Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
Trains run along tracks. The rails determine their direction and destination, and though there are switch stations at different places, these are relatively few and far between.
We human beings also run along tracks, and these tracks are called our appetites. The things that we hunger and thirst for determine our daily choices and our ultimate destination in life. It would be easier for a train to leap off the track and fly in the air than for a human being to go a different direction in life from the way his appetites direct him. Everyday we head down the path that our desires have laid out for us, and it is by the secrets of our heart that our life’s direction is established.
The Bible says plainly that our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction. In Romans we read words that should call each of us to serious self-examination.
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Yet these words also explain why we are incapable of true self-examination: because the desires of our hearts will forbid it, at least they will prevent us from doing a very good job at it. There are some good desires in the worst of us, but there are also some terrifyingly evil desires among the best of us. But the end result of our wrong desires is that we travel the tracks toward death, separation from God.
Christ has a solution and though He spoke it two thousand years ago it is as relevant today as it was then: change the desires of our heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness instead of for selfish things. Here clearly He knew that for our problem He was giving a solution that is beyond our own ability to achieve. We need a miracle. And the good news is that this is exactly the type of miracle that God loves to perform.
If we really want to desire the righteousness of God we first need to stop desiring the unrighteousness of the world. Of course, we have convinced ourselves that what we have thirsted for is not really unrighteous, well, maybe just a little, but it is not that bad. I once listened to a young man who was ruining his health and destroying relationships by going out and drinking heavily every night try to justify himself with the argument that he was young and he had a right to “sow his wild oats.” After many failures in his life he began to modify his drinking, but he did not really change his appetites. James wrote, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
The work of God is to bring conviction to our hearts about how wrong unrighteousness is. If we only feel the pain of our foolishness, but don’t gain God’s perspective, then we merely modify our behavior to do it less, and may throw in a good deed or two to make us feel better. The tracks we have laid to travel on may be cushioned by some charity work, but they still run the same direction. This is why we see women who continue to date or marry the wrong men, and though they have regrets and become more cautious, they are still headed the same direction. This is why we see men stay for years on the edge of alcoholism and secret addictions to pornography that though they would be embarrassed to be found out and might try some surface changes in their actions, their hearts are still longing for the same things.
Things begin to change when the Spirit shows us how wrong we have been, convicting us of our sin and also doing His work of convincing us that Christ is the answer for our sin. We look to the cross for our forgiveness, but we also discover the resurrected Christ calling us to follow Him. The call of Christ in our lives is a call to live on a higher level than the world; this is not just a call to improve or to modify but to know and feel the heart of God. The first thirst we feel is the thirst for salvation, as Isaiah proclaimed,
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost…
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David…
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
If you thirst in your soul for the cool waters of grace, it is God who placed this desire in your heart. God invites us to come to Him with this longing, and He has never cast out of His presence the one who comes in sincere faith, turning from sin and longing for His mercy.
You may also thirst for this thirst. That is, you are not quite longing for righteousness yet, but you do long for that longing. You wish to be a better person, someone whose heartfelt desires are pure. God has begun this work in your soul. You need the enlightenment and wisdom that only God can give, and God promises precisely to give this wisdom. James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Growing in the desire of and the knowledge of the righteousness of God is the path of maturity for the believer.
In order to holdup heavy locomotives, a foundation of stones or concrete must be laid beneath the tracks for support. Our desires for the righteousness of God need to form a proper foundation for our lives. They must be solid and deep. Often the reason we return to sinful choices is because we have not yet allowed God to deal with secrets hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts. For examples,
· The gossip who constantly criticizes others to make her feel better about herself has not yet learned to accept who she is in Christ
· The shop-aholilc who buys unnecessary things has not yet learned that Christ is sufficient for his desires
· The angry ranter has not yet learned to deal with his hidden fear and take his concerns to God
· The constant worrier has never learned to take his disappointments to God
· The sex addict who needs the affirmation of love and acceptance by God, whose pains from parental rejection have never been healed
· The manipulator of others who has never learned to see God as her strong defender
The truth of God needs to form a deep and solid base in our souls if it will hold up the heaviness of life in this world, where people offend and circumstances disappoint and troubles multiply.
In order for tracks to do their job they must also run in the right direction. For us it is important to realize that the righteousness of God is not a static concept but a dynamic force. To hunger for His righteousness means to long to see Him move and act in this world. This means to desire to see people saved, relationships restored, marriages put right, the hurt one healed, and the troubled one at peace. We cannot sit in a monastery alone if we long for the righteousness of God, rather we must be out in the world helping, proclaiming, and healing, all in the name and for the honor of Christ.
Hunger and thirst are strong appetites. Every day they appear and appear repeatedly. The one who longs for the righteousness of Christ as a covering for his sin, as the wisdom of God to his mind, as the healing of the Spirit to his wounds, and as the comfort of the Spirit to his soul and spirit will find a fullness rising up within him that both comes from God and is God.
Lord, teach us to see through what the world offers that would draw us away from Your heart, tempting us with its trinkets, empty gifts that leave us unfulfilled. Drive us to hunger and thirst for You, and to find and experience You as the One who satisfies our soul. Amen.