“The Beatitudes” series: (post #4)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, N.K.J.V.)
I’ve been a pastor a long time, long enough to have learned some things about professing Christians. One of those things is: Not many of them hunger and thirst after righteousness. When you do come across such a person, you are actually taken aback by how much he or she stands out from the crowd. Your reaction is, “Wow, now that’s the way this Christianity thing is supposed to work. That’s the kind of person it’s set up to produce.”
I take no pleasure in reporting that a high percentage of professing Christians are only interested in living righteously enough to keep God from getting too ticked off at them. The time they spend in prayer is minimal. Their Bible study is barely a blip on the radar. They attend church only if all the planets align and nothing else comes up. They give sparingly and many times even begrudge that (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). They’ve never witnessed to anyone in their lives.
Even those who do better in some of these areas typically fall short when it comes to actually repenting of sins and making needed changes in their lives. I’ve known professing Christians who were at church every time the doors were open, but they were petty, bitter people who refused to forgive any perceived slight. I’ve known others who made prayer a vital part of their lives but didn’t mind engaging in premarital sex or “shacking up.” Others would give generously to the church but spend even more on alcohol or drugs. To all of these people, the idea of hungering and thirsting after righteousness was foreign. They had just enough religion to keep them at peace with themselves and certainly didn’t have a burning desire for anything more than that.
Imagine a man who hasn’t eaten for two days. He gets the opportunity to sit down at a buffet filled with delicious food. The way that man’s eyes dance over that food is the way the Christian’s eyes should dance over righteousness. The way that man craves that food is the way the Christian should crave righteousness.
Or, imagine a woman who has been stranded in the desert for hours. When she is rescued, a rescue worker hands her a bottle of water. At that moment, there is nothing on earth she wants more. That’s how the Christian should thirst after righteousness.
Christian, when you are obsessively hungering and thirsting after righteousness — when righteousness is what you are chasing in life — you won’t have to be goaded into coming to church. You won’t have to be begged to pray. Your pastor won’t have to chide you into Bible study. It won’t take a ten-sermon series on stewardship to get you to give generously. You won’t have to be coerced into telling others about Jesus and inviting them to church. All of that will come as naturally to you as breathing. It will flow effortlessly out of your hungering and thirsting for righteousness. 1 John 2:29 describes this as “practicing” righteousness:
If you know that He (God) is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him (1 John 5:1; John 3:1-8, N.K.J.V.).
Furthermore, Jesus promises that your pursuit of righteousness will not be in vain. He says you shall be filled. I see a two-fold meaning in this promise. First, it only makes sense that the more you devote your life to righteousness, the more righteousness will be exhibited in your life. Second, as for your eternal standing with God, the moment you realize that your life is stained by unrighteousness and you place your belief (faith) in Jesus as Savior, God actually imparts to you His spotless righteousness (Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Philippians 3:7-9). That is an even more important filling.
So, Christian, how hungry are you? How thirsty are you? Are you burdened enough about righteousness to do some repenting? Will you commit to moving up to a higher level of practicing righteousness in your daily life? When you get hungry and thirsty enough to actually make some changes in how you conduct yourself, you’ll find Jesus standing ready to help you. He’ll be right there with the never-ending buffet and bottomless well. Yes, you will be filled, no doubt about that. But never forget that no one can be filled who is already full enough to suit them.