You Have to be Hungry

Title: You Have to be Hungry

Bible Book: Matthew 5 : 6

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Purpose in Life; Hurger for Meaning



Did you know that the second   -   largest food consumption day of the year here in the U.S. - after Thanksgiving - is Super   -   Bowl Sunday?  Statistics tell us that on that single day - actually in one 4   -   hour period - in addition to things like chili and baby   -   back ribs - Americans eat:

* 4 million pounds of popcorn

* TONS of Pizza - in fact pizza delivery is 60% higher during the Super Bowl than any other time.

* 28 million pounds of chips

* 25 billion chicken wings, and

* 8 million pounds of guacamole - that’s a lot of avocados!

Now there are two consequences that come from eating all this junk food:

* First, it leads to tens of thousands of upset tummies. We know this because statistics also show that on this day when stomachs bulge, sales of antacids at 7   -   11 also bulge by 20%.

* And the second effect of consuming all these millions of pounds of salt   -   filled food is that it makes people THIRSTY!

I don’t have the stats on this but I’m sure people drink millions of gallons of beverages to slake their thirst after eating all those chips.

Now - if you’ve taken up my challenge to memorize the Beatitudes then you know that the reason I share all this with you because this morning we come to a beatitude - or a “flight lesson” as we are calling them - in which Jesus talks about hunger and thirst. But when our Lord delivered this sermon He was not referring to a physical yearning for food or water. No - Jesus was speaking of another form of hunger or thirst - an inner yearning that all people experience.

You see, the physical hunger and thirst that we feel every day, not just on Super Bowl Sunday - our physical yearnings are only a pale reflection of a far more serious yearning.

And the interesting thing is that every generation seems to have a song that acknowledges this fact, a song in the top 40 that laments about this emptiness - this longing that we all have for something more in life.  For my parents’ generation it was Peggy Lee’s, “Is That All There Is?”

How many remember that one? In the ‘60’s it was the Rolling Stones,’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” In the ’80’s it was Bruce Springsteen’s, “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart.” Twenty years after that Switchfoot released a song called, “Meant to Live.” Here are some of the lyrics:

“We were meant to live for so much more. Have we lost ourselves?

We want more than this world’s got to offer

We want more than the wars of our fathers

And everything inside screams for second life.

We were meant to live for so much more.”

I read that Switchfoot based their lyrics on C. S. Lewis’ writings - and I think that must be true because in his book Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

Lewis is right. Earthly pleasures don’t satisfy because we weren’t made for this world. We don’t belong here. We were meant to live for so much more. Well, the work of Lewis and all these singers reflects a universal awareness. All people sense that as Jesus told Satan, “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Matthew 4:4)

But tragically, foolishly, in spite of the fact that experience proves the things of this earth don’t satisfy, we still keep going back to the things of this earth. We still keep returning to “earthly wells” to try fill our hungry souls. We’re like the people described in 2nd Peter 2:22 where it says: “A dog returns to its vomit, and a sow that is washed goes back to wallowing in the mud.”

Years ago I read something Rick Warren wrote in which he reminds us of three basic types of “earthly wells” that we continue to drink from - even though these wells that do not satisfy our longing for more in life.

(1) For example, many people try to ease their hunger or thirst for eternal things with earthly PLEASURES.

They think things like, “If I could only take a lavish cruise, or retire in opulent luxury, then I’ll be satisfied.”

Well, God’s Word warns us against this kind of thing.  And - the frustrating experience of millions of people shows that once again, God’s Word is right. The fact is pleasure, no matter how much of it we have, always leaves us feeling empty, yearning for more. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, “All the labor of man is for his mouth [for self   -   preservation and enjoyment], and yet his desire is not satisfied.”

Now, to be sure, attempting to satisfy our desire for more with earthly pleasures can be fun.  Pleasures do make you happy, but not for long. As Hebrews 11:25 says, “The pleasures of sin last a short time.”  Here’s the problem. We are made for eternity. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God had put eternity in the hearts of men.”  So, things that are not eternal in nature - like earthly pleasures - don’t satisfy our hungry hearts. In his book, The Applause of Heaven, Max Lucado says, “False fountains pacify our cravings with sugary swallows of pleasure. But there comes a time when pleasure doesn’t satisfy. There comes a dark hour in every life when the world caves in and we are left trapped in the rubble of reality parched and dying.”

