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Hungry for God

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Hungry For God?

4th Beatitude

Sermon #5 in series


Read Scripture – Matthew 5:1-12

Have you ever been so hungry that you couldn’t think of anything except food?  Perhaps some of you are saying, “As a matter of fact, I’m hungry now and I hope you keep that in mind as you decide how long to preach.” 

I am not talking about that kind of hunger.  I am talking about being so hungry and so thirsty that you become consumed with finding something to eat and drink.

The famous explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton, said that when he and his companions were trying to reach the South Pole, they faced extreme and continuous hunger.  As a result, they found it difficult to think of anything else but food and eating.

This is what Jesus is talking about in this 4th Beatitude.  Believe it or not, He is saying that we are blessed people when we begin to be deeply thirsty and hungry for God.  To put it another way, He is saying, “Blessed are the God-hungry.”

The NLT translates this: “God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will receive it in full.”

Most other versions translate this verse “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” 


It is not that justice is a wrong translation but it does not adequately express the full meaning of the original text.  A good translation is: "God blesses those who are very hungry and very thirsty for total righteousness, for complete righteousness.”  In other words, those who passionately want to be rightly related to God and to do what God calls right. 

There are several observations I would like to share with you concerning this 4th Beatitude.

I.                 Jesus did not say, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for happiness” rather, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

The truly joyous person has discovered that happiness is a by-product of right living.  Seek happiness and it will forever elude you.  Seek God and you soon will discover happiness.

II.               The righteousness of which Jesus speaks is not a possession, but rather a passion. 

In other words, it is the very attitude of hungering and thirsting for righteousness which results in God’s blessing.  It is this earnest longing and this deep desire for God and His righteousness that is praised by God.

It is precisely this attitude that is so rare among those who call themselves followers of Jesus.

I am reminded of the rather pious church member who was rebuking his neighbor for using profanity.  The profane neighbor replied, “Well, my friend, I cuss a lot and you pray a lot, but neither of us really means what we say.”

God is far more interested in what we desire than what we possess.  He is deeply concerned about this issue of our desires.  Attitude is everything to God. 

There is an interesting fact about hungry people.  They usually manage to find something to eat.  Three young men that I know watched Monday night football together and did what most young men do when they watch football.  They got hungry.  About 10:30 that night, they began to crave pizza.  They pulled out their billfolds and discovered that they had more hunger than they had money.  One of them had 3 one-dollar bills.

The more they thought about pizza, the more hungry they became.  It is amazing what people will do when they get hungry.  One went to his car and started looking under the floor mats and between the seats and came up with about a dollar in change.  Another found a quarter in the washing machine.  He then went out in his truck and found about $1.50 in his ashtray.  Then one of them remembered that he had a piggy bank.  You guessed it.  They began to count their change.  To their delight, and the pizza deliverer’s horror, they managed to come up with enough change to make up the difference.  The poor guy had to take 8 dollars in small change to make up the total for the pizza that night. 

Why?  These guys were hungry.  And hungry people do extreme things to find something to eat.

Jesus is saying that when we get that hungry for God and when we are that desperate to be rightly related to God, we will then be in a place to have our need met.  He wants us to be so filled with the desire to know Him and to please Him and to feed upon His will that we will do whatever it takes to have that hunger satisfied. 

Jesus knows that hungry people usually manage to find something to eat.  You see, our problem is not our methods, or our programs, or our background, or our credentials; it is our desire or lack of desire to know God and His righteousness.

III.              The blessed ones, the Christians, are those who hunger and thirst to see God’s righteousness put into practice in their world. 

How hungry are you to see your family life, your business life and your social life be described by the word righteous?  How much does it hurt you whenever you see friends or an employee or an employer or a relative or an enemy treated in an unrighteous manner?  How much do you hurt when righteousness is ignored?

We are to be characterized as people who literally hunger and thirst to see righteousness permeate every facet of our lives, our relationships and our society.

