What Are You Hungry For?
Recently I received a letter in my e-mail inbox.
The writer, a woman I’ve never met, had been reading Spread the Fire and was apparently trying to stay open to receive everything God wanted for her. She was obviously a faithful churchgoer and also a friend of renewal who has been touched powerfully by the outpouring in Toronto. Her letter touched me.
“I’m tired,” she wrote, “of trying to...” and what followed was a familiar list of experiences and spiritual disciplines she had been taught to need. All of them had an element of truth and were aimed at making her a more fruitful Christian. None of these things satisfied true spiritual hunger!
They were things like fasting, interceding, giving my “best” gift, trying to access the third heaven, trying to have more faith, trying to see angels and trying to figure out what principality was holding back blessing. She was tired of hearing about who was or wasn’t an apostle or prophet and trying to be on the “cutting edge.” She was even tired of trying to seek signs and wonders and didn’t really want another personal prophecy. She ended by saying, “What I just really want is Jesus.”
SPIRITUAL HUNGER: A SIGN OF THE SEASON
Her spiritual hunger is a sign of a season we are living in now in between real revivals. I saw it as the Charismatic Renewal of the sixties and seventies began to wane. As multitudes became bored with hearing about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and in an effort to move forward and thinking it was up to them to “seek” more, people began to strain spiritually for the life they thought was ebbing from them. They wound up plugging the hunger hole with charismatic personalities, their own gifts, discovering and promoting their ministries, trying to have more faith and yes, even health foods.
Then the scandals of the eighties uncovered the truth about some of these personalities and their gifts. The disillusionment overwhelmed Christians and drove them to quit giving even to trustworthy ministers. The people never had the number of supernatural experiences they sought and my son has yet to completely forgive me for forcing him to drink his grape juice with Barley Green.
"I couldn't condemn this woman because I knew what she was feeling."
None of these things satisfied true spiritual hunger and many of the people are still out there today hungry and thirsty because they were so disillusioned that they never recovered. They even despised what God has done for the last fifteen years and reaped no benefit of it at all. I couldn’t condemn this woman because I knew what she was feeling.
Before the Lord led me to Toronto in 1994, I wasn’t just tired; I was spiritually exhausted by watching all these same emphases scamper across the “screen” of the body of Christ. I was afraid that I had been deluded. Then the Lord began to touch me and heal me, as I tasted the new wine He was pouring out. Lately, I’m getting hungry again, and the current fare doesn’t taste like what God poured out either in the God-initiated days of Charismatic Renewal or of Toronto.
In order to experience and practice all the things on this woman’s list, she needed to become discontent with what God had done for her and press herself to strive in order to receive more. She had been worn out by a subtle works orientation that gradually seeps into Christianity usually while God’s periods of greatest blessing seem to be losing favour with multitudes.
Jesus warned His disciples about this on more than thirteen recorded occasions in the New Testament: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” On one occasion he added “and the leaven of Herod.” In other words, something was going to try to seep into the pure gospel of grace to undermine its liberating effects. So what is this diluting- or is it “deluding”- influence and how and why does it always infiltrate and try to spoil the party?
God made man with the capacity to be hungry. He placed the man and the woman in the garden and told them to eat away at anything they saw-except for the fruit of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Wouldn’t you know it? The fruit of all the other trees in the garden couldn’t satisfy their hunger. Or was it that Satan wouldn’t allow them to be satisfied? He tempted their appetites with the sumptuous attributes of the forbidden fruit. Then he insinuated that God was trying to rob them of an experience they needed by forbidding them to eat it. God was trying to rob them alright-of experiencing the cycle of sin and death. So what should fill my hunger?
What a person is hungry for says everything about them. What you are hungry for spiritually says everything about you from your relationship to God to your degree of spiritual maturity. So what should fill my hunger? Let’s explore another biblical event to find out.
MANNA VS QUAIL
The children of Israel were wandering the desert and when their supplies from Egypt ran out, they cried out to God for food. God gave them, out of heaven, a special substance that nourished each one of them regardless of dietary requirement.
It wasn’t a supplement; it was all He wanted them to eat. It even delighted their taste buds because it tasted like cakes made with honey. It was life coming down out of Heaven. (Numbers 11, Exodus 16) Jesus compared Himself to it in John 6: “I am the Bread of Life...Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and they died... Whoever eats of the Living Bread will live forever...”
