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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Hungering and Thirsting for God - Part 1

Charles Stanley - Hungering and Thirsting for God - Part 1


Charles Stanley - Hungering and Thirsting for God - Part 1
Charles Stanley - Hungering and Thirsting for God - Part 1

Have you ever stood in front of the refrigerator (it could be full or half full or maybe a little less) and tried to find something to eat? Now sometime it's full and you just stand there with the door open, and you just keep lookin' and looking and looking. And it's not that there's nothing there. There's just so much there you can't make up your mind. And so, finally, you choose a few things and since you don't really find anything you really and truly think will satisfy you. You just pick up a little bit of this that and the other. And so, what do you do? You spend the rest of the evening snacking here and snacking there getting a little fatter here, a little less dissatisfied over here. And what happens is when the night's over, you've eaten a pile of junk but you're not happy about it and you're not satisfied. It's just what you chose.

Well, you know, that's the way a lot of people are living. They're looking around. They'll choose a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of the other, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And you know what's happening? What's going on is simply this: That while they may be satisfying their hungers temporarily, it's not satisfying them. Because, you see, God created us with hungers. He created with us a hunger, for example, for many things in life. And so, when you think about hunger and thirst, they certainly are creations of God. That's the way our body continues to live. If there was no food, no water, we couldn't live long. Especially with water. And so, when you think about what make what satisfies your physical appetite, a number of things. What satisfies your spiritual appetite? And the question is: Do you even really have a spiritual appetite?

I want you to turn, if you will, to Psalm 42. And I just want us to read two verses here. Two verses in Psalm 42. And listen to what David says as he thought about his own life and what was happening at this particular time. Let me give you a little background. He's away from Jerusalem at this point and may be the time when Absalom had sort of won the people over and he had driven his own father away. And no doubt he had seen this and experienced this a number of times because he starts this chapter off by talking about a deer panting. And, you know, when an animal pants, if you've ridden a horse or... none of us have ridden any deer, but if you've ridden a horse you can, when he's been running you can seem him panting; you can sort of feel what he's feeling.

And so, more than likely David had seen this at some stream or a pond somewhere. And while he was watching that, he probably thought about this and later on to write it. Here's what he said in verse one of Psalm 42: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, So, my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God". And more than likely when he saw that at this particular time in his life, he was thirsting and hungering and yearning for things to be right. And knowing in his own heart that there was great trouble all around him. And he knew within his own heart that what he needed most of all was his relationship to the Lord. And knowing in his heart that that was the key to everything, here's what he said: Just like the deer pants at the water brook thirsty, exhaustive, probably fleeing from something that had tried to attack him and now he finds a little rest.

And he says: So, Lord my soul pants for You, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? And I want us to think about this whole issue this morning of hungering and thirsting for God. And if I should ask you this morning: Do you have a hunger for God? Do you have a real thirst for God? Then if I ask you to sort of give me a little idea of what you do all day long, seven days a week, you could probably answer that better than I could, whether you do or whether you do not. Now listen, it's never my purpose to be critical. I just want to ask you to be honest. Because there've been some times in my life when I'd have to admit: No, God, my heart's not panting after You. And so, I think that can happen to any of us.

And I want us to think about this whole idea of hungering and thirsting after God. Do you remember when you first met your husband or your wife before you were married, and you really did love each other dearly? And you knew you were gonna get married, and you couldn't wait for a telephone call? Or you couldn't wait to see her or him when you were going out on a date? And there was a real longing in your heart to see them and you thought about them all during the day. And you just listened for the phone to ring; hoping it would ring. And then Valentine's came along, and you were so excited because you knew that he was going to express his love towards you in some fashion, and because you loved him so much, you just couldn't wait? You know what was happening? There was something going on inside of you. That man had your attention. Or she had your attention.

And I wonder how often we can say that about God? About our Heavenly Father? About the Lord Jesus Christ? And so, I want us to think about this whole idea of hungering and thirsting after God. And this is the first of two messages on this. And I want us to think, first of all: What do you mean by hungering and thirsting after God? Well, when I read this passage and listen to what he says, he says like a deer pants at the water brook. And so, you say well what is a hungering and thirsting after God? And what I want you to do is to examine your heart. Nobody's being critical. Examine your heart to say: Lord, I do, or I don't. Because, you see, there're a lot of people who sit in church week after week who are very lukewarm. They're lukewarm. In other words, they've decided how much of their lives God's gonna get and how much they're gonna keep for themselves.

