HUNGER FOR GOD 1-The Prerequisite
The Prerequisite of Spiritual Passion
What excites you today? Today we begin a new series on Developing a Hunger for God. I’ve decided to do this because of how the worldview series ended. As we concluded that series last week, I shared with you that people of passion influence the world around them. But for you to live a life of growing passion you not only have to know what that means, you also have to be intentional about taking the necessary steps toward it. So today we begin with the prerequisite of spiritual passion.
Now, when I say “passion”, I’m talking about a hunger for God. But for there to develop a genuine hunger for God, we have to make room in our lives for God to do a new thing. But in order for there to be room for God to do a new thing, the old things must go. So as we begin this series, let me ask you, how hungry are you for God? Are you hungry at all? Let’s look today at what this means. Open your Bible please to 2 Kings 4.
In 2 Kings 4, we have a very unique story involving the prophet Elisha. It’s a story about a lady in crisis. Let’s first identify the nature of the crisis: vV1-2 Okay, let’s look at the crisis more clearly:
#1 This lady is in emotional pain – her husband has died. Some of you know what it is like to lose a spouse to death.
#2 There is Financial pain – The death of her husband ,as it so often did in those days, has left her not only penniless, but deeply in debt, and now the creditors are demanding payment. IOWs, the phone calls are coming in.
#3 There is Physical pain – She says in verse 2, the refrigerator is empty, and we’re hungry. In fact, I feel fully comfortable saying that she and her children have been without food for days, and it doesn’t take long for someone who is barely getting enough to eat to begin to experience pain when food is completely withdrawn and the digestive juices begin to burn the lining of the stomach.
#4 She has Maternal pain—Not only have the creditors come, but in verse 1 it says they’ve come to take her children that they might be sold to satisfy the debt. Can you imagine? She’s lost her husband and now she’s about to lose her children. Finally…
#5 There is Spiritual pain – Look at verse 1 again, you have to look closely to see this one: V1a, “Your servant…my husband… feared the Lord.” Do you hear the question underneath? I’ve heard it 100’s of times from people in distress. IOWs, we know we’re in a crisis when we starting saying my spiritual status and my circumstances don’t match-up. IOW’s Elisha, I feared God and I served God! So why am I in this kind of a mess? I mean how can I come to church every week and meet with God every day and still be going through all this!”
Can you relate? She needs a spiritual breakthrough…how about you? Maybe you’ve been hurt by relationships of perhaps the absence of them. Or perhaps there is some other scar on your soul that you feel every single day of your life. Whatever it is, may be a financial situation in which creditors are calling, or may be a physical situation stealing your strength and destroying your body, or maybe a parental situation in which you are watching as a child turns from everything they were taught to believe, or may be even a spiritual pain in which God just doesn’t seem fair right now.
Whatever it is, if I’ve just described you, then standby, commit to being here for this series because a breakthrough may be at hand. If I haven’t described you, then commit to being here anyway, because you will eventually need this series.
In our text, the woman cries out to the prophet, her pain is too much to bear. And indeed, this is what the pain of a crisis does: pain ultimately drives us to the Lord. In fact, in the Bible whenever we read that phrase “cry out”, we have encountered a desperate situation.
And so here, the woman cries out because she wants to know what God has to say and what God intends to do about her crisis and how God intends to give her a breakthrough. Because you see, her situation was bigger than any human could fix…the creditors were at the door to take her most prized possessions. So here’s the first principle I want you take with you today:
Principle #1: You will never discover that God is all you need, until God is all you have.
And let me tell you something, when you’re at this place, you don’t pray casual, routine prayers anymore, you cry out. IOWs, when you get to this place, you’re no longer worried about your sophistication, you cry out. I mean someone in the other room just might hear you pray for once because like a baby who has grown hungry and wants everyone within ear shot to know it needs to be fed, you cry out.
So why doesn’t passion just automatically develop? I mean, if Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who hungers and thirst for righteousness, for he shall be filled,” why don’t we see more of God’s power and presence today? The answer is simple…we are too full. We’re too full of ourselves…our money…abilities. So hear me loved ones, the prerequisite of spiritual passion, is spiritual hunger. You’ve got to be hungry.
When we have gone on short-term mission trips to Honduras and Equator and Latvia, we saw God’s Hand move in miraculous ways because those people understood that when God is all you have, God is all you need. So the question today is, how hungry are you to experience the things of God? In fact in your sermon notes put: HUNGER = PASSION.
You see, passion is the driving force that takes a person to the next level of performance. Without passion, you will always stay where you are because there is no reason to go anywhere else. I floundered in college until I finally developed a passion to finish my pharmacy degree. Without passion, if you get there ok, if you don’t, ok.
