This is now the fourth beatitude and it indicates a slight change of tack. The first three spoke about our desperate position before God. We are poor in spirit due to the realisation of our sin, which then causes us to mourn at our inability to help ourselves and we are meek because we have handed everything over to God. Now this fourth beatitude takes us to the desire that comes when we have submitted our lives to Christ.
The words hunger and thirst in this context don’t just refer to an empty stomach or the feeling that perhaps it might be dinner time, no, these words are powerful; a deep hunger close to starvation and a parched thirst. But does anyone really have that sort of hunger for God? Isn’t that taking our ‘religion’ a little too far? When I speak in these terms you may be tempted to think about religious nutcases and weirdo’s who you cross the street to avoid. Is that what we are talking about? We need first to ask a pertinent question;
What is righteousness?
As you can imagine the bible uses this word many times and on many occasions. It is often used as a description of God himself.
For the sake of time, I’m not going to give a long winded explanation, but try to put it as simply as possible.
Righteousness is being in right relationship with God and also living in the way that He intends. It is a position and an action, a relationship and a lifestyle.
From the very start we encounter a problem and that is:- nobody has a natural hunger and thirst for God. We just don’t. We are all rather selfish and would much rather go our own sweet way thank you very much.
Even the bible agrees with this. In Romans 3 it says in verses 10 to 12
None is righteous, no, not one; no-one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; no-one does good, not even one. It then goes on in verse 23 to say; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So is Jesus just mocking us in these verses? Is he saying that you will be blessed if you hunger and thirst for God, oh but by the way, no-one will be blessed because you will never hunger and thirst for God, so just forget it!
You may have heard that Jesus came preaching the ‘gospel’, well that word means ‘good news’. The good news is that the initiation has come from God himself. He has given us the hunger and thirst and the means by which it can be satisfied.
The good news tells us how God makes us right with himself (Romans 1:17) (New Century version)
The very next verse after Romans 3:23 where it says that all have sinned and fallen short, it says “and are justified by his grace as a gift.” That’s right, it is a free gift, one you can take right now.
If you are reading this, and for the first time you are starting to feel this hunger and thirst for God, that is because God is doing a work in you right now, He wants to make you right with Himself.
You see, the part where we don’t seek God, where we turn aside and do our own thing, that is called sin and it separates us from God. The good news is that God has bridged that gap. In the book of Ephesians in the bible in chapter 2 it says that we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (v1) It describes how our only desire was to do our own thing and have nothing to do with God. It describes our state then as “Children of wrath” (v3) we were against God, we were actually His enemies. But this all changes from verse 4;
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved
God has satisfied our deepest hunger, a hunger we didn’t even realise we had.
Is that it then? Our hunger and thirst satiated for the rest of our lives? Well yes and no. Yes we now have access to God, our hearts have been changed and our sin and rebellion dealt with, but if we have been truly changed our hearts will want ever more of God. We can’t just add salvation to our life’s ‘bucket list’ and carry on as we were before. God has now set our bias towards Him and knowing Him better should be our daily desire. But it isn’t always is it? Living in this ‘sin sick’ world, our desires can be a bit warped and influenced by our surroundings. A loss of appetite can often indicate that something is not quite right, so to finish this post I’m again going to borrow some excellent pointers from Rick Warren as to how we can maintain this spiritual hunger for God and regain our appetites.
(1) Remind yourself just how much God loves you.
We can often get it the wrong way round and concentrate on our love for God, which can frequently change according to our feelings. The thing that will most influence and stir our emotions is not thinking about how much I love God, but how much He loves me. There are loads of passages in the bible about how much God loves us. You need to soak in them daily. One of the most famous is:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. (John 3:16) also
See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1)
Why not see how many you can collect and stick them to the fridge or somewhere else you go regularly?
(2) Stop filling up on junk food
A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash (Proverbs 15:14) (NLT)
Have you ever been somewhere where there is really nice food, like a wedding reception or a banquet, but filled yourselves up with all the nibbles, crisps and bread rolls before you started the feast? Our lives can be like that. God gets pushed to the edges while everything else crowds in. These are not necessarily bad things on their own but can be bad if we prioritise them before God. Things such as; money, houses, cars, games, sports or even family and friends etc.
(3) Make knowing God your number 1 goal
O God you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1)
The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants, then all these things you need will be given to you (Matthew 6:33) (New Century version)
(4) Get into God’s word every day
Just like you eat physical food every day (you wouldn’t dream of having just one meal a week) feed on ‘soul’ food as often as you can.
You must crave the pure spiritual milk of the word so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment like a baby cries for milk. (1 Peter 2:2) (NLT)
(5) Be with like minded people
Have you ever noticed, when being around passionate people, that some of their passion rubs off on you? When you spend time with other people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, guess what? Your hunger and thirst will grow too!
Join the company of good men and women who will keep you on the path of the righteous. (Proverbs 2:20) (NLT)