Let’s take a moment and give a practical application to this.  How hungry are you to see your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your work associates be rightly related to God?  Would you consider praying earnestly for them and then invite them to join you to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection on Easter morning?

Did you know that there are people that you know who would join you on Easter if you just invited them?  What would happen if you became hungry and thirsty to see them brought into a healthy, vibrant relationship with God?

How hungry and thirsty are you to please God?

IV.              The righteousness of which Jesus speaks is a personal righteousness – not a legalistic code. 

One of the best definitions I know of righteousness is simply – right relationship.

Jesus is saying, “Blessed is the person  who hungers and thirsts to be rightly related to Me and to others.  Blessed is the person who longs to make sure that nothing hinders or interferes with our relationship." In fact, this Beatitude could be translated (paraphrased): “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for Me.  Blessed are they that long to know Me in all My fullness.” 

V.               Only God can satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst.

When the prodigal son of whom Jesus told us, was hungry, he went to feed upon the husk of the pigpen; but when he was desperately hungry – when he began to starve – he went home to his father.

How hungry are you this morning?  Don’t keep settling for the husk of this world.  Don’t keep trying to fill that void with material things or temporal things.  God has so constructed you that nothing in this world can permanently satisfy you except God Himself.

It is not enough to be hungry or thirsty.  We must hunger and thirst for God.

Starvation has been defined as the process by which the body begins to feed upon itself.  It literally begins to destroy itself because of a lack of nourishment.  What a vivid description of a sinner.  We are so hungry, so miserable but in an attempt to find a substitute for God, we literally begin to destroy ourselves.

VI.             We are made righteous in proportion to our hunger for God; not in proportion to our performance. 

Aren’t you glad?  People sometimes ask us pastors if we think they are entitled to participate in the Holy Communion Supper.

In others words, they ask, “Do you think I’m good enough or righteous enough?”

The only answer that any minister is empowered to give is that the one and only requirement necessary to participate in this supper is an honest desire or passion for God.  The honest and genuine hunger for the life He has revealed in Christ.

Jesus did not establish His church for those who were already satisfied, but rather for those who were not satisfied. 

He does not welcome to this table those who are sure they are good enough, but those who know they are not. 

The message of this 4th Beatitude doesn’t stop here. 

I might be quite willing to admit that I am not righteous, that I am a long way from being Christ-like, that I have not done much to promote justice and mercy in my world.  The crucial issue then becomes – but do I hunger, really hunger and thirst after these things?  Am I deeply committed to seeing righteousness characterize my world and my relationships? 

Jesus asks us, “How deeply do you desire what I have to offer?  How hungry are you for God?  How intense is your desire for a right relationship with God?  Do you want God as much as a starving man wants food? Do you crave God as much as a thirsty man or woman craves water?”

An appetite for God is proof that a person has been born again.  You don’t have to teach a baby to be hungry.  You don’t have to instruct a baby how to be thirsty.  Hunger and thirst are evidences of life.  The lack of hunger or thirst is the evidence of serious illness or death. 

In 1 Peter 2:2 the Apostle instructs us “You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation.  Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”

For a feeble desire, God has little or nothing to offer.  But to the thirsty and hungry He promises: “They shall be filled.”

It is not our goodness but our desire for righteousness to which He responds.  And He responds according to the intensity of our desire.

This is what He looks for as we approach His holy table.  He looks through the successes and failures, the virtue and the vices, the gains and the losses, the joys and the sorrows that are represented here, and He asks us if we really want what He has to offer – a right relationship with Him.  Do we really hunger His life that He has poured out for us?  Are we passionate about being righteous and doing the right things?

And if we are, He has for us a blessing and a promise: “Take this, eat this, drink this, all of you.”

I would remind you that the bread that He offers and the cup that He hands to us is His body and His blood.  He longs to remind us that He died for us.  He took our place in order that we could be made right with God.  He offers us His forgiveness.  He offers us His mercy.  He offers us the peace that we so desperately long for. 

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

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