This woman wanted it so bad, our Scripture text says, “She cried out.” She let her voice be heard. She needed things to be different in her life. And indeed, when God allows a crisis to come into your life, one of its goals is to make you hungry for change.
When a photographer goes into a darkroom where no light can be found, her sole aim is to turn a negative into a positive. It may be dark in there, but it is purposeful in there, and the purpose of our dark times is often to get us ready for the light. So if God has you in a dark place, it may be that its purpose is to take a negative in your life, and turn it into a positive.
The woman cries out to the prophet because she wants to hear from the Lord. So Elisha says: V 2 Then Elisha says something strange, it doesn’t make sense: VV 3-4
That’s odd advise. Now isn’t it just like a preacher to come with something that doesn’t make sense? Elisha says, “I want you to go to your neighbors and get all the vessels you can: I mean clay pots, I mean cooking pots, any pots they have BUT #1, make sure they are empty and #2 make sure they are NOT just few in number.”
“What?!…Elisha, I need money, I need money honey. I don’t need this wild stuff you’re talking.” She says, “I’m empty! I don’t have anything but this one little jar of cooking oil. I mean I don’t even have anything to cook.”
And Elisha says, “I know, but go get all the additional emptiness you can anyway.”—Stay with me now, I’m going somewhere with this, don’t drift now—Elisha says, “I not only want you to have your emptiness, I want you to go get your neighbor’s emptiness and add it to yours.”
Multiplied emptiness: some of you have multiplied emptiness. IOWs, you’re a mess and the folk you live with in your house—they’re a mess. Are you with me? Have you ever found yourself saying, “Everybody wants to bring their problems to me when I’ve got enough of my own emptiness.” But loved ones, there is a 2nd critical principle here, and you must not lose sight of it, it is the key to spiritual filling, catch this now:
principle #2: The amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling.
IOWs, when God connects your emptiness with the emptiness of those around you, God is increasing the possibility of your filling. Why – because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.
What the prophet did was give her a new perspective, a different approach to a normal problem. We all have debts, we all have pain, we all have crisis. But the response she gets is not the answer she would have gotten at a bank or a credit union or from a politician…NO the Lord wants to increase her emptiness. And so now she is faced with a question: Do I believe the man of God or not? IOWs, do I believe that what he is saying, God is saying? So many times loved ones…listen to me…we cry out to God and get an answer from God, but we don’t like it because it requires a step into the unknown.
IOWs, it boils down to this, without faith it is impossible to please God.
Hebrews 11:6 (sermon notes) So when I’m seeking a passion for God, the question is, “Do I believe God?” Because when it comes to getting your breakthrough, God will often bring odd methods to validate whether or not you trust Him. IOWs, if you’re looking for neat – clean – well defined next steps as you live the Christian life because you think you know God…forget it! Why—Isaiah 55:8 (sermon notes)
So, when it comes to seeing God do what you need done in your life, God may have you take some very odd steps.
OK, what is to be our response? Look what the woman did: V5 When your alarm went off this morning, (an hour earlier may I say) telling you to get up, particularly you who are not morning people, you made a decision and that decision was to obey the alarm even though you didn’t feel like it. In fact, much to your chagrin…perhaps even aggravated, irritated, and exacerbated, you forced yourself out of the bed and into the shower to prepare and get ready for the service. In fact, even if when the clock went off it interrupted one of your nicer dreams; even if it interfered with the full 8 hours you wanted, because you decided that you would be in the house of God this morning, you obeyed the clock and got up.
Well, just as with that alarm clock this morning, God’s alarms often seem to us to go off at the wrong time. God’s methodologies ring in the wrong way to us, BUT, the question of faith is never a question of feelings. It is never a question of, “How do I feel about what God just told me?” It’s not that your feelings aren’t real and so can be easily dismissed…but this is not the question of faith. Faith is a matter of obedience, faith is a matter of whether or not you are going to ACT on what God said to do as if it is already so.
If you get up when the alarm rings, you’ve acted, no matter how you feel. So it is that we must get to the point that we act no matter how we feel when God is calling us to act in faith. IOW’s, we have to get to the point where we believe that when we act in faith, God will change how we feel.
This lady was hungry, literally and spiritually, because her crisis was deep. So if things are getting deeper in your life, it just may be that the amount of your filling is going to be great, because the amount of your emptiness, determines the amount of your filling.
So how hungry are you this morning? Do you know how you can tell? Have you ever noticed that when you’re real hungry, sophistication doesn’t matter anymore? Have you ever seen sophisticated people real hungry? Using the right fork just doesn’t seem all that important, know what I mean? People on the street, don’t care how they get it, as long as they can get some food.
