Imagine Goal: Imagine a life that hungers for God!
Pastor Ricky Powell
Today I want to talk to you about, “The Craving: Imagine a life that hungers for God.” Open your Bible to Psalm 42 and get your note sheet ready to hear what the Lord wants to say to us today.
1. Do you ever crave certain foods?
There are times when I simply crave certain foods. I find myself craving a good, juicy steak or a grilled cheeseburger. Sometimes I crave sweets. What’s better at midnight than curling up with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with Ritz crackers and Hershey’s chocolate syrup? Hey, don’t knock it till you try it! Sometimes I crave a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut. Can I get a witness? My craving is especially intense when I drive by the shop and see the red neon “Hot” sign on! Sometimes I have to drive by four or five times until that sign comes on!
What causes us to crave certain foods? There are three basic “Causes for the Cravings:”
- Deficiency: Sometimes our bodies crave things that have nutrients that our bodies need and that we are deficient in. You may crave bananas because your body is deficient in potassium.
- Disease: Another reason we sometimes crave food is because of disease. Have you ever suffered with a severe cold or the flu and all you wanted was a soothing bowl of hot chicken noodle soup?
- Depression: There is another cause for the craving. I call it depression or discouragement. Sometimes when I am down in the dumps I just want to eat some comfort food. As you have guessed by now, my comfort food is ice cream or doughnuts.
Did you know that it was a sense of depression and discouragement that caused a craving in the author of Psalm 42? He expressed his craving in verses 1 and 2. 1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalms 42:1-2 (NKJV)
The author of this psalm was discouraged. His depression led him to crave, to long for, and to cry out for a closer relationship with God. He compared himself to a tired, hunted, exhausted, and dehydrated deer that is panting for a drink of cool refreshing water from a mountain brook. What a descriptive word he used: pant. Can you picture a deer panting with its tongue out, desperate for a drink of water? We do not know the exact circumstances in the writer’s life that were troubling him, but this we do know; he wanted and needed to be closer to God and he would not rest until he had it. Friend, I do not know the circumstances of your life. I do not know all the things you have to deal with each day. But this I know, you need God. You need God in the bad times of life and you need God in the good times of life. We should not be satisfied until we too, long for God with this same intensity. That’s the problem isn’t it? We don’t crave a closer walk with God like we should. We are seldom desperate for a closer walk with God.
That is why God may allow deficiency, disease, or depression to come into our lives; to drive us to crave a closer relationship to Him. For example, when satisfaction and purpose are missing from our lives and we are deficient in these qualities it is God’s way of helping us crave Him. God is what we really need! When something in our life is out of place, when our relationships are hurting, or when there is a sense of dis-ease in our heart, it is God showing us that He is what we need. And when we are discouraged or depressed, when life has let us down, it is God showing us that He is the only one who can truly satisfy. He wants us to crave Him more than anything else in life!
The problem with cravings is we often crave the wrong things. We give in to junk food. We have to learn to stay away from junk food.
2. Stay away from the Junk Food.
Junk food is food which has little to no lasting nutritional value. Junk food makes you feel good for a short while, but it does not last. It may give you a sugar rush, but soon you will crash and feel worse than you did before.
There is physical junk food, and there is spiritual junk food. Instead of craving God, we often give in to spiritual junk food that has no lasting value and that actually hurts us in the long run. Listen to what the apostle John said about craving the wrong things in life. He warned in 1 John 2:15-17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
There are three types of junk food that have no lasting value and that are bad for you in the long run. The first type is called the:
- Lust of the flesh: Fleshly appetites.
The flesh is related to what you can see, smell, touch, taste, and hear. Our flesh craves things that should never be more important that God and His will for our lives. For example, we crave sensuality. We live in a sex-saturated society. People want sex without strings and relationships without rings. But when we crave sex more than God we have crossed the line. Sex is not wrong or dirty, but if we elevate it above God and his revealed will for our sex lives then we are eating junk food! God designed sex as a celebration between a husband and wife. Sex is to be enjoyed in marriage. However, we often elevate our fleshly pleasures above God's will for our lives by having sex outside of marriage. Another fleshly appetite is slothfulness. There is nothing wrong with rest and relaxation. But when we give in to laziness and sleep we crave our comfort and pleasure more than our creator and Lord. You cannot crave God and fleshly appetites at the same time.
