In his book Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey recounts the story of some early Spanish sailors who reached the continent of South America after an arduous voyage. “The caravel sailed into the headwaters of the Amazon, an expanse of water so wide the sailors presumed it to be a continuation of the Atlantic Ocean. It never occurred to them to drink the water, since they expected it to be saline, and as a result some of these sailors died of thirst. That scene of men dying of thirst even as their ships floated on the world’s largest source of fresh water has become for me a metaphor for our age. Some people starve to death spiritually while all around them manna rots.”
Some people starve to death spiritually while all around them manna rots.
Two further tragedies are implied in that observation. One, starving people do not know where to turn when they are hungry. Two, among those starving, thirsting people are many who are unaware of their deadly condition.
Thus, here is a question to measure the condition of your soul: with what are you attempting to satiate your most basic passions and needs? Notice the questions that are not asked.
I do not ask, “Are you hungry?” All men are hungry (2 Cor. 5:2-4; Num. 23:10). That hunger is God-given, but it is not always God-directed. Nor do I ask, “Are you eating and drinking?” All men feed and water their souls. Some choose to feed themselves with the righteousness (Mt. 5:6) and truth of God. Others choose to satisfy themselves on self-seeking pleasures (Is. 55:2; Lk. 12:16ff; Js. 4:1-2).
So the heart question (the one that will reveal the nature of your current spiritual condition) is: what are you eating?
You know the “religious” answer, don’t you? We eat the Word of God (Mt. 4:4). We love the Lord (Mk. 12:30). But is God truly your deepest passion? What do you think of as you fall asleep and wake up? What motivates what you do? What is the driving force behind the checks you write every day? What do you read? Where do you surf on the Internet? Who are your friends (or who do you want to be your friends)? What occupies your thoughts in your idle time? These desires reveal your deepest passions and longings.
Recognize this also. Not only is your thirst God-given, not only is your thirst most fully satisfied in God, but God has made you thirsty so that He could satisfy you. God longs to be your greatest joy. John Piper says it well: “God is most glorified [revealed] in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Others will see God in us most fully when we take our greatest delights in Him. How great is His grace? He has created us with a longing that will give us satisfaction beyond our comprehension (at least until we arrive in glory).
The psalmist says it perfectly well:
“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9; NASB)
So rejoice in your hunger. Revel in your passions! And fill yourself up with Christ. How do we do that? Take time to listen to Him (meaning that we not only read His Word, but we also think on it, mull it over in our minds, and appropriate it to our hearts). And don’t argue with what God says about you and to you (Js. 1:19-20) — His Word is designed to change and transform you (2 Tim. 3:16). Accept the discipline of God when it comes; it is His grace to you (Heb. 12:11). Consciously appropriate and use the armor He has given for your protection (Eph. 6:14ff). And follow people (and read the writings of people) who are obviously and overtly and sincerely following Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), realizing that there are precious few of these people.
All men are hungry. All men eat. Unfailing satisfaction is only for those who constantly fill themselves at the table of God.