IOWs, have you ever been hungry in the middle of the night and went to the cupboard where the snacks are, and it’s empty? Suddenly you’re slamming doors and talking to wooden cupboards, because you’re hungry. And when you get hungry enough, you don’t care what other people think. This woman was hungry enough for an answer from God, that she shut the door, verse 5, and went to work, and she began pouring into the vessels.
Oh this next point is important, so listen to me please:
You see, when we are hurting, it is natural and normal to focus on me, myself, and I. But Scripture tells us something very different. When we are hurting and in a place of great need, it is then time to minister to others. IOWs, when God sees you are willing to cry out not only for your emptiness, but also the emptiness of others—that is, not only to be blessed but also to be a blessing—then you have given God that much more to fill up for you.
You see, most of the time when we’re looking for our blessing we forget about everybody else. “Go to your neighbors,” Elisha says, “intercede for them, take on their emptiness.” Because oh, when God sees He can minister through you, and to you, the degree of your emptiness, which is determining your filling, is great indeed.
Then finally, it is vital that we look closely at the last 2 verses of our passage: V 6 As her sons brought in the pots from the neighbors, she started pouring. IOW’s, as she cried out to God for herself, and was willing to take on the emptiness of others, God multiplied the little she had. And suddenly, as the song says, “little became much when it was placed in the Master’s Hand.”
She poured into this pot and this pot got full AND she poured into that pot and that pot got full. And suddenly she gets it, God will keep filling as long as the emptiness keeps coming. But eventually, her son says, “There are no more pots,” and the oil stops, because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.
Then comes the final instruction: V 7a Who is she going to sell the oil to? (Her neighbors.) Why? Because every household needed oil. This wasn’t a luxury. So what’s the implication? Her solution already existed before she cried out to God. IOW’s, the answer to her problem was in her house, but she didn’t know it—that is she didn’t have the spiritual eyes Elisha had to see the answer to her dilemma.
You see, she thought because she was hungry and cried out, that was enough, but in reality she wasn’t empty enough yet to receive what she needed. And so until her hunger broaden beyond herself to include others, she did not see the depth of how hungry she could be, or the miracle God wanted to perform.
So, the filling stopped when the emptiness stopped, and then Elisha said, V7b: “Now, get out of debt and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
Whaoo! Don’t read that too fast. In verse 1, she cries out for relief from her debt in order to save her sons. She went to God for a debt breakthrough, but God gave her not only relief from her debt, but enough to live on, and that is how you know it’s from God. When it’s from God, it’s exceedingly, abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.
So here’s the final question this morning? HOW HUNGRY AM I?
No, no I know you want a breakthrough, that’s not the question. The question is, “How HUNGRY are you?” Are you hungry enough to passionately pursue God, and be used of God to passionately help someone else—are you that hungry? Are you hungry enough to go into God and cry out to Him because you view God as your ONLY SOLUTION; your first and last resort…OR, are you still trying things without God? If you are, you’re not hungry yet.
I recently went to conference where on the second night I was offered a “free dinner.” But first, we had to listen to a pitch by a particular ministry group. Now, after listening to 6 hours of lectures, with 3 hours worth yet to go that night, they said we’d have to listen to another little one for the meal. Well, free is free, so I went.
Well after the presentation we walked a ½ mile to this hall on the campus, and as we walked in, there were tables…not filled with food…but filled with snacks. Nice tasting snacks: all that trouble and an extra lecture for snacks!
But you see, the point I’m trying to make here, if you eat enough snacks, it becomes a cheap substitute for addressing legitimate hunger. And too many of us are still snacking on God. We want a sermon snack here—something simple, short, and without too much substance—and a song snack there—something familiar, something we’re just too. We want to say we went to church, when in reality we have only nibbled at the table—IOWs is there was no passionate pursuit of God, there was only the performance of a religious duty, and God will never bless our snacks. God wants people who are passionately pursuing HIM! Not nibbling on a little truth here and little truth there.
When people go on a diet, they sometimes go for medication to help. But diet pills don’t remove the hunger, they only mask it. IOW’s, you’re still hungry, you just don’t know it.
And many of us don’t feel hungry, NOT because we’re not hungry, but because we’ve taken too many suppressants and we don’t feel as hungry as we are. Because if we felt as hungry as we ought, we wouldn’t be so sophisticated about things anymore, we’d be crying out to God for His power and His presence, and His super-natural intervention in our lives.
Loved ones, God is looking for growling stomachs. He is looking for people who are hungry for God, who are HOT after God, who are passionate for God. He is not interested in a spiritual McDonalds for folks to drive through and pick up as you go along, God wants some folks to dine at His table. And if you are not crying out to God, and in His presence because your stomach is growling, then you are going to be satisfied to be pacified. You are going to be snacking on a pacifier while at the same time starving to death and not even know it.
So don’t you settle until you a hold of God! You want God, not a pacifier. Let’s go after God!!