- Lust of the eyes: Greedy ambitions.
The lust of the eyes have to do with our greedy ambitions. Some people think that money and possessions are more important that God. They would never admit that, but just watch how they live. They have little time for God and His church. They seldom give of their financial resources to God’s House. They believe that happiness comes with having stuff. They see nice things and want it and will spend more energy on getting things rather than on getting closer to God.
- Pride of life: Haughty arrogance.
The pride of life relates to a haughty arrogance that is self-centered, that looks down on other people, and that is prideful before God. These people seldom see their need for God. They are not humble. They believe they are self-sufficient and do not need God. They never pray, read the Bible, or go to church, etc.
We must choose to stay away from junk food like this if we are going to crave and hunger a closer relationship with God. But it is not enough to simply stay away from the junk food. There is something else you must do.
3. Crave Things That Are Good For You.
When I was a boy I detested squash. I nearly gagged at the sight of it. My mother would regularly make me try a little squash each time she cooked it. I always hated it. Then when I was in the fourth grade, living in Corsicana, Texas, our neighbors invited us over for dinner. You guessed it, squash was on the menu. My mother said it was rude to refuse food put before you by your host, so I knew I was doomed. The neighbor lady put some squash casserole on my plate. It wasn’t very much, but it looked to my fourth-grader eyes like a mountain of squash. I reluctantly put a little in my mouth, and to my utter amazement---I liked it! The melted cheese on top probably helped, but I liked it! I am so grateful my mother made me try it and not give up.
Some of you this morning need to develop a craving for God. That’s what the, “Imagine the fully devoted life” campaign is all about. I am trying to help you develop a craving for God. Let me show you three qualities of God that you must crave if you are going to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. Write this down. First…
A. I must crave God’s Precepts.
You cannot be a fully devoted follower of Christ without spending TIME with God through His Word. The Bible is God’s way of talking to you and of showing you how much He loves you and how He wants you to live. Jot this verse down in the margin of your notes: 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Listen to Psalm 119:97-103. 97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! (NKJV)
The psalmist said God’s Words were sweeter to him than honey was to his mouth. Now that is sweet! Because he craved the Word of God he spent time in the word. You also need regular exposure to God’s Word. You are going to have to schedule TIME to, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, put down the magazines, push away from the computer and get into God’s Word!
You need to spend regular time doing five things. Spend time…
Ø Reading the Word of God.
I like what R. Kent Hughes wrote in his book, Disciplines of the Godly Man. “You must remember this: You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly because you cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know. If you are filled with God's Word, your life can then be informed and directed by God — your domestic relationships, your child-rearing, your career, your ethical decisions, your interior moral life. The way to a Christian mind is through God's Word! (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 77.)
The second thing you must do is spend time…
Ø Hearing the Word of God.
My kids hear me when I tell them to take out the trash, but sometimes they still just sit there. Instead of doing what I said, they continue staring at the television. It is not until I ask, “Do I have to get my belt?” that they finally “hear” me. You can read the Bible and listen to sermons, but you must have an eagerness to truly hear what God is saying to you. That is why the apostle James wrote, 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. James 1:19 (NKJV) Are you swift to hear? Are you eager to learn from God? Are you serious about getting to know God through His Word? You should come to church saying, "God, I cannot wait to get to church so I can hear from you. I know you are going to speak to me through the songs we sing, through the Scriptures we read, and through the sermon from our pastor. God, I want to hear! Speak to my heart."
Some people are not serious about God’s will for their lives. Jesus preached and embodied the Word of God and yet many people rejected what He had to say. That is why He would often say, “He who has an ear, let him hear…” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6). He meant that you have to be open to learning God’s Word.
There is a third thing you must do to crave God’s precepts. You must spend time…
Ø Meditating on the Word of God.
