“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
When we planted the church in Moscow, I didn’t want to do it. It’s not that I was opposed to starting something new, but I had a great job in a great church in a great community that we loved. We loved our house, the kids’ schools, and even our neighbors. We loved our life. We built the life we always hoped for.
Then, God began stirring, and I couldn’t shake it. Through a series of circumstances, I decided to fast and pray for the Lord’s leading. Early on in ministry, I told the Lord that I would go anywhere He wanted. I just needed to know it was Him. I made a promise, and I wasn’t about to break it — not a promise made to God, anyway.
When we began to fast, we set our ideas at forty days (a non-related number, but apparently that is what you do). When a Jesus follower needs to fast, forty is the number because that is what Jesus did in Matthew 4:
And when He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry.
I don’t think Matthew had to say the last part. Of course He was hungry. But have you ever fasted for an extended period of time? Have you ever really experienced that kind of hunger?
About five days into our fast, I was at a level of hunger that I had never experienced. They say that when you are on a fast, the hunger goes away after a couple of days. For me, that wasn’t true. On one hand, though, God was speaking in ways and with clarity that I have not experienced before or since.
It was very clear what God wanted even that short time into the fast, but the hunger was so intense for me. My stomach ached constantly. I was having trouble with my energy. I was tired and grouchy. All I could think about was food. It consumed me.
On day seven, I was up on a mountaintop at sunrise. Watching the sun come up over the mountain and listening to elk bugling in the distance, I was talking with the Lord about a lot of things, but mostly (in the fleeting seconds when I wasn’t thinking about chips and salsa) about where He would have me go and what he would have me do. I have no idea why chips and salsa, but that was my constant craving.
The Lord spoke two things to me that I will never forget. First He said, “Why are you still fasting? It is not like I am going to change my mind on day thirty.” Second, He gave me the verse in Mark where the disciples are trying to get Jesus to eat something because He has been so busy with the work of the ministry He’s doing. Jesus says to His guys, “I have food that you don’t even know about. My food is to do the will of my Father in heaven.”
All at once, it hit me. I want to hunger for the Lord the way I have hungered for food the past week. I had an insight into what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
I have been in the desert in Israel when it is 120+ degrees. I have had the parched sensation of what it feels like to be drained of all energy because of the thirst that consumes a person there. It reminds me of the Psalmist singing, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You.”
Paul said it this way: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
That moment when nothing — and I mean nothing — else matters in this world but that one single pursuit. That is what it feels like to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And you will be filled.
So may you be filled.