Hunger and Thirst for God
We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing discipleship but now I want to move into an area that is directly related: discipline. I know some of you may have groaned; who wants to talk about discipline? Stay with me, though, as you may be surprised.
The Latin word ‘discipline’ has the same root as ‘disciple’ so we know there’s a connection. From my perspective, being a disciple requires discipline. In the process of learning (being a disciple) there must be some training or instruction (discipline). We saw in scripture that Jesus, Peter, John, and Paul all received some type of teaching and they responded to it. Discipline has a broad range of meaning so let me narrow it down for you by saying that I will be discussing the spiritual disciplines. These are methods that have been developed over the centuries by our fathers in the faith and are often neglected. Christian men and women from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries were frontiersmen in the disciplines that would bring their behavior under the control of the Holy Spirit. Their heart’s desire, as we read about them from historians, was to draw closer to God. Many of them were experiencing a hunger for God that was not being fed, a thirst for God that was not being quenched, and a longing in their heart to be more like Him in a world that was materialistic and self-centered.
I want that kind of a heart. I want to be able to say to God,
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Psalms 42:1, 2 NLT
As a New Testament believer we are assured of the truth that we have access to God through Jesus Christ that the Psalmist did not experience. We have the Spirit living in us, however, are you experiencing this desire, this divine draw to know God more intimately?
One of the Desert Fathers (or Saints), Antony of Egypt, experienced that hunger and thirst for God in the 3rd century. Do you know his story? He left all his worldly possessions and went to the Egyptian desert to seek God. He knew the wealth he inherited would distract him from knowing God more intimately so abandoned it all. He spent the rest of his life practicing the spiritual disciplines of fasting, solitude, prayer, and scripture meditation. His example was so powerful that many fled to the desert to receive his teaching and counsel. “What is God saying to you, Antony?” the people would plead. An effective disciple and discipler of others has learned the value of discipline. For the next few weeks we’ll consider the early mystics and their hunger and thirst for God:
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
Luke 6:21a NASB