They say you become what you think about. It is a wonder as a teenager I did not become a girl. But that is another subject! If we want to become like Christ we will meditate on God’s Word. 97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. Psalms 119:97, 99 (NKJV)
Meditation as the Bible calls for is not some New Age practice of sitting on a carpet lotus style chanting or humming. It is not trying to empty your mind of everything. Biblical meditation is literally muttering the Word of God. That is the Hebrew word used here. We are to mutter the Word of God by taking a passage and repeating it with our mouth or in our mind. I sometimes take a verse or two and write it out on a 3”x5” note-card. I will keep the card with me throughout the day and take it out when I have a few seconds. I read the verse then I mutter it, I say it out loud over and over again. This helps me reflect on what God is saying. (GIVE EXAMPLE) 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20 (KJV)
Friend, if you will learn to meditate on the Word of God like that, it will change your life. It will change how you think and live.
Spend time reading, hearing, and meditating on the Word. Fourthly, spend time…
Ø Memorizing the Word of God.
If you will take my advice and technique for meditating on the Word you will discover that you can memorize God’s Word. People often tell me they cannot memorize Scripture. I disagree. We can memorize what we focus on. We memorize phone numbers, e-mail addresses, website addresses, names, sports statistics, poems, movie dialogue, song lyrics, and all sorts of other things. None of those things can draw you closer to God. But memorizing God’s Word will keep you close and clean! The Bible says in Psalm 119:11, 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!
Friend, one of the most profitable things you can do for yourself is to hide God’s Word in your heart. The Holy Spirit will bring it you your remembrance when you are tempted or confused. You will have the direction you need to live a holy and pure life. Be warned, sin will keep you from the Bible, but the Bible will keep you from sin! It’s your choice!
There is a fifth thing you must do to crave God’s precepts. Spend time…
Ø Obeying the Word of God.
You cannot fake God out. He knows the difference between a person who wants head knowledge to look religious versus those who truly want to know His Word so they can obey Him. God is under no obligation to reveal His truth to you if you are not willing to obey it. The apostle James put it this way. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25 (NLT)
Look into the mirror of God’s Word and it will show you where you need to grow and improve. Then you are under divine obligation to do something about what you have learned! It is not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, but the parts I DO understand! I am obligated to obey! Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey!
How is God’s Word Good For Me? The Bible…
- Revives my soul: 7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. Psalms 19:7a (NLT)
- Gives me wisdom: The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalms 19:7b (NLT)
- Increases my faith: 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts. Psalms 119:98-100 (NKJV)
Write this verse down in the margins of your notes: Romans 10:17. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
So, there are three things I must crave if I am going to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. First, I must crave God’s Precepts. Second…
B. I must crave God’s Purity.
We must each confess that we are not always fully devoted to God. We often are more devoted to ourselves than we are to God. We often sin and fall short of God’s standard for our lives. We sang it last week, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” So if we are to crave a closer relationship with God we must crave His purity above our sin and impurity. We should pray, 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24 (NKJV)
The author of this psalm craved God’s purity. He wanted to be fully devoted to God and he knew sin would prevent that. WARNING: Don’t pray this prayer to our all-powerful, all-knowing God if you are not serious. God WILL answer this prayer! He will show you sin in your life. And when He does you need to know that He is not seeking to condemn you, but to help you. He is confronting you with your sin to give you two opportunities. The first is the opportunity for the…
Ø Confession of sin.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin it is so we can confess our sin. God gives us the opportunity to come clean. Sin in our lives does not break our relationship with God, but it does hinder our fellowship with God. Psalm 66 puts it this way. 18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me. Psalms 66:18-20 (NLT)
For some of you this morning your prayer life has dried up, your joy has dried up, you don’t get anything out of the worship services anymore, and you don’t get anything out of Bible study anymore. You can sit there and say, “Well, it’s because they don’t sing like they used to at church anymore, or they don’t preach like they used to.” But sir, or madam, the problem is you are not coming clean with God anymore! You are concealing sin in your life instead of confessing it! God won’t hear you if you refuse to confess your sin and turn from it!
Let me give you a great promise! When the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin it is to give you the opportunity for confession of your sin. But it is also to give you the opportunity to experience…
Ø Cleansing from sin.
Praise God, you can be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness when you confess your sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
The word translated “confess” in the original Greek is, “homologeo.” It means, “to say the same thing.” When you stop making excuses for your sin and just call it what it is---call it what God calls it---sin, you can be forgiven and cleansed! The Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross can make you clean today! You will not crave a closer walk with God if your life is filled with sin. Come clean with God, draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.
