Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst
In the history of mankind there have been some great inventions, the wheel, light bulb, printing press, microwave, and Air Conditioning just to name a few. But one of my favorite inventions is the DVR. About 10 years ago DirecTV asked m if I would like a free DVR to go with our satellite and since it was free, I took it. At the time we had no idea what it really was and Trista was a bit exasperated because it took up so much space. But now we can’t imagine life with out it.
We haven’t seen a commercial in years. Every show we watch is taped so we can fast forward through the commercials. For the last few years I have taped every LSU football game so I could start watching the game 1 hour into it and fast forward through all of the commercials and the half time shows. We do the same with basketball games and soccer games. But there is one game we don’t fast forward through the commercials; anyone want to guess which one that is? It’s the Superbowl. This game is the only time during the year that I look forward to watching commercials, because this is the time that Madison Avenue goes all out.
The modern commercial is so much more than a moving picture and a logo. Advertisers pay millions of dollars to find the right slogans and image. They know if they can get their slogan and image into our head it will influence our choices. It’s called buying real estate in our mind. Advertising executives know that they don’t have to present a persuasive case for why we need to buy their product. They know an image connected with an idea is a powerful means of influencing our view of the world.
The commercial uses two deliberate actions as a part of their strategy. First, they suggest our world is incomplete without their product. Second, they give us that image over and over until it becomes a part of us. Whether we are advertising a card company with “When you care enough to send the very best", or a hamburger with “Have it your way.” The thought is the same; if they can put it in front of us enough times it will influence the way we behave.
Jesus understood the power of an image comes from the fact it is connected with an idea. The cross, a mustard seed, a lamp on a stand, or a pearl are not only realities, but they are powerful images that reveal something great about Christ and His purposes for our life. Like a commercial, to get the full impact of the wealth of their meaning we need to experience them again and again.
For the last few weeks we have been looking at this idea from Jesus. If you want to be happy, if you want to find true happiness. This morning we find our way to the fourth step up this mountain to the life that Jesus calls us to. In Matthew 5:6 we read “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Of all the images Christ used to teach about himself the one that we experience daily is hunger and thirst. In fact, all of us will act on this image immediately after this service. Some of you will go home but most of you will gather at a local restaurant just to eat and drink. We experience this powerful image of hunger several times throughout the day, and that helps us capture a bit of its truth. Jesus is teaching us through this image is that the secret to a healthy spiritual life is a passion for God.
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a hunger for God that naturally flows from someone who recognizes their spiritual bankruptcy before God. That’s the first beatitude.
When a person has mourned over their sin and repented, they will naturally turn to seek God. That’s the second beatitude.
When a person begins to see people in the way that God sees them, they will be able to fulfill the great commission. That’s the third beatitude. In fact there won’t be a hunger and thirst for God unless there is an acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy, a brokenness over sin and a surrendering to God.
Our problem with this text is that very few of us know what it means to be really hungry. We get a little rumble and we grab a snickers, get a little thirsty and grab a coke. Even if you have experienced hunger in your life, very few of us know what it is like to go without food or drink for days on end. But that’s the kind of hunger and thirst that Jesus is referring to. He is not talking about a twinge in your belly or a dry throat, He is talking about a deep starving and craving for God. When we are hungry and thirsty it changes our perspective.
One of the stories told about the Titanic is about a wealthy woman who was about to get on a life boat but turned back and ran back to her state room. She ignored the money strewn about in the casino, the antique glassware in the dining room, she reached over her diamonds and gold jewelry on her dresser and grabbed four oranges that she had saved from lunch. That’s the kind of longing Jesus is talking about. The kind that changes our perspective and position. Our longing for righteousness is to be as a starving person desires food, the kind that comes from desperation.
When Jesus talks about righteousness, He means absolute obedience. We are to hunger and thirst for our lives to be in line with God’s design no matter what. But righteousness has an even deeper meaning that just doing the right thing; it’s having the right relationship. We are to long for a relationship with God.
Having a relationship with God was not our idea. God offered that at the cross, where Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sin. As long as we see our relationship to Jesus as just one of many different choices or obligations, or worse just doing the right thing, we will never find the satisfaction that is promised here. Jesus doesn’t just want right living, He desires a right relationship.
There have been times where I saw God as the giver of the law and forgotten He desires a relationship with me. When I fail to see God and His desire and love for me, I put distance and fear into our relationship. It’s only when we understand that God is ready to accept us, love us, and forgive us that we can have the intimacy and trust that we were made for.
God has always desired to have an intimate relationship with us. Jesus says in John 14:15- "If you love me (notice the relationship factor?) If you love me, obey My commandments."
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For we are saved by grace, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast." But don’t stop there and miss the result found in verse 10: "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works."
The bible is a story of a creator desiring a relationship with His creation. God saved us by His grace, and we serve Him not out of cold commitment but out of thanksgiving because Jesus was sacrificed to redeem us. Christianity was never meant to be a religion, it was created so that we can have a relationship with God. In this Beatitude Jesus is saying, If you want to be satisfied, if you want to be filled, then passionately, intensely, above anything else, long for a right relationship with Me.
