Summary: What characterizes the life of the truly spiritual Christian?
As we have considered the beatitudes thus far, we have talked about how Jesus says that happiness is found in brokenness, happiness is found in mourning, happiness is found in meekness, and now, we will look at what Jesus had to say about how happiness is found in hungering and thirsting after righteousness (READ TEXT).
Notice how each of these fits together. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “They will be comforted,” “They will inherit the earth,” They will be filled.” Isn’t that wonderful? If we sum it all up, we receive everything there is if we are willing to accept God’s conditions for true happiness and live by the principles and promises laid out in these teachings of our Savior; and one of these conditions is that we learn to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
What is righteousness? The word means, “conformity to that which is right.” God is altogether righteous. There is nothing about God that is not right. His thoughts are right. His words are right. His actions are right. When it comes to being right and doing right - God is our standard to which we should want to conform.
Having realized our spiritual bankruptcy and trusted in God’s saving power, we have been made citizens of the kingdom of heaven. As such, we must learn how to live like who we now are in Christ.
To do this, we gain the proper perspective on sin and self. We are not to live for sin or for ourselves, but for God. That’s what hungering and thirsting after righteousness is all about - desiring to be right with God and do right for God. But what does such desire look like?
1. It is a conscious desire.
Jesus was talking about hunger and thirst to people who understood what He was talking about. The Greek verbs used by our Savior are very powerful. “Peinao” means to be needy, to suffer deep hunger. “Dipsao” carries the idea of genuine thirst. Jesus is describing a type of desire that one cannot ignore.
Now when we think of thirst, we think of simply wanting something to drink. When we think of hunger, we think in terms of it being 1 o’clock and we’re used to eating at noon.
Major V. Gilbert tells in his book, The Last Crusade, of the thirst he and his men suffered in the Palestinian desert in World War I:
“Our heads ached. Our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare . . . Our tongues began to swell . . . our lips turned to a purplish black and burst. Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. There were wells at Sheria, and had they been unable to take the place by nightfall, thousands were doomed to die of thirst.
We fought that day as men fight for their lives. We entered Sheria’s station on the heels of the retreating Turks. The first objects which met our view were the great stone cisterns full of cold, clear drinking wa¬ter . . . It took four hours before the last man had his drink of water . . . I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on that march from Beersheba to the Sheria wells. If such were our thirst for God and for righteousness, for His will in our lives, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruit of the Spirit would we be.”
This desire that Jesus speaks of here is really a “life or death” desire to be right with God and do right for God. It is a conscious desire, a desire we cannot ignore.
2. It is a continuous desire.
Jesus puts these strong physical impulses in a continuous action, literally, He says, “The one’s who ARE hungering; the ones who ARE thirsting.”
When I came to Jesus Christ, I hungered and thirsted to be declared right with Him; and now that I have been declared right with Him, I desire to live right for Him. Having come to know Him, I desire to know Him more. Such is the nature of the hunger and thirst that leads to true happiness and fulfillment in life.
R.C.H. Lenski, says in his commentary on this passage that, “this hungering and this thirsting continues and, in fact, increases in the very act of being satisfied.”
Let me use Moses as an illustration. When he had been in the wilderness for forty years, God called him. He saw God in the burning bush. When Moses went back to lead Israel out of Egypt, he saw God’s hand in the plagues and in the parting of the Red Sea. He saw God as they moved, guided by the great Shekinah glory of God in the heavens. He saw God in water to drink and manna to eat. But after he built a tabernacle in obedience to God, Moses said, “God, I want to see your glory.”