Way back in March of this year I wrote an entry called "The Blessing of Hunger." In it, I promised that a "Part 2" was coming, in which we would talk about the blessing of spiritual hunger.
Somehow, it never happened, and I didn't even realize my omission until recently.
God, of course, knew all about it. And maybe He just wanted it to be written now, while we're talking so much about grace. Because without God's grace, we could never hunger for Him as we should. Hunger for God is a gift of grace.
And of course, this strong desire that we call "hunger" is sometimes described with another powerful word…thirst.
"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, Oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Ps. 42:1-2)
As a child I used to read that verse with a touch of pity for David…not because his hunger wasn't being satisfied, but because he was so strange to feel such hunger in the first place! He seemed like a bit of a weirdo, out of touch with what really matters in the world. After all, I already had my head stuffed full of Christianity, and I couldn't see anything to get that excited about.
Pretty sorry testimony, isn't it?
There are those who would have prescribed more exciting music, more fun and games in Sunday School, or maybe a good dose of guilt to cure my malady, if they had known about it. I wonder if anyone would have realized that what I needed was grace.
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut 30:6)
Love for God, and the resulting desire for God, are a gift from God! (So is salvation…and many of us would argue that there's a strong bond between the two.)
Most of my career was spent working in nursing homes, so naturally I saw a lot of people who were approaching the end of their lives. And one of the more ominous signs we saw was the loss of appetite. When people lost the desire for food, we grew concerned that the end was near. And it goes without saying that we worry terribly about infants who have no desire for food. Clearly their lives are in jeopardy.
How's your appetite?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt 5:6)
There's more than one way to lose your appetite, you know. One way is, frankly, to be dead. Those who are spiritually dead have no hunger for the one true God, except what the Spirit miraculously gives to them as He's drawing them towards life. But what about those of us who are spiritually alive? We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8), and yet sometimes we still feel no desire for Him. What's that about?
Sometimes, of course, it's outright sin and rebellion. Sometimes it may be a God-ordained "dry spell" that He gives us for His own gracious reasons. But often, I suspect, it's because we've glutted ourselves on the spiritual equivalent of junk food.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isa 55:1-2)
Give a kid enough nutritionless candy, and he'll turn up his nose at what his body really needs.
What's the "candy" in your life? What do you spend money for even though it's not bread? What do you work for that doesn't satisfy?
One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. (Prov 27:7)
What is making you loathe the honey?
There's one more reason I can think of why people don't hunger for God more. They don't understand the truth that Oswald Chambers expressed so beautifully when he said, “Eternal life is not a gift from God. It is the gift of God.” In the Gospel, God gives us Himself. Yet we have stocked our churches full of people who believe that the gospel is about getting them off the hook, saving them from Hell, and giving them worldly prosperity. No wonder they squirm in their seats when they hear that they're supposed to hunger for God Himself! What could "hungering for God" possibly mean?
I've heard well-meaning people try to whip up enthusiasm for God by reminding others of how He saved them from Hell, and nothing else. Well of course we should never tire of rejoicing in that salvation. But do we neglect the truest meaning of salvation…not the lack of Hell, but union with God through Christ?
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Do we realize there is a God to be loved, savored, treasured, cherished, and enjoyed ecstatically for all of eternity? Does this God, who makes Heaven heavenly, seem as tasteless as the white of an egg to us?
If so, the problem is not with Him, but with our appetite. And for us the apostle Paul prays,
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Php 1:9-11)
Will you pray that for yourself as well? Will you pray for hunger and thirst…not just for Heaven, but for Him? Will you pray that for all believers?
I know it would mean a lot to me if you were praying that for me!