For just a moment think about your relationship with God. How is your walk with God? How do you measure your righteousness? Are you satisfied? Let me ask that another way, what are you passionate about?
Now don’t get the wrong idea here, there are going to be times you will long for the wrong things, you won’t always do everything right. But when we hunger for a relationship with God we have an increased longing for Him and a decreased longing to be filled with the things of this world. We seek to find our identity in Christ and not in our pride, or strength, or anger, or wealth, or anything else contained in this world.
Our walk with Jesus is not measured by perfection but by progress. It is helpful to notice that Jesus doesn’t say, Blessed are those who always live right. My relationship with God is marked by growth. I hope that as I look back over the last five years we have been with you that I can see some growth. I hope that right now I am able to find a greater contentment in my life than I did when I lived back in the Great State. If you can’t say that, maybe you are looking in the wrong places for your satisfaction.
There are a lot of different ways we strive for contentment: power, pleasure and prestige. But very quickly I want to touch on two that I think are the most relevant in our culture today.
The first wrong place where I think we look for satisfaction is in performance.
Some of us live under the impression that happiness is based on achievement. But there are a lot of people in the graveyard that could tell you different. They missed out on meaningful relationships; they lost love and discovered that just like everything else they are expendable. There is a myth that success produces satisfaction, and that is just not true. There are a great many successful people in the world’s eyes and yet, they are restless, discontented and unsatisfied.
The second wrong place we look is in possessions.
Today there are more products than ever before and they all say, Satisfaction (Pause) Guaranteed. There are twice as many products on the market today than there were 10 years ago, would you say that people are twice as happy? No. We may not say it but for many of us deep down we believe that when we get enough money, our problems will be solved. The rich will tell you that’s not true, they’ve got the money and are still not completely satisfied.
King David learned the key to happiness; Psalms 37:4 he writes "seek your happiness in the Lord..." Only when we stop searching for happiness and start searching for God can we achieve real happiness. The Bible repeatedly teaches that happiness is a bi-product of seeking God.
The result of Hungering and Thirsting for righteousness is lasting satisfaction. And yet there are so many people, even those of us in this room and watching on the internet that are discontented with their lives, who are not satisfied. For some of you that’s due to the fact that you want to have a relationship with Jesus you just don’t know how to seek Him. As we close let me suggest three things to do in order to hunger and thirst after Him... so we can be satisfied.
First Recognize your real need.
What is it that you are really missing in your life? God made us as spiritual beings, we were made in His image. We were created to love Him and know Him and nothing else can fill that gap. Not people, not possessions, not prestige... nothing except knowing Him.
You need God more than anyone or anything else. We do not find lasting satisfaction in performance, pleasure, possessions, or people. We only find lasting satisfaction in God. St. Augustine said that we were made with a God shaped hole that only He can fill. Until we fill it with God we will always be hungry.
Secondly we must stop eating spiritual junk food.
The Prophet Isaiah writes Why do you spend money on what cannot nourish you and your wages on what does not satisfy? Consume what is good for your soul!" Isaiah 55:2
We have got to put more energy into our relationship with Jesus and less on the things of this world. And that’s difficult because there are a lot of things that look spiritual on the outside but inside they are just fluff.
Think for just a moment about how you fill your soul.
What do you read the most?
What do you watch the most?
Where do you seek advice?
If your answers to those questions are not centered on God, then you’ve got problems. I’m not saying we need to become so spiritually minded that we lose our earthly influence. But what is the comparison between the worldly influences you are digesting and the Godly influences?
We tend to crave the things we fill ourselves with. Before I started my own transformation, we would take the boys to McDonalds. I would get a craving for a Big Mac and fries from time to time and we would round the boys up and head to the Golden Arches. But it has been almost 18 months since I had a Big Mac and now the thought of two mostly beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun makes my stomach hurt.
The same is true in our spiritual life. I’m not advocating we have to give up the things we enjoy but just make sure you’re giving proper priority to things like reading the Bible, talking to those who know God well, serving Him, and sharing with others. When you fill your life with positive spiritual things you will find those are the things you truly long for.
Finally start looking to Christ for your satisfaction.
Jesus says in John 6:35 - "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 possess the ingredients of genuine life, what you really need is Him.
Like everything else there are stages of spiritual hunger: The first stage is: I might want God in my life. This is the stage of the seeker, where you are curious, or you’ve been in the church and you believe in God but you’re still relying on yourself primarily.
Stage two is: I need God in my life. When you’re here you are poor in spirit- you know that you are broken. You mourn over all the times you’ve broken Jesus’ heart and you are ready to surrender to Him. Honestly some of us can’t hunger for righteousness because we have never come to grips with our brokenness and His love for us. It’s time for many of us to say today is the day I stop calling the shots, today is the day I stop filling my life with all the wrong things, today is the day you need to fall on your face and just say, God I need You in my life!
Finally, you come to the realization; I’ve got to have God in my life. This is the stage where we finally hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is the time in our lives that we finally look to God to fill the God shaped hole in each of us.
Some of you this morning are miserable and discontent. Some of you are unhappy and dissatisfied. I believe that God has brought you to this point so that you can begin to hunger and thirst for Him.