But listen. When he says: As the deer pants for the water brook, so my soul does what? Yearns for you, God. Thirsts for you, Lord. There's a deep, abiding sense of desire that's so strong. And it's an insatiable desire. It is that deep yearning and desire that is so deep and so strong it governs your thinking. You see, it's a holy kind of hunger. It's a divine kind of thirst. It is something that God places within our hearts. And so, when you think about it, what it is, it's a passion for God. Now you see people who have passions for different things. There are passions for people. There are passions for maybe some sport. Or they have passions for, uh, whatever their vocation may be. But that is this deep, yearning, hungering, thirsting desire to accomplish or to achieve or to become something, whatever it might be.

In fact, it's a feeling that can sometimes be so uncomfortable because that desire is so strong. You want to touch God. You want to feel Him. You want to see Him. It's almost a dissatisfaction that comes in our life because we can't get enough. We can't see enough. We can't understand enough. And a hungering and thirsting for God is something inside of us that God has placed there. And, when you think about it, it's ever increasing. That is, let's put it this way, when you have a hunger and thirst for God, there is something goes on inside of you that cannot be set aside for something else. That is, it isn't something that's sort of here today and not there tomorrow. A genuine hunger and thirst for God is very evident. And next week what I want to talk about is the evidences of when it's there and when it's not there in our life so we can be a little bit more sure.

But now I think about what he said: As the deer pants for the water book, so pants my heart after you, dear God. Now, what we're saying is it's a desire to know Him on a level that is deeply, deeply intimate. It's a dissatisfaction of what we do know, and a longing to know more. But it isn't just to know about God. It's to know Him personally. I believe that God wants to be loved. He wants to be known. He wants to give of Himself. He wants to deal with us in a very intimate way. And far too many people are just willing to have a shallow understanding of who God is. So, let's think about this matter for a moment and think about the fact that this hunger is the source of it's from God.

Now I want you to think about something. When does this hunger come into a person's life? We would normally say when you trust Jesus as your Savior. But I believe it's before that. I believe that when a person is born into this world. Remember there's a state. There's a season of in a young child's life when they're absolutely innocent. And nobody can tell when someone else reaches past that stage. But I do believe that God places in every single human being a desire for Himself.

Now listen carefully. You say, "Well if God creates in a child's heart a desire for Him, then why don't we all feel that"? Here's the reason. There are probably a couple of things. For example, let's say that a child grows up in a home where the parents are Christians. They love the Lord. The Bible's on the table. They see them read it. They hear them pray, and all the rest. It doesn't take very long for that child to realize that God is somebody real to my parents, and so, therefore, I want to know Him. And so, what God placed in that child, listen carefully, is nurtured very early, that you can know this God and have a relationship with Him.

Now let's take a child who grows up in a home where the parents never think about God; don't talk about God. No church. No Bible. No nothing. They don't want to watch anything on TV or listen to the radio. Nothing that has to with God whatsoever. Does that child have a hunger in their heart for God? The hunger is there for God because God placed it there, but it is never, listen, it is never identified. And the child doesn't know that. And so, what happens? That child grows up and what happens is that child directs their attention to the things of the world because that's what their parents do. That's what other people do. And so, therefore, the God-given hunger placed in every heart at some point in life, a person chooses, listen, having understand the things of God to follow the Lord, or they choose to follow the world.

And so, this is why I say to parents: Very important you teach your children very early in life by example, first of all, and then by precept and principle, who God is; how He works in our life, and the fact that He desires a personal, intimate relationship with us. And so, when you think about what David said: My heart, He says, "My heart pants after You, O Lord my God". In fact in Isaiah 43:21, look at that passage for a moment. Isaiah forty-three, twenty-one. And listen to what he says about his people. Forty-three, twenty-one. And then I just want to give you a little personal experience. Forty-three, twenty-one. And You'll notice in the twenty-first verse he says: "The people whom I formed for Will declare My praise".