Have you ever been there? Like the Prodigal Son have you ever drunk from the well of pleasure in any of its forms only to find yourself still just as thirsty as before? As exciting as it’s “water” can appear, it still doesn’t satisfy our thirst does it? It always leaves us in the pig troughs of life yearning for more.

(2) And then some people try another “well.” They seek lasting satisfaction in PERFORMANCE.

But that doesn’t meet our needs either. No matter how well they perform in their careers, workaholics learn the hard way that, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, all a man gets for all his hard work are, “…days full of sorrow and grief, and restless nights,”  - because “you work for something with all your skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn’t had to work for it.” (Ecclesiastes 2:21,23)  This well is just like other earthly wells in that we can drink from this, the well of performance, all day long and still have “parched throats.”

There’s a myth that says, “success produces satisfaction.” But that’s just not true. Many successful people are very unsatisfied inside. After the thrill of winning, even winning a whole lot, there comes that same old emptiness, that same awareness that something’s still missing.

Tom Brady - one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time - with all his wins - all his successes - said, “There must be more than this.” He learned that as Ecclesiastes 4:8 says, “Man is always working, but never satisfied.”

Let me ask you workaholics out there. Does performance do it for you? Be honest now. Does success in your career bring you lasting satisfaction or is it like a drug that lifts you for a while but then leaves you yearning for the next hit?

(3) And then a sometimes we seek to satisfy our inner hunger and thirst with POSSESSIONS.

Manufacturers try to cash in on this by giving a written promise that if you buy their product satisfaction is guaranteed. How many times have you heard that? And for the thousands of times you’ve heard or read that promise, has any “thing” ever made you feel satisfied? Has owning anything from the newest app   -   packed I   -   phone or the latest Galaxy or whatever - to a new car - has any possession ever brought you lasting fulfillment? No, of course not. The writer of Ecclesiastes hits the nail on the head again when he writes, “He who loves things, will never have enough. It is foolish to think that wealth brings happiness!” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Lucado sums up our vain attempts to find satisfaction by drinking from the world’s wells by saying, “We are very thirsty, not for fame, possession, passion or romance. We’ve drunk from those pools. They are salt water in the desert. They don’t quench, they kill. No, we’re thirsty for a clean conscience. We crave a clean slate. We yearn for a fresh start. The problem is the treasures of earth don’t satisfy. The promise is the treasures of Heaven do.”

Lucado is right. This fallen world doesn’t satisfy because this fallen world is not what we need. What we really need is to be right with God.  We need to get back what our ancestors lost in the garden in those days before the fall when this world was different. We need a close, intimate relationship with our Creator. We need - we yearn for - His approval.

Take your Bibles now and let’s read our text and you’ll see what I mean. Let’s take a “running start” beginning with verse 1.

1 – “Now when [Jesus] saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,  2 – and He began to teach them, saying: 3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 – Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

To help us fully comprehend what Jesus was saying here in verse 6, let’s do what we did a few weeks ago and compare various Bible translations. We just read from the NIV, a fairly literal translation, one that is almost word for word the same as the KJV or the NASB. So, let’s broaden our reading by looking at a few PARAPHRASES.

J. B. Phillips’ version puts it like this: “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for true goodness, for they will be fully satisfied.”

The New International Reader’s Version says: “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right. They will be filled.”

In The Message we read: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

And then the Amplified Bible, which tends to try and squeeze all possible wordings in, says: “Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born   -   again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) - blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied!”

So, by putting all these versions together we can see that Jesus was saying that the way to be truly happy - the way to have our thirst and hunger for something more satisfied is to be right with God. But that phrase sounds too much like a cliché. We talk about being “right with God” all the time, to the point that I think we’ve forgotten its true meaning.  So - let me share with you three things that I believe will help us truly grasp the kind of hunger for righteousness that Jesus spoke of that day.

I. Jesus was talking about a HUNGER.

That’s what the Greek word we translate as “hunger” means. It’s the word, “peinao”  -  which means to be ravenous with hunger. In this context, it refers to a hunger to be clean - COMPLETELY clean - pure - before God. To explain what I mean we need to get a little deeper in our study of New Testament Greek. You see, it is a rule of Greek grammar that these verbs that we translate as “hunger” or “thirst” should be followed by the genitive case - which in English is expressed with the word, “of.”

