We’ve all experienced what we call hunger to some degree or the other. Sometimes I’ll have only a banana for breakfast, or maybe just a hot cup of tea, and later on, as lunch gets closer, my stomach lets me know it wants some food. I’ll be at work, trying to do my job, and my stomach will interrupt whatever thought processes may be going on and say “A nice, thick, juicy steak would be just fine right about now”, or “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” And no matter how much I try to keep focused on the job at hand, I have no peace until I get some food in my belly.
While we speak of being hungry at times, most of us don’t really know what it is to be truly hungry. My mother grew up in post-WWII Germany and knew what that was like. She hasn’t been hungry like that since, but the physical consequences have remained. True hunger is found in many third-world countries, as well as in this country. If my stomach gives me grief when I’ve skipped a breakfast, theirs must really be a torture. To be truly hungry means desperation to satisfy that hunger; your mind can think of nothing else.
I think most of us will agree that hunger and thirst are, generally speaking, bad things. However, there is a hunger and a thirst that is good to have, and even better to have satisfied. There was a time David was in the desert, perhaps hiding from Saul, and he was very thirsty. But his thirst was not just for water. He wrote:
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.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
– Psalms 63:1-2 (ESV)
Do you feel about God like David felt? Are you desperate for Him? Do you have a gnawing hunger inside to know Him better?
When you’re hungry, all you can think about is what will satisfy your hunger and you will do anything to satisfy it. When it comes to spiritual hunger, many times we will fill ourselves with God-substitutes, which appear good and sometimes seem to meet our need, but they’re only temporary and are nowhere near as good as the real thing.
One of the substitutes we feed ourselves with, and its so easy to do, is Christian work. We will do all kinds of things to help build up the church, but we neglect the most important thing, and that is personal time spent alone with God. Yes, Christian service and relationships with others are important and necessary, but our individual relationships with God are even more important because that is what strengthens us to do our work. The church tends to operate too much in the Martha mode and not enough in the Mary mode (Luke 10:38-42). We prefer to “delight ourselves in the Lord’s work” more than to delight ourselves in the Lord Himself (Psalms 37:4). it’s an easy trap to fall in.
God’s blessings can also distract us from Himself. Like the daily manna that some Israelites hoarded (Exodus 16:18-20), our blessings cease to be blessings when we hold on to them, instead of holding on to the One who gives them.
The solution is to first become properly hungry and thirsty for God. It is hard to feel hungry when you keep filling yourself with God-substitutes. Examine your daily routine. If you have been spending most or all of your time in God’s service, but avoiding the God you serve, you need to reprioritize your relationship with Him. Examine the things you have been filling your life with, and see what needs to be postponed, limited or eliminated in order for you to spend time with your God.
Spend regular quality time with God in His word and prayer. Don’t think of it as just some chore or duty. Spend time with God like the best Friend He really is. Treat God like you would a lover: make regular, daily, dates with Him. Get to know, appreciate, and love Him more. Read His word with an awareness of His presence. Ensure nothing gets in the way of this – even your ministry. And as you do so, you will become hungrier and thirstier for Him.
Paul spoke of the excellency of just knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8-10). Paul was truly thirsty for God. He was willing to do whatever it took, even to suffer, just so he could know Jesus better. This was his consuming desire. It needs to be yours also.
Be *desperate* to know God (Psalm 42:1-3, 84:2). Have Him on your mind through out the day. This is true worship. And, guess what? God will satisfy your hunger and thirst like you wouldn’t believe! And when you make Him the priority, He will straighten out all the other areas of your life! Your personal ministry will flourish from the overflow of your own close relationship with God.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
– Psalms 37:4 (ESV)
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
– Psalms 107:9 (ESV)