Earlier this week I spent two hours with some young disciples of Jesus. I’m guessing they were between 18 and 30 and the leader was in his mid fifties.
The young people had such a hunger for God. For more of God.
They were attentive to everything I was sharing. They asked questions. They “leaned into” the material I was teaching and interacted with it and with me.
It was an amazing two hours that blessed me and super-charged me.
I felt encouraged and excited. Not drained and depleted as I often do after teaching.
When people are hungry for more of God it is so exciting to teach.
When they are not hungry it is like dragging a dead horse uphill all the way. An effort and very unrewarding for the teacher. For me.
So afterwards I began thinking about the difference between today’s experience and that which I most often encounter when travelling and teaching.
And it seems to be that it simply boils down to how hungry people are for more of God. And hunger leads to people being expectant, wanting to receive from God through the teachings. Anticipating meeting God in some way within the teaching.
So, the questions I asked myself: What Causes Hunger in a Believer? How Can A Person Stay Hungry for God?
We read in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV).
It seems that the greatest blessing comes to those who are hungry and thirsting for Jesus.
Disciples who hunger after the bread of life and thirst for living water (to put it in Bible terms).
So how can we develop this hunger for God, and then stay hungry for Him?
1> Receive Hunger as a Gift
Hunger for God isn’t something that we conjure up for ourselves. It’s a gift that we can only receive from Him.
A lot of Christians try to coerce themselves into hunger for God, thinking, “I’ve got to have more faith, I’ve got to be more hungry, I’ve got to be more loving.”
In Galatians 2:20 we read, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV).
In the King James translation, we read “I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
When we grasp that Christ is alive inside of us, that we are no longer alive in our old ways, then we can understand that all of our ability to live the Christian life comes from Jesus. All our ability to love God comes from Him. Our hunger for more of Him comes from Him.
So then, we recognize that our hunger for God is because of Jesus’ passion for the Father and the Holy Spirit and thus a gift to us personally
So, we need to simply ask for this hunger for more of God to grow within us. It’s a gift and God most certainly wants to give this gift to each and every one of His children.
2. Ground Yourself in the Fear of the Lord
True hunger for God comes from a revelation of the fear of the Lord.
Fear of the Lord … means to be in reverent awe of His holiness, to give Him complete reverence and to honour Him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power. To be in serious awe of God!
For example, when God revealed Himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai through “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast,” they all “trembled” in fear (Exodus 19:16) because of His great power.
When the psalm writer reflects on God as Creator, he says: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere (honour, be in awe) Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:8-9)
When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want your life to bless Him, for His sake, more than for your own gain.
Then our hunger is fueled knowing that Jesus is the center of our salvation rather than ourselves. All of our life is by Him, through Him and for Him.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were chosen as a nation to be priests and kings for God’s purposes and His glory. They feared Him, honoured and served Him
When they understood this, they were on the right track. When, on the other hand, they focused on themselves, whether they were blessed or not, they lost their way and followed other gods. The fear of the Lord was not at the centre of their hearts.
We develop the fear of the Lord by understanding who He is, and who He has made us to be.
When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want God to be glorified in your life. Your entire motivation for your life is to please Him.
As you live a life worthy of Jesus Christ, a life that glorifies Him in thought, word, and deed then a deep hunger for God overwhelms you.
3. Read the Bible to Develop Lasting Hunger
I’m so thankful that He’s given us His Word – the Bible.
It’s by reading and studying His Word that we discover His ways and His character. We can’t learn God’s ways without knowing His Word which reveals who He is and speaks new life to us every day – fresh manna / revelation
By reading the Bible every day and spending time listening to His voice through the Word, we develop a lasting hunger for God.
I have read the Bible, cover to cover, every year for the last 45 years – sometimes twice a year
Reading and studying God’s Word has absolutely transformed me. It has caused me to be more in love with Him It has caused me to be increasingly more hungry to know Him.
I urge you to develop a disciplined approach to reading God’s Word. It will create a broad and wide foundation for your spiritual life. Your passion for God will grow Your fear of the Lord will grow You will develop discernment about how He’s leading you to live your life.
4. Express Your Devotion Through Prayer
As you read the Word, your understanding of God grows as does your love and devotion to God And prayer becomes the way you express that love and devotion.