That is, God made you and me for Himself. Every single one of us is created for God. And because we are created for Him, He wants us for Himself to love Him and to cherish Him and to honor Him and to obey Him and to serve Him. That's what we're here for. Why else did God create you? Just to have a good time in life? No, can you have a good time in life and be a Christian? Absolutely. Have the best time. He created us for Himself. And therefore, because He created us for Himself, what we have to ask is this: Lord, what are you doing in my life? What part do you play in my life? In other words, is He really is He really the central focus of your thinking? There's somebody, if you'd ask the average parent, what's the most important thing in your life? My children. I understand that. It's just not the right answer. Or my husband. Or my wife. Not the right answer.

The most important thing in every single one of our lives is a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. God Himself. And what we have to ask is: Where does our interest lie? That is, what are our appetites for? What is it that you want in life above everything else? He says, "As the deer pants for the water brook, so pants my soul for you, dear Lord". Now God's given us many, many gifts in life and many things that you and I can enjoy. And there's nothing wrong with those desires and drives that He's given us in life as long as they are kept in their proper perspective. But here's what happens. And you and I have seen this. God begins to bless someone financially, for example. Before long, they've grown totally lukewarm and drop out of the church. At one time they had a real desire. They loved God. They desired Him. They wanted to be what God wanted Him to be, and somehow, they couldn't handle the blessing.

And when you think about the fact that God has made us for Himself. That the most important thing in your life and my life today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, the last day of our life, is our personal relationship to Him. He desires that you and I hunger and thirst for Him. So, let's think about the whole idea of what's the nature what is the real, what's a little bit comprehensive nature of this idea? Well, first of all, we said it's implanted in your heart by God. It's been there since you came into this world. And some of us were godly enough and our parents were godly enough, and my mother, very, very early in my life before I can ever remember, she had the Bible out, and she was praying, and she was talking to me and talking to God in front of me.

So, it was very early in my life I didn't have to figure that out later on in life and I was fortunate. And by the age of twelve, in fact, I can't even remember when I did not want to do what God wanted me to do. Now I wasn't saved till I was twelve, but there was something there. You know what was there? What He's placed in every person's heart. I just happened to have a mother who was directing that yearning in the right direction. And I think about it, as we've said before, millions of kids whose parents never even think about it. So, they come along and they try to spend their whole lives trying to fill it up with something that'll satisfy. Only God, through His Son Jesus Christ, is gonna satisfy us. So, it is a God-given gift. It's the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He's the one who creates this desire for God. You and I can't boast of that. It's a God-given desire, the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Then when I think about, for example, what happens when the Holy Spirit begins to work and He creates this desire in the life of a believer, here's what you'll do: You'll either ignore that and go after some more of this or more of him or more of her when God's trying to direct your life to Him. When you start hungering and thirsting for God, I guarantee you this, now I've lived long enough, and I've lived through enough to say to you by personal experience when you have Jesus Christ and you have a hunger and thirst in your heart for Him, you can be happy; you can be content with or without. You can have a joy that's indescribable. You can have a sense of peace for which you cannot explain. You are no longer lonely.

There's a sense of fullness and completeness and joy in your heart, why? Because you have a hunger and a thirst for the God Who created you with that in you so that you'd live your life hungering and thirsting and yearning after Him. And I have never met anybody in my entire life who did not want peace; who did not want joy; who didn't want to be happy. All of those are desires of our hearts. They don't come by having this and having that and having him and having her. They come by, listen, falling in love with the Lord God Himself through His Son Jesus Christ and allowing Him to pour into us Himself. When you have a desire to know Him, a hunger and thirst to know Him. When God is working in your life, there is a tranquility and a contentment no matter what kind of a situation you're in. You may be in a bad marriage or a bad relationship in your business and so forth.

And you think, well, how can I be content with this going on? I'll tell you how. When you have a hunger and thirst for God that brings you to His Word; brings you to talk to Him; brings you to share your heart, you're gonna have a contentment and a peace that this world can't understand. Why? Because our Father, who said He created us for Himself, is there to fill you up, no matter what you're facing in life. So, as you think about it, I think about, for example, that it's certainly not, this is not a once and for all experience. Well, I'm now hungering and thirsting for God. No, because the truth is God is absolutely, listen, He's phathomless. He's infinite. There will never come a time in your life and mine when we would not be hungering and thirsting after Him if we are walking in His will.

