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

But do we really have those appetites? You can get some idea of how important something is to our lives if you think about how many different words represent the same idea. Take the idea of hunger for example. People can be hungry. They can be anything from a bit peckish to starving, ravenous, famished. Sometimes you could nibble a crumb and at other times you could eat a horse. We can be wasting away, fading away, fainting with hunger.

Or what about thirst. You can be anything from dry to parched to dehydrated to dessicated!
Just how big is your appetite for a personal relationship with God? How much do you long for the gift of righteousness God promises? And how much do you desire to live the kind of life that pleases God? Starving? Or just a bit peckish? Could you nibble a crumb or eat a horse? Are you parched? Or just a bit dry in the mouth?

The Bible gives us some fine examples of what it means to hunger and thirst after righteousness, truly to desire to know God and to live a holy life.
Psalm 42: 1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

We don’t have a deer, but we do have dogs. So we have an idea of what panting with thirst is all about. When our dogs Poppy and Sophie are thirsty they will drink ANYTHING! Streams. Puddles. Anything! Are we that thirsty for God?

Psalm 63 1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

There was a man who was totally OBSESSED with God! So few Christians today are that fanatical about God and spiritual things. Too many of us are afraid of being “too committed!” How hungry and thirsty are we for God? Here are three simple tests to measure our appetite for God.

1. The prayer test. Is prayer a joy or a burden? Is praying something we are always sad to stop doing because we have run out of time. Or is praying something we can never be bothered to start doing?
Jeremiah 29 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

If we don’t meet God when we are praying, for much of the time it is because we didn’t really want to meet with Him in the first place!

2. The Bible Study test. When we turn to the passage of the Bible we are going to read at Bible Study or in our Daily Bible Reading notes, do we always look to the end to see how long the passage is? Does our heart sink when it seems to be a long passage? If we are truly hungry and thirsty for God the best passages will be the longest!

3. The church test. Do we look forward to coming to Church because we know we will meet God there? Or would we rather stay away? Staying away from church services because we have so many other things to do and we feel worn out would be like staying away from the dinner table because we are so weak and hungry that it is too much effort to cook a meal. Just as the dinner table is the place to get strength for our bodies, church is the place to get spiritual strength for the rest of life. If church doesn’t bring us closer to God, it’s easy to blame other people, to blame the minister for a boring sermon or choosing songs we don’t like. But in most cases, if a person doesn’t meet with God when they come to church it isn’t because God isn’t there – it’s because the person didn’t really want to meet with God that much in the first place.

Three simple tests. How hungry are we for prayer? For Bible Study? For worship and teaching and fellowship?
Psalm 84 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

If we aren’t as hungry and thirsty as we should be for God, there can be a number of reasons. Some people seem to think that one drink will satisfy a lifetime’s thirsts. They were close to God once, they were overwhelmed by the Spirit once and they don’t need anything else. But the thing about hunger and thirst is that they are never permanently satisfied. We always get hungry again. We always get thirsty again. To have been passionate about God once is great! To have had an appetite for spiritual things once is wonderful. But we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. Past experiences of blessing should only prompt us to come back time and time again for more and more of God!

Jesus is the bread of life. He can satisfy all our needs.
John 6 35 Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus promises us the living water of the Holy Spirit – all the blessing and refreshment we could ever need.
John 4 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 7 37 Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Perhaps the reason that many people are not as hungry and thirsty for righteousness that they are so easily satisfied with substitutes. There are so many substitutes on offer today – money, career, possessions, relationships, drink, drugs – so many substitutes that people hunger for instead of hungering for the bread of life. So many things people thirst for instead of thirsting for the waters of life. You may have heard about the tragedy of thousands of babies who died in the third world because their mothers were feeding them on coca cola instead of on milk. Dying because the product advertised as “the real thing” is a totally inadequate substitute. But there are so many people dying spiritually because they are turning to substitutes instead of hungering and thirsting after the REAL real thing!

Billy Graham wrote that there are at least four things that can spoil our appetite for the righteousness of God: “Sinful Pleasure” “Self-sufficiency” “Secret sin” and “Neglect of our spiritual life” can all take away our appetite for the righteousness of God. But more than any of these, my hero A.W.Tozer wrote that the biggest challenge we face in our spiritual lives can be summed up in one word:

“Complacency. The man who believes he has arrived will not go any farther. The snare is to believe we have arrived when we have not. The present neat -habit of quoting a text to prove we have arrived may be a dangerous one if in truth we have no actual inward experience of the text. Truth that is not experienced is no better than error and may be fully as dangerous. The scribes who sat in Moses seat were not the victims of error. They were the victims of their failure to experience the truth they taught.

Religious complacency is encountered almost everywhere among Christians these days and its pres¬ence is a sign and a prophecy. For every Christian -will become at last what his desires have made him. -We are all the sum total of our hungers. The great -saints have all had thirsting heart. Their cry has been, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Their -longing after God all but consumed them. It propelled them onward and upward to heights toward which less ardent Christians look with languid eye -and entertain no hope of reaching.

Orthodox Christianity has fallen to its present low estate from lack of spiritual desire. Among the many who profess the Christian faith, scarcely one in a thousand reveals any passionate thirst for God. We fear extremes and shy away from too much ardor in religion as if it were possible to have too much love or too much faith or too much holiness. – -~
Occasionally one’s heart is cheered by the dis¬covery of some insatiable saint who is willing to sacri¬fice everything for the sheer joy of experiencing God in increasing intimacy’. To such we offer this word of exhortation: – Pray on, fight on, sing on. Do not underrate anything God may have done for you before. Thank God for everything up to this point but do not stop here. – Press On into the deep things of God. Insist upon tasting the profounder mysteries of redemption. Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will. Refuse to be aver¬age or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment. Unless you do these things you will reach at last (and unknown to you) the graveyard of orthodoxy and be doomed to live out your days in spiritua1 mediocrity!” So wrote AW Tozer (Root of the Righteous pp 55-56)

How hungry and thirsty are we for God? A devoted follower of the Greek philosopher Socrates asked him the best way to acquire knowledge. Socrates responded by leading the man to the river and plunging him beneath the surface. The man struggled to free himself, but Socrates kept his head submerged. Finally, after much effort, the man was able to break loose and emerge from the water. Socrates then asked, “When you thought you were drowning, what one thing did you want most of all?” Still gasping for breath, the man exclaimed, “I wanted air!” The philosopher wisely commented, “When you want knowledge as much as you wanted air, then you will get it!”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be in a right relationship with God,”. It is good to have an appetite for a relationship with God and to long to know God more and more!
“Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty to live the kind of life God requires.” It is good to want to be holy and try to live a pure and holy life, obeying God’s commands and running away from sin! Because when we are truly hungry and thirsty here is God’s wonderful promise:-

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

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