Not just talking about “seek, ask, knock” but simply spending time with Him and strengthening your relationship with Him
The mechanics of prayer looks different in different people’s lives. I pray early in the morning after spending time quietly listening for His voice by reading His Word, the Bible.
I do more listening than speaking …
Prayer is a discipline of our faith, but when our hearts are devoted to Jesus, it doesn’t feel like a chore. It becomes a deep pleasure.
There are so many ways that you can practice prayer.
Find ways to pray that help you express your love and devotion to Jesus and that inspire a greater hunger for Him
Don’t copy others — don’t design your prayer life based on what everyone else does, but follow your heart
It is a personal relationship with Him and not just a way to receive what you think you need in your life at this point in time.
5. Let Encounters Fuel Your Hunger
Encounters with God – experiences where you are touched by His presence and His power – are where our theology (our understanding of God and His Word) becomes a reality.
When we encounter God, we meet Him in a very special and uniquely personal way.
When we encounter and experience God our faith in Him becomes stronger and we feel more secure and connected to Him.
Not all encounters with God will be dramatic, but every encounter with God has created (birthed) in me a greater hunger for more of Him
I have a greater hunger to know His heart better and hear what He has to say.
And each encounter – big or small – has strengthened my faith.
Thomas told the other disciples that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead,
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,” (John 20:25b NIV).
When Thomas eventually met Jesus, had an encounter with Him, Jesus told him,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV).
What’s Jesus saying?
I believe He is saying that encounters and personal experiences are good but they don’t create faith.
They strengthen faith. They encourage us in our faith.They deepen our faith.
But, Faith is created in our hearts and comes to us simply by hearing His voice through His Word and as He speaks to us in times of prayer.
Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word (Rhema) of Christ.” (ESV)
There are many people who are hungry for God that have never experienced God physically like Thomas did, and yet they believe in Him and continue to press in.
I believe that they’re more blessed than those who have big encounters with God.
God is present and good, whether we feel Him or not.
My point is: An encounter with God is a beautiful part of our journey of developing greater hunger for God.
It fuels our desire, our passion, and our hunger, but it can’t determine our faith in who God is.
6. Avoid Hunger-Suppressing Fillers
We’re all made with a built in desire for God. We’re made to be hungry for Him.
But if we snack and fill up in other areas that satisfy for a short amount of time, that hunger for God will grow dull.
These “fillers” look different for different people. For some, fillers are numbing habits that allow us to disengage with life For others more possessions For others it is a great social life and always being surrounded by friends
The way to figure out if something in your life is a filler is to ask yourself how you’re motivated. What motives you to keep moving forward? What fuels your “get up and go?” Who is the beneficiary of the things you’re pursuing? Is it God, others, or you?
The things that will develop hunger for God in you will be motivated by your love for God
They will be things you do for others as a result of God’s love for you.
These things will result in God being glorified, rather than your personal gain.
Other things that are self-centered and benefit just you are hunger-suppressing fillers that need to be seriously avoided
7. Pursue a God-Focused Life – Be “Christ-Centered”
God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – must be at the centre of our lives. We must put Him first in our lives…
Then our hearts will be filled with the fear of the Lord, and all our motivations will be for His glory.
All our affections will be focused on God, and our behaviours will come into line with that.
Matthew 6:31-33 NET “So then, donʼt worry saying, ʻWhat will we eat?ʼ or ʻWhat will we drink?ʼ or ʻWhat will we wear?ʼ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Remember our lead verse …
Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV).
And, of course, the Great Commandment which gives us our foundational focus in all of life…
Matthew 22:37 (NET) “Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”
So, keep God and your relationship with Him as the central focus of your daily life.
So, our prayer should be:
That our hunger for God will increase every day
That God will enable and empower us to stay focused on Him in everything we do
That our fellowship with the Holy Spirit will grow sweeter and deeper and that we can and will experience His presence every day (2 Corinthians 13:14)
That through His Word (Bible) and His world we will see the hand of God active in our lives on a daily basis as this fuels our hunger for more
That our lives will be ever increasingly filled with His joy and contentment
That we may live a life loving and pleasing Him as you walk in His love and give it away to those who do not know Him personally