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Are You Hungry Or Are You Full?




In this 4th beatitude, Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount that, if we follow it, will build a happy life.

These beatitudes are not just nice little snippets to make us feel good. These are what some have called the "Be-happy attitudes." They are presented to provide the keys to genuine joy.

Once we have recognized our need (that we are poor in spirit), once we have repented of our sin (we have mourned) and released our lives over to his control (we became meek), we are then, and only then, ready to seek genuine and lasting satisfaction.

The first three beatitudes taught us our need to depend completely on God. We are taught that we have to empty ourselves – that is, we empty ourselves OF ourselves.

Jesus says, "Now that you’re empty, here’s the starving that satisfies. Here’s how to be filled:" "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled (or satisfied)." Now, a correct and deep understanding of what Jesus is saying here is essential.


What exactly does Jesus mean when He says, "hunger and thirst?" You know, most Americans don’t really know what it means to be really hungry. Most of the time when I think I am hungry, all that is really happening is I want something to eat.

But we don’t know what it means to be without food or drink for days on end. We don’t experience longing for just the tiniest bit of nourishment.

But that’s the kind of hunger & thirst that Jesus is referring to. The way Jesus says it means an abnormal desire for food and drink. The words He uses are the strongest that can be employed to describe hunger and thirst.

When we are hungry and thirsty in the way Jesus describes, it changes our point of view on the subject of what hunger and thirst really are.


One story about the sinking of the Titanic is about a wealthy woman who was about to get on a lifeboat and said, "Wait, I forgot something!" The mate told her she had 3 minutes. She ran back to her stateroom, past the money strewn about in the casino, past the antique glassware in the dining room; she reached over her diamonds and gold jewelry on her dresser and ran back to the lifeboat clutching four oranges that she had saved from lunch.

That’s the hunger and thirst  Jesus is talking about. The kind that changes our perspective and position. Our longing for righteousness is to be as a starving person who desires food and as someone desperately in need of a thirst-quenching drink of water.

 This is not a casual desire or the growling stomach we sometimes experience between meals. This hunger and this thirst are the kinds that come from desperation.

And that "something" we must be desperate for is righteousness.

What exactly is Jesus talking about? What does he mean by “righteousness?”

The word Jesus uses here can have a couple of meanings -  one I would think is a secondary definition and one a primary one, but both have relevance.

The first definition for this word, righteousness, would mean right living or living rightly. In the Greek culture, the word Jesus used here described a man who constantly observed his duty to the gods and to men.

It was a word of passion... a passion to do the right thing no matter what. It describes someone who will take great risks, even do what some might think wrong or crazy, in order to keep the wrong thing from happening.

The kind of passion Jesus is talking about here is in its simplest sense --- righteousness is absolute obedience.

We are to hunger and thirst for our lives to be in line with God’s design no matter what.

James 4:17 tells us that knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is just as wrong as doing the incorrect act. So, here, righteousness means doing the right living or doing the right thing.

The second, and I think, primary meaning of "righteousness" is one that we do not think about often. It is this meaning that we so desperately need.

For "dikaisoune," the Greek word for righteousness that Jesus uses here has to do with more than doing the right thing, but rather emphasizes having a right relationship.

We are to be intensely longing for a relationship with Him. The action form of the word means "to justify."

It means recognizing that God has justified us or accepted us into a relationship with Him even though we do not deserve such a relationship.

This new relationship was offered at the cross, where Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins.

You see, as long as we see our relationship to Jesus just as a commitment of obligation, as just doing the right thing, living a life of duty, we will never find the satisfaction that is promised here.

Jesus doesn’t just want the right living; He desires the right relationship.

The problem with only looking at doing the right thing is when we fail. We see God as a stern lawgiver. And as long as we think of God as the stern lawgiver, there will always be a distance between us. We will be estranged from Him. Fear will even be a part of the relationship.

But once we know God is ready to accept us, to love us, and to forgive us just as we are, the distance is replaced by intimacy. The estrangement is replaced by love, and the fear is erased by grateful trust.