How much will we ever begin to understand about God in this life? Who knows? And probably you understand a lot more than you thought you would at some point in your life. But you know what? There's so much more to learn about Him. The experience of being loved by Him and coming to that conclusion. The experience of knowing Him. And not just knowing Him, but experiencing Him. And I look back and sometimes I go back and read my diaries and I think about Lord, is that as far along as I was in those days. And I think about how I thought and the things that I prayed for that I don't even pray for those things anymore or even about them anymore. And I can also read my struggles to trust Him.

And think about when I write and when I wrote what I was delving into and what I was struggling with and could I trust Him and I was saying, God, please, and I'm just gonna trust You and on and on and on things that never even cross my mind today. Because a hungering, thirsting, yearning for God is a progressive thing. It's something that begins and then you move on. You say "what makes it grow"? Here's what makes it grow. When you begin to hunger for God, and it begins to affect the way you live, you know what God does? He just creates a deeper hunger. It's an insatiable hunger. It's, listen, ultimately, it's never satisfied. What a spiritual paradox. We say if you hunger and thirst after God, it'll satisfy every desire of your heart. And on the other hand, we say but you're never satisfied.

But here's the difference. You're satisfied with Him. You're never satisfied with enough of Him. It's this insatiable hunger for Him that you want to know more, experience more. And if I should say to you this morning: How many of you would like to have a real, strong, genuine, undeniable, inescapable, overwhelming, powerful awareness of the presence of God in your life? Why, every single one of us would. Well, let me ask you a question. How badly do you want it? Do you want it strongly enough to lie down at nighttime and say, Lord, speak to my heart? Lord, do whatever's necessary so that you really and truly are the most important person and thing in my life. He may have to take something away from you. You have to ask yourself the question: What am I clinging to? What am I holding onto? What's more important than that relationship with Him?

Hungering and thirsting after God means you have a yearning, a deep, abiding desire, listen, that can't really be fulfilled. And on the other hand, it can. It's progressive. It keeps moving. And you see, what is spiritual maturity? Spiritual maturity is growing in our relationship. And so, if I should say to you are you are you a mature Christian? I wouldn't tell anybody I was mature, that I'm a mature Christian. Because, you see, I'm not too sure I know exactly what that would involve. From my viewpoint I may think, well I'm pretty mature. But if I looked at it from God's perspective, He'd say, man, you're just a child. Here's what you need. Here's what you need in your life. So, I would never say that. But this much I do know. I'm making progress. You can make progress. But to make progress, you've got to deal with those things that clutter for up your life.

For example, one thing about having a hunger and thirst for God is, you know what's happening? He's central in your life all day long. You don't, in other words, if you have a hunger and thirst for Him, there's no point during the day you say, I need to go somewhere and pray because, there's nothing wrong with praying. I'm all for that. Because if you have a hunger and thirst for God, you're gonna wanna pray. But here's what happens. You're not gonna limit it to some point, some time, or some incident. In other words, praying no longer becomes what happens in your life because you have a need. Prayer is just what you do. It's who you are. It's like you live with your husband or wife. You don't have to make a big concerted effort to say: Tonight, I love you, dear. No, because, you know what? You're always expressing it. You express it in different ways. The way you touch him or her. The way you speak to them. Or the things you remember. The things you do. And so it is with God.

We don't have to make a big issue out of it. It's just the fact that when we have a hungering, thirsting, yearning desire for Him, He's always central in our life. Now there's lots of competition in our lives. And I simply want to ask you to start thinking in your life about this: You get up tomorrow morning, and the world begins again, but what happens if you stop and say, Lord, today I want you to draw me to Yourself. I want to experience an intimacy with you that I've not experienced before. Lord, here's what I have to do. These are things that I see that I have to do today. I want you to be so real to me that, while I'm doing these, I'm aware of Your presence. Stir up that hunger within me. Create a deeper desire for you in my heart. And Lord, when you see me being attracted, or something appealing to me that would draw me away from You, draw me back. Help me to understand. Draw me back. Draw me close to Yourself. Draw me back to Yourself. Don't let me waiver. Don't let me wander. But create within me such a desire for You that it absolutely controls my conversation and my conduct all day long. You think He won't answer that prayer? He will answer that prayer.
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