Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
The Living Savior and Lord know the inner workings of our heart, soul, mind, and being. He knows the depth of our souls. He sees right through you and me. Any of our attempts: to hide from Him or shield our truest and deepest intentions, motives, and priorities from Him; or our feeble strategies to hide our evil thoughts or pamper our sensitive emotions are useless before the Lord. Jesus sees right through any of those right into the deep God-giving and God-created desires of our hearts and soul. If you are living for yourself—He sees and knows! If you are living for your flesh—He sees and knows! If you are prideful, arrogant, and self-serving—He sees and knows!
And here is what the Lord God does when He sees our sin—He grieves and laments over our sins. His anger rages over our choice to reject both His Lordship’s claim and His offer of salvation, peace, and security. He yearns for us to fall upon our knees in confession and acknowledge our absolute need for Him, His grace, and His mercy. He draws near to us and repeats His gracious offer to accept and receive His forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Christ. He pleads for us to turn from our sins and rebellion and follow Him.
If we respond to Him and lay our lives before Him, open up our hearts to His redeeming love, and both remove and turn from our sins, then the fulness of His redeeming love will be poured out upon us. However, if one does not turn to God, their sins will find them out and will surely turn on them—leading to destruction. The results of our choice are clear.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” He said that those who seek after righteousness because of their absolute hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness will be supremely blessed. Those who crave after the things of God and the ways of God; that is, those who seek after Jesus with all of their heart will surely find peace, contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment in Him. Those who honor the Lord with everything that they have and are will surely find rest and assurance in His strong hand of salvation and righteousness.
God has created and designed each of us, because we are made in His image, to hunger and thirst after Him and His righteousness. It is only as we pursue a right relationship with God in Christ will we be satisfied!
In ancient Judaism, righteousness meant “to acquit, vindicate, and restore to a right relationship.” And so, the righteous are those who pursue and maintain the right relationships—with God and with the people around them.
You genuinely hunger and thirst for righteousness when you make God’s way the only way. You will be supremely blessed when you die to self and pursue reconciliation in broken relationships. You will be healed when you lay down your own wounds, feelings of anger, fear, or hatred, and choose to bless God and others. You hunger and thirst after righteousness (right relationships) when you desire to bless others for their sakes and not as a means to meet your own needs.
In his book, A Hunger for God, John Piper says “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” He goes on to say, “The strongest, most mature Christians I have ever met are the hungriest for God. It might seem that those who eat most would be least hungry. But that’s not the way it works with an inexhaustible fountain, and an infinite feast, and a glorious Lord.”
How right you are, Mr. Piper. We must drink deeply from God’s grace and mercy—and with an insatiable thirst, we fill ourselves with His presence. Having been filled, we then pour out His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion upon those we see that are trapped in helplessness and hopelessness; upon those who are crumbling under the weight of guilt and shame; and upon those who are held in bondage to fear and Satan’s lies.
We hunger after God’s call to unity and fellowship—and with the emptiness, poverty, and brokenness of spirit (Matt. 5:3), we mourn our own unrighteousness (Matt. 5:4) and submit our use of God’s power and authority to pursue unity and fellowship in the Body of Christ. With the compassionate eyes of Jesus, we see the pain and wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ—and rather than leave them to the misery of their own self-induced isolation and aloneness, we come alongside and choose to be present with them. Out of Christ’s love and out of a godly desire to build them up to all righteousness, we speak God’s truth to them and pour out His love upon them…and we are satisfied in Christ!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.
Read more from Dr. Hodges here.