God has always, always emphasized our intimacy with him over just obedience to rules.

For example. He says, in John 14:15- "If you love me, obey My commandments."

Eph.2:8-9: "For we are saved by grace, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast."

Sometimes people stop there, but verse:10 is just as important:

 "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Do you see the relationship there? He saved us by His grace, and we now serve Him, not purely out of cold commitment or obligatory obedience, but because we are so grateful to have been saved by the sacrifice of Jesus.

We must always remember that  Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. And Jesus says, “If you want to be satisfied, if you want to be filled, then passionately, intensely, above anything else, long for a right relationship with Me."

Now, you say, "Well, that makes sense, but how can I know if I am really hungering for righteousness the way Jesus says?”

We always want a way to measure things. Is there a way to measure our hunger and thirst for righteousness? There is.

Measure yourself by your longings. What are you passionate about?

Now, we must understand - there are times we will long for the wrong things, and we won’t always do everything right.

But Jesus is saying here that an increased longing for him and a decreased longing for the wrong things is what will bring us to the point where we’re filled.

You see, our walk with Jesus is not measured by perfection. It is measured by progress. Notice Jesus doesn’t say, "Blessed are those who always live right," but rather, "who long rightly."

Your relationship with Him should be a growing one. You should be able to look back, say, five years ago, and say, "I’m closer to Him now than I was then." "I’m finding greater contentment in my life now than when I didn’t know Jesus.” If you can’t say that, maybe you are looking in the wrong places for your satisfaction.

People often long for things that will not satisfy them. Those things would include usual culprits such as power, pleasure, and prestige,  but let me briefly mention two that I think are the most relevant in our culture today.

The first wrong place where I think we look for satisfaction is in performance. Some people labor under the impression that happiness is based on achievement.

Ecclesiastes. 2:23- "What does a man get for all his hard work? Days full of sorrow and grief, and restless nights."

Here’s one to help you keep a proper perspective on your performance. From Ecclesiastes 2:21 "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."

 You see, there is this myth that "success produces satisfaction," and that is just not true. There are a great many people who appear to be "successful" people in the eyes of the world.. and yet, they are continually restless, discontented, and unsatisfied.


So, what is the key to happiness? The Bible tells us Psalms 37:4- "Seek your happiness in the Lord..." You see, this piece of the puzzle is gained when we stop looking for happiness and start looking for Him. Happiness is not found; it’s given.

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that happiness is a byproduct of seeking God. One of the great paradoxes of life is this: If you make happiness your goal, you’ll miss it. Genuine joy isn’t found by looking for it; it is given to you when you find God.

And notice that Jesus promises lasting satisfaction. The word He uses here for filled- "chor-taz-es-thai" means to be stuffed to the point of contentment.

It’s that word that would describe us when we say, “I can’t eat another bite.” So, this is not a temporary feeling.

Jesus is promising complete and full satisfaction. And yet there are so many people who are discontented with life, who are not satisfied.

I think, for some, that’s due to the fact that they’ve never heard about the radical search that Jesus gives here. Some who have heard it don’t know how to seek Him.

So, here are three things to do in order to hunger and thirst after Him... so we can be satisfied.

(1)   Recognize your real need.

The first thing you need to do is recognize your real hunger. What is it that is missing in my life?

God made us as spiritual beings. We were made in His image. We were created to love Him and know Him, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will fill that gap. Not people, not possessions, not prestige... nothing except knowing Him.

We must recognize that we are a spiritual being and that we must hunger for God.

In fact, the Bible teaches that God made hungering for him a necessity of life.

Duet. 8:3 is an interesting verse. The children of Israel had finally arrived in their land, Israel. Moses tells them, as they are about to enter, not to forget the Lord now that they are home and comfortable. And then he says: "He (God) humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna... He did it to help you realize that food isn’t everything and that real life comes by obeying every command of God."

Here’s the story behind that verse. The Jews were led by Moses out of Egypt, where they had been slaves for 400 years. He led them toward Israel, which meant they had to cross the desert.