Now - don’t let this lesson in grammar prompt you to zone out on me, because it helps us understand an important principle. You see, back then the genitive case was use to express a PARTIAL thing.  At the dinner table Greeks would use this case to say, “I hunger for part of that loaf of bread.” or “I thirst for some of that pitcher of water.” Or, “Please pass the mashed potatoes. I’d like some more of them.”

But in this beatitude these Greek words are in the ACCUSATIVE case, which changes it to mean we must hunger and thirst not for PARTIAL righteousness, but for THE WHOLE THING!  So, Jesus was saying, “Blessed are those people who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, complete righteousness.”  We’re talking about people who HUNGER to be completely pure - righteous - CLEAN before God.

On our last day in Kenya - en route to the airport - Cathie took us to see baby elephants at a refuge for these little pachyderms who had been orphaned by poachers. It was so much fun to see these little guys running around playing and eating - but one thing we learned is that they keep cool by throwing dust and mud on themselves - and since we were close enough to touch them, we got dust and mud on us as well.

Cathie also wanted us to meet one more Amani Ya Ju family - so our next stop was way outside of the city. We went to the home where one of the Amani women grew up. They had a farm where they grew coffee, corn, avocados, all kinds of crops. The sun was high and hot that day - and I sweated profusely as we walked around the farm. Walking through all those crops raised a lot of dust and all of us got coated with it - on top of the “elephant dust.” This is a picture of Hugh and Caleb standing in the dirt with our gift for the family - or one of them - a bunch of bananas. You can see that red dirt!

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with this Godly, loving family. And it was a blast to see those elephants. But when we got to the airport, I mopped my brow with my hanky - and it came back red. I realized I was even more dirty than I felt. I couldn’t stand the thought of a 9   -   hour flight coated with red dirt so once we checked our bags I went in the bathroom - and used three of the large moist towelettes I had brought along to clean up as best I could. I washed until the cloth was not red. That enabled me to get through the flight - but the first thing I wanted to do when we got home was to get a long hot shower - lots of soap. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever been sweaty and dirty and yearned to be clean? Maybe it was after camping a few days - and you long for a time to wash the dirt and bugs off. Maybe it was after attempting to change your grand   -   child’s diaper and let’s just say things didn’t say contained - and as soon as you had him or her settled you cleaned up.

Well, Jesus is saying that the people who have their hunger for God’s approval satisfied - are those people who see the need for a SPIRITUAL cleansing. They realize they are fallen, flawed - STAINED with sin - and they long to be made clean again. They long for - are ravenously hungry for - the sinless state that Adam and Even enjoyed before the fall.

Sadly, many people don’t think this way. They content themselves with a partial righteousness. To use my red dust example - for them just a wipe or two from a hanky is enough. They say, “I’m not perfect, but I’ve never robbed a bank.” “I may not be the best husband or wife in the world, but hey, I’ve never committed adultery.”  Well, in this flight lesson, Jesus is saying that doesn’t do it. There’s no such thing as PARTIAL righteousness. There are not gradients of purity or cleanliness. You’re clean or you’re not. No - to be completely satisfied, to get God’s approval we must hunger for complete righteousness.  We must strive not to be happy, but absolutely holy, pure in thought, word, and deed.

II. Jesus was talking about Deep Desire

A second thing I want you to note is that Jesus was talking about a deep, desperate DESIRE.

The word we translate as thirst is “dipsao” and that’s what it means - it’s referring to an insatiable thirst.  As I said “peinao” means to be ravenous with hunger. These are the strongest Greek words possible when it comes to hunger or thirst.  Like someone lost in a desert for days - LONGING for food and water - that’s the word picture here.  I mean - Jesus was talking about an INTENSE desire for a right relationship with God.

Fortunately, most of us don’t know what it means to have this kind of desire when it comes to hunger or thirst. We have never experienced deep hunger - we’ve never thirsted - REALLY thirsted. Thanks to this bountiful land God has blessed us with hunger and thirst is never an intense thing.  But that’s not what it was like for the people who sat on the mountainside and heard this sermon. No. Back then the typical working man in Palestine almost never had a full belly. As hard as he labored, he still made barely enough to survive. He would have eaten meat only once a week, if that. The people who heard this sermon were never far from the borderline of real hunger and actual starvation. Thirst for them was even more of an issue. They didn’t have faucets in their homes. There was no such thing as a drinking fountain. There were no bottled beverages readily available in the fridge. There were no fridges! No, these people were thirsty all the time, especially after journeys like they had taken to hear Jesus that day.