We have seen that to crave a closer relationship with God I must crave God’s Precepts, and God’s Purity. But there is one more quality of God that I must crave. Third…
C. I must crave God’s Presence.
Do you remember what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 42? He craved God presence. He declared, 1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Psalms 42:1-2 (NLT)
He desperately wanted to be with God in the Temple. He wanted to be in God’s presence in worship. That should be true of you also! Too often we don't really want God, we just want what is in God's hand. We want Him to bail us out of the mess we are in. We want Him to give us a new job. We want Him to help us pass a school test. We want what's in His hand. But we should crave GOD, not just the gifts in His hands.
Ø I must hunger for God in my personal worship life.
Worship is not just a service like this. True worship is in spirit and in truth. It is an inside job where you love, praise, and adore God in your personal worship life. If you do not worship God personally, then you will not worship God when you come here with believers. Have you learned to spend time with God, just you and Him, so you can worship Him? Personal worship can include reading His word and reflecting on it, praying it back to Him. The Psalms are wonderful for this practice. I will often take a Psalm and pray it back to God. Sometimes I will just start by saying, “Lord, I want to glorify your name for being a __________ (blank).” Then I will fill in the blank. “Lord, I want to thank you for being a gracious God, a forgiving God, a merciful God…” Remember, the more you know the Word of God, the more you will know the God of the Word. You will be better informed of what a mighty and awesome God He is. Let the Bible inspire and inform your personal worship life.
Personal worship can include singing to Him. Find some good praise music or Gospel music and sing it back to Him. Sing in the shower, or sing in your car where no one can hear you! Or roll your car windows down and sing out! But lift your voice and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!
Always remember that the only right and reason you have to come before the throne of God in personal worship is because of what Jesus did for you on the cross of Calvary!
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
Ø I must also hunger for God in my congregational worship life.
People have many excuses for why they don't attend church to worship with other believers. What if you used those same excuses for why you don't attend football games? You would sound pretty silly. Why I stopped going to ball games:
1. Whenever I go to a game, they ask for money.
2. The other fans don't care about me.
3. The seats are too hard.
4. Coach never visits me.
5. The referee makes calls I don't agree with.
6. Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner.
7. The band plays songs I don't know.
8. I have other things to do at game time.
9. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
10. I know more than the coaches do anyway.
11. I can be just as good a fan at the lake.
12. I won't take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow. Citation: Mike and Amy Nappa, A Heart Like His (Barbour, 1999), pp.182-183.
Stop making excuses and make a commitment to be present with God's people at church this Sunday! The Bible says, 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
You can be a Christian and not attend congregational worship services, but you cannot be a good Christian. If you intentionally absent yourself from the body of Christ when it gathers for worship then you will never be fully devoted to God. God would not command that His people gather regularly for worship and then tell you that you can stay home. God does not talk out of both sides of His mouth. He does not contradict Himself!
When we gather for worship we are to think of ways we can motivate one another to acts of love and good works. We are to inspire each other to be more devoted to Christ! We need to encourage one another. Friend, we are living in tough times! The second coming of Jesus Christ is drawing near! We are supposed to be getting together more not less as His coming approaches. You say, “Ricky, it has been over 2000 years since Jesus went back to Heaven. How do you know His second coming is drawing near?” Well, DUH! We are 2000 years closer than we’ve ever been! I don’t know when Jesus is coming back, and neither do you. But when He does I want Him to find me with His people, worshipping my God and praising His name! There would be a lot of red faces if Jesus came back right now. We have nearly 1,600 members on our church membership rolls. Where are they? Many of them could be here today but they chose to do something else. But when we get together we encourage one another. Your presence reminds me that I am not alone in this world. You remind me through your praise and worship that I am on the winning side!
We are going to gather here tonight to observe the Lord’s Supper. Won’t it be wonderful to gather with other believers to remember what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross? I can promise you that the Holy Spirit will use tonight’s service to draw you closer to the Lord and to cultivate your craving for God.
Conclusion: Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
As your pastor I ask you to do three things. Crave the Precepts of God, Crave the Purity of God, and Crave the Presence of God.