When they finally arrived at the doorstep of their new land, they saw such obstacles (mighty cities, great armies) that they stopped trusting God, who had provided for them the entire trip, and they said they wouldn’t go in. So, God said, “You know what? If you won’t trust me after all I’ve done, then maybe you’re not ready for my reward. This untrusting generation is not going to enter the Promise land.” Because of their lack of trust, they had to turn around and wander in the wilderness for 40 years!

And folks, there are no McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Taco Bells in the desert. They got hungry. So, God provided a wafer-like bread, called manna, to feed them. But what I want you to notice is that the verse said, God caused them to get hungry! God allowed them to get hungry so that they would recognize their real need- that they needed Him.

God lets you get hungry, too! When someone says to you, "I’m really dissatisfied with my life," " I’m really miserable." You should say, "Good! Congratulations! Now, you can find out what God has wanted you to know all along. You need Him more than anyone or anything else!

God says, "Satisfaction is not in performance, pleasure, possessions, or people. It’s in me! I made you with a spiritual vacuum, and unless you fill it with Me, you will always be hungry."

2) Stop eating spiritual junk food.

Stop spending your energies and wasting the majority of your time on things of this world that really don’t satisfy.

Isaiah. 55:2- "Why do you spend money on what cannot nourish you and your wages on what does not satisfy? Consume what is good for your soul!"

In other words, put more energy into making your relationship with Jesus good and less on the things of this world.

Let me ask you some tough, priority questions.

  • What do you read the most?

  • What do you watch the most?

  • Who are those that you go to for advice?

If your answers to those questions are not Godly influences, then there is a problem.

Now, no one is saying to become so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good.

But what is the comparison between the worldly influences you are digesting and the Godly influences?

In Australia, there is the Nardoo plant, an edible clover fern that’s made into cakes. The nardoo is very tasty & sweet, but it contains no vitamins, no nutrients, and no carbohydrates. People who eat it like it and feel filled, but eventually, those who depend on it die.

The same is true here. No one is saying you have to give up the things you enjoy (as long as they are not destructive or hurtful to others), but make sure you’re giving proper priority to things like reading the Bible, talking to those who know God well, serving Him, sharing with others, etc.

If you begin to fill your life with positive spiritual things, you know what you’ll find. The more you get spiritually, the more you want spiritually. You’ll start longing for it.

Stop only eating spiritual junk food, things that fill but won’t satisfy.

How do you experience satisfaction?

  • Recognize your need.

  • Stop eating spiritual junk food.

The third thing we can do in order to hunger and thirst after Him is:

(3)   Start looking to Christ for your satisfaction 

Jesus says in John 6:35 - "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." That is Wonder Bread and Wonder Water, too! Jesus says, "I possess the ingredients of genuine life. What you need is me."

There are actually three stages of spiritual hunger.

(1)    I might want God in my life. This is the stage of the seeker, where you are curious, or you’ve been in the church, and you believe in God, but you still rely on yourself primarily. You haven’t gotten to stage 2.

(2)     I need God in my life. When you’re here, you are poor in spirit- you know that you are not good. You mourn over all the times you’ve broken Jesus’ heart, and you are ready, in meekness, to surrender to Him.

(3)     It’s time for many of us to say: “Today is the day I stop calling the shots, today is the day I stop filling my life with all the wrong things,” fall on my face and just say, “God I need You in my life!”

Then, finally, you come to the realization that I’ve got to have God in my life. “I cannot survive without Him. I’m on the road to misery and death without God. ”

There are a number of people who have been broken by a tragedy or adversity and finally come to the point where they understand their true needs. But doesn’t it make sense to grasp that truth without the horrible accident, the devastating diagnosis, or the trashed relationships?

Please understand. Your emptiness will not be filled by anything we can eat, nor  anything that promises us pleasure, or anything money can buy.

But Jesus can answer every one of them. Are you miserable? Are you discontented? Unhappy? If you are you can thank God for that. That is God bringing on that hunger. And satisfaction is just a decision away.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, (after Him) for they will be filled (completely satisfied.)"



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