So, understand, for them food and water were necessities, not luxuries. Both were used carefully and never wasted. The owning of a well and the cultivating of a field were matters of life and death. These Greek words that are used here in Matthew’s gospel reflect this, so, the hunger that this beatitude describes is no mild hunger that would be satisfied with a granola bar or a Twinkie.

And the thirst Jesus is talking about here is not a thirst that could be slaked with a cold glass of iced tea.  No, in this beatitude Jesus was talking about the hunger of a man who is starving, and the thirst of an individual on the edge of complete dehydration, desperate for a drink of water. In other words, He’s saying the people who are satisfied - people who gain God’s approval are those who DESPERATELY want to be right with God. They yearn for it, long for it! They know that their lives depend on it!

In his book, The Last Crusade, Major V. Gilbert talks about part of the British liberation of Palestine in World War I. He writes, “Driving up from Beersheba, a combined force of British, Australians, and New Zealanders were pressing on the rear of the Turkish retreat over arid desert. The attack out   -   distanced its water   -   carrying camel train. Water bottles quickly emptied.

The sun blazed pitilessly out of a sky where the vultures wheeled expectantly.  Our heads ached, and our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare, our tongues began to swell, our lips turned a purplish black and burst. Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. You see, there were wells at Sheria, and we knew if we been unable to take that place by nightfall, thousands of us would have died of thirst.

So, we fought that day as men fight for their lives and we were victorious. Entering Sheria 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 water. We lined up in formation and waited our turn to drink. First the sick and wounded, then unit by unit. It took four hours before the last man was able to drink. Standing there at attention in that blazing heat all that time we could hear the water, smell it. I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on that march from Beersheba to Sheria wells. If such were our thirst for God, for righteousness, for His will in our life, a consuming, all   -   embracing preoccupying desire, how rich the fruits of the Spirit would be.” Major Gilbert is right.

If more of us yearned for God’s will, if more of us truly longed to live righteous lives - lives that gain His approval - this world would be a different place!  But please understand, this beatitude is not just a statement. No, it is more of a question and a challenge. In essence it says, “How much do you want goodness? How much do you want to be right with God? Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food, as much as a man who stumbles out of the desert with a sunburned face, cracked lips, and a parched throat wants water? How intense, how strong, is your desire to be completely right with God?”  Are you like the Psalmist who said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, Oh God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1   -   2)  Are you like King David who wrote, “Oh God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

What about it? Have you come to realize that what you really need in life - desperately need in life - is to be completely right with God?  To be pure in His eyes?  If the answer is yes, then you are a blessed person indeed because as God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart!”

And that brings us back to what I said a moment ago.  I mean, I hope “being right with God” no longer seems like a cliché to you. I hope you see it - sense it - as a reality. And the only way to be right with God, the only way to have our sins forgiven so that we can have the kind of intimate day   -   today relationship with God that we were designed for - the kind of relationship Adam and Eve originally had, is through faith in Jesus Christ - and that’s the main thing Jesus was getting at that day.

III. He came to Express the Purpose of Satisfying the Inner Hunger

He was telling the people on that hill side - and us - that He came for the express purpose of SATISFYING this desperate inner hunger and thirst that all people have.

In John 6:35   -   36 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”

In John 6:51 He said, “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

In John 4:13   -   14 He said, “Whoever drinks water will get thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. It will become in him a spring of living water.”

In all these statements Jesus is saying “I’m it. I’m what you are looking for. What you really need to live is Me. Only I can meet your need for more than this world has to give. Only I can make you clean - PURE - right with God.”

Today is Pentecost Sunday - the day Christians around the world celebrate the day God gave His children the gift of His constant presence. Because of Pentecost we can know God personally intimately through the power of His spirit. We can enjoy a RIGHT relationship with our Creator. And this was made possible by Jesus’ coming to die in our place. His blood shed on the cross has the power to wash away our sin.

