4 Steps for Developing Spiritual Hunger

The person who labors, labors for himself, for his hungry mouth drives him on. – Proverbs 16:26john-eating-scroll

Hunger is a driving force. It will focus you, motivate you, and move you.

We all understand what it means to be hungry. We understand that the more intense that it is, the more focused we become – to the point that food is the only thing we think about.

In Proverbs 16:26, we read about the hungry laborer. His work is hard. He has the lowliest of professions – one that does not even merit a real title. It’s simply a laborer. But despite the hard work, he presses on. Why? Because he’s hungry! He knows that fulfillment will only come when his work is complete.

Hunger is a good thing. If we did not hunger, we would waste away, and the lack of hunger is a sure sign of a serious sickness.

Fools, because of their transgression,
And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
And they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions – Psalm 107:18-20

Too many Christians are drawn near to the gates of spiritual death because they are spiritually sick. Their own sins have afflicted them, and they have lost any hunger they ever had. Unless they also cry out to the Lord, they too will waste away, becoming easy prey.

Do you hunger for God? Do you hunger for His word? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If you do not, then you are not spiritually healthy. A strong wind will blow you over; your spirit is weak, and it will not sustain you (Pro 18:14).

But do not fret. A lack of hunger does not mean you are dead. You still have hope. You must do what the men in Psalm 107 did: you must cry out mightily to the Lord; you must turn away from your sin, and seek him. He will restore your health. He will restore your hunger!

We must hunger, for only the hungry are blessed:

Blessed are you who hunger…

Why are they blessed?

…for you shall be filled. – Luke 6:21

But it’s the opposite for those who do not hunger:

Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. – Luke 6:25

Here is the reason that so many do not hunger: they are filled. They are filled with all of the sparkly things of this world and have no room for God. And then, once having a taste for this world, they crave it more and more, like a fat man craving junk food. The food fills his belly for a while, but it has no nutrition, and thus he is hungry for more, trying to satisfy that longing. But it doesn’t. He only grows fatter and fatter, wanting to eat more and more junk. He’ll keep eating it until his life is cut short. His weak heart will be choked by the fat of this world, and he’ll go to an early grave.

This reminds me of a parable that Jesus taught called the parable of the sower (Mark 4). In the parable, the sower sowed his seed (the Word) on various types of soil. Three of the four types of soil were bad ground, with the third type being FULL