They did not have to strive for it. While they were sleeping, the Lord caused it to fall on the camp. It was new. No one had ever seen it before, and for that reason they called it “manna” meaning "what is it?" They didn’t have to burden themselves with gathering too much.
In fact, everyone ate as much or as little as they wanted and felt the same sense of satisfaction. They cooked it any way they wanted, but the substance was the same.
"God has more than one way of making people hungry for the real thing."
It wasn’t long, though, before the children of Israel were tired of manna cupcakes, manna burgers, boiled manna, fried manna and manna soufflés. With Satan’s help, they began to recall the tastes of Egypt: leeks, melons, onions, garlic and they started to whine. (Note: All the aforementioned Egyptian foods cause gas!) They whined further and cried out, “Who will give us meat to eat...There is nothing left at all for us to eat except this manna.”
They had come full circle. Now they wanted more; not more manna, but something stronger, something they thought they needed rather than what God thought they needed. They despised the “perfect” food and hungered to experience new tastes, or rather, old ones. God answered them with a sign and wonder.
A wind began to blow from the sea. Dead quail began to fall on either side of the camp - a day and a half’s journey away! Before they knew it, they were in the middle of a test from God to show them who was hungry for quail and who was satisfied with manna. Many folks were satisfied with God’s perfect food. The others, though, made the long, hot journey, not covered by the cloud of God’s glory, a day and a half to collect as much as they could of the “new blessing.” Alas, it was “dead meat.”
While it was still in their mouths, the anger of the Lord burned against them, and all who ate it fell ill. God promised them that they would eat it until it “came out of their nostrils.” They were about to get “fed up.” They vomited until there was nothing left to purge, and then they were hungry again. I suppose that God has more than one way of making people hungry for the real thing.
That is where we are right now. For those who tasted of the presence of God in His choice outpourings in their lifetimes, the taste is sheer heaven because it is Jesus Himself. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” has become your watchword. You want more of Him and you keep resting in His presence and letting Him feed you. You go away from each time of soaking in His Presence filled with His love and joy and energized not to do your own will but His. You have discovered the secret of true contentment with Jesus’ love.
"Once you taste the real, the substitute won’t do."
For those who want quail, the “more” you are asking for is not more of Jesus, but more spirituality, more recognition, more power, more vision, more ability to fulfill your agenda. You may never use those words, in fact you can tell yourself that you are hungry for God, but the evidence is in what you are hungry for. Are you hungry to have more spiritual experiences in your repertoire? Do you want to see signs and wonders just to see them or because you are genuinely interested in seeing God manifest His love to someone? Do you want revival in order to build your ministry? What if God answered your prayers for revival by using another church or ministry? Do you want revival for its own sake or are you hungry for Jesus? I don’t like my own heart’s answers to all of these questions.
God is pouring out quail right now, and He is still pouring out manna. Every longing that men have, I believe, is really a longing that can only be filled by the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and its King, Jesus. Nothing can satisfy you but the genuine, God-sent filling of His Presence. Once you taste the real, the substitute won’t do.
HOW CAN I RECIEVE THE REAL THING?
God never urges anyone to seek Him through striving. Otherwise, you would get part of the glory. When God pours out, His blessing falls on the camp while you are sleeping. In other words, when you cease striving long enough to find out that He is God, He will feed you. When you reach the end of your own efforts, He is there. Like anything else we receive from God, it is by grace, through childlike faith.
You may not initially understand it, but when you taste Him, He fills the longing of your heart. You feel like you want no other joy than receiving more of the same substance, Him. It’s no more necessary for you to strain for it than it is for a baby to nurse at his mother’s breast.
"What does He taste like?"
The way up in the Kingdom is always down. You must humble yourself to receive Him, whether it is turning from your sin and receiving Him as Lord and Saviour for the first time, or in the case of those who are already saved, turning from your fruitless efforts to feed yourself.
When you turn, you will receive everything He has for you now. God will position you for it. Take the lower seat. Be content to serve Him out of love, not duty. Just be happy with loving Him and other people around you. In that place you will hear a word and that word will be a sign to you and as you search it out, He will come to you.
What does He taste like? He tastes like nothing else you have tasted before. He is sweet, pure, simple and real, and when you taste of Him, you won’t have the sense that you worked to accomplish it but that you received it without any effort of your own. When you see God do what you could not do, you will be in awe and know that the Living God has fed you with the Living Bread.