In his book, The Applause of Heaven, Max Lucado recounts a story of two of the survivors of the earthquake that hit Armenia on December 7, 1988.  It was the worst earthquake in that nation’s history and left more than 55,000 victims.  Two of the survivors of that horrible catastrophe were Susanna Petroysan and her four   -   year   -   old daughter, Gayaney. They were in an apartment on the 5th floor but when the earthquake hit they ended up buried in the basement of the nine   -   story apartment house. After hours of being trapped in the darkness, Gayaney said, “Mommy, I need a drink. Please give me something.”  But, there was nothing for Susanna to give her little girl. She was trapped flat on her back.  A concrete panel eighteen inches above her head and a crumpled water pipe above her shoulders kept her from standing.  But feeling around in the absolute darkness, she found a twenty   -   four ounce jar of blackberry jam that had fallen into the basement.

She gave the entire jar to her daughter to eat. It was gone by the second day and Gayaney continued to beg for more - especially for something to drink. Now, Susanna believed she would die, but she wanted her daughter to live - so she did all she could to try and preserve her life. She found a dress, and used it to make a bed for Gayaney. Even though it was bitter cold, she took off her own stockings and wrapped them around the child to keep her warm. The two were trapped for eight days and every day her daughter continued to beg for something to drink - and at some point in those long hours of pitch darkness Susanna had an idea.  She remembered a TV program about an explorer in the Arctic who was dying of thirst.  His comrade slashed open his hand and gave his friend his blood to drink. She said, “I had no water, no fruit juice, no liquids. It was then that I remembered I had my own blood.” Her groping fingers, numb from the cold, found a piece of shattered glass. She sliced open her left index finger and gave it to her daughter to suck. The drops of blood weren’t enough. Not understanding what this would do to her mom, in desperation little Gayaney cried, “Please mommy, I want some more. Cut another finger.” Susanna has no idea how many times she cut herself. She only knows that if she hadn’t Gayaney would have died. Her blood was her daughter’s only hope.


The fact is Jesus’ blood is our only hope. It was shed to satisfy our desperately intense longing - thirst - hunger - to be completely right with God.  Do you remember Jesus’ words at the last supper?  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” (1st Corinthians 11:25)  This claim must have puzzled the apostles. Of course, they had been taught the story of the Passover wine. They knew it symbolized the lamb’s blood that the Israelites, enslaved long ago in Egypt, had painted on the doorposts of their homes. That blood had kept death from their homes and saved their firstborn. It had helped deliver them from the Egyptians. For thousands of generations the Jews had observed the Passover by sacrificing lambs like this. Every year the blood would be poured, and every year the deliverance would be celebrated. The law called for the spilling of the blood of a lamb. That would be enough to fulfill the law. But it would not be enough to take away sin because as Hebrews 10:4 says, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Sacrifices like this could offer temporary solutions, but only God could offer the eternal one. So He did. Beneath the rubble of a fallen world, He pierced His hands. In the wreckage of a collapsed humanity He ripped open His side.  His children were trapped so He gave His blood.  As Jesus said in John 6:37, “If anyone is thirsty let him come and drink.”

As we come to our time of invitation, let me ask you: have you drunk deeply from the Spring of Living Water and fed on the Bread of Life or are your still feeding on things that do not satisfy? This morning as we’ve studied this beatitude - have you come to realize that what you really need in life is to radically change your diet, to stop feeding on pleasure or performance or possessions?  Then, why not accept Jesus’ invitation to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger by claiming the forgiveness for sin that He offers freely through His death on the cross?

Why not make the commitment this morning to give Him complete control of your life? Do that, because that’s the only way to be satisfied. That’s what your heart longs for.  That’s what you’re missing. That’s why you’re still hungry. If you’ve made that decision already, if you are a Christian but you’ve lost the joy of your salvation let me ask you - could it be due to the fact that you’ve been stunting your appetite for the Kingdom of God with the empty calories of this world?  Could your lack of fulfillment in life stem from the fact that you’ve been drinking from the world’s wells?  If so, then this morning commit to stop that, re   -   affirm your commitment to be in the center of God’s will every day.  If God is leading you to make a public decision, now is the time to do it. Come forward to ask for prayer or to confess your faith in Jesus, or to join this church family. Come now as God leads.

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