Let’s start the work-week off with another guest post from David Price who is recovering from successful heart surgery back home in England. Much love and gratitude to this dear brother!
ARE YOU HUNGRY?
I wonder how you react to the question “Are you hungry?” You might think that I wanted to discuss the state of the world, and the famine-ravaged nations of Africa or Asia. It would not be wrong to go on to think of such social issues as our interest (or lack of it) in attempts to relieve that poverty – or our gratitude to God (or lack of it) for His gracious and faithful provision of all our needs. Sometimes I fear that God-ward ingratitude is one of the most unrecognised sins of our day and our generation. Another possibility, which might appear “more spiritual”, would make the question “Are you hungry?” into an enquiry about our desire to know God. Again, this line of thought has much to commend it, for I fear that many professing Christians today would have little comprehension of such an appetite. I heard a sermon recently in which the preacher commented on the fact that men of the world can spend many hours and much money on their sports, and the vast majority of our fellow countrymen can spend many hours in front of the television – yet so many churches find it necessary to put a limit on the length of the sermon, and so many professing Christians seem to have difficulty in finding time to read the Bible each day, let alone any Christian books. Whatever their words of profession, their lives betray little desire to know God better, and nothing of the Psalmist’s passion:
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)
“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” (Psalm 63:1/2)
I fear that many are content to believe in a simple way, and have no real consistent, persistent desire to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” – the exhortation found in 2 Peter 3:18. Shall we call it innocence? Or laziness? Or disobedience? But another view of the question is possible, and this stems from the fourth of what we call the Beatitudes –
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Simply put, we might say, “Happiness is hungering after holiness”. Have you ever wondered why the Lord uses the picture of being hungry and thirsty when seeking to convey this particular part of His message? And why hungry AND thirsty, rather than just hungry, or just thirsty? Is it not because to be hungry, or to be thirsty, is something we all understand? To be sure, none of us have known what it is to be starving; yet all have known since childhood when our body tells us that food and drink are required. There is a great difference between nibbling out of boredom, or sipping politely at some function, and being confronted with an ache that will not be pacified, a thirst that demands to be quenched, a need that will not go away and that dominates our thinking until nothing else matters. We could not ignore the pangs of hunger and thirst simultaneously!
But I fear that the same may not apply spiritually. Do we feel something similar about our relationship to God? In Old Testament terms, do we long and thirst after God? In New Testament terms, is the longing of our hearts “That I may know Him…”? And in response to the Beatitude, do we have a burning desire in our hearts to be conformed to His will and His standards, and a longing to please Him in all that we do and say and think? For that is what is in view here; not a hunger after righteousness in the sense of being made right with God (that is justification), but a desire to be free from sin in all its forms and manifestations in our lives (that is sanctification). Holiness is far more than outward conformity to a list of “Do’s and Don’ts”; it is a hatred of anything and everything that comes between us and the Lord. The motive is neither fear, nor duty – but love for the Lord, and gratitude for His grace and mercy. Holiness inspires an attitude that cannot tolerate a cold and barren heart or a cold and barren “Christian” life because (by grace) we realize that both are an affront to God and a grief to the Holy Spirit. To “hunger and thirst after righteousness” is to have a persistent aching longing to know and show more of His presence and power in our lives that nothing else can satisfy.
Is that something of the biblical standard? Do we feel like that? And can we imagine the impact on those around us – and society in general – if each and every one who professes faith in Christ took what has been called “the holiness of God and of His people” rather more seriously? Let us not forget that, on a physical level, to be not hungry either indicates that you have just eaten and are therefore “filled”; or it indicates a degree of illness. The promise of the Beatitude is that one day we shall be filled, when we see the Lord and are satisfied in Him; but meanwhile a lack of appetite may be a warning sign to us. Need I mention the solemn warning given to the lukewarm church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:16?
Let us therefore exhort one another, not only to “follow peace with all men” but also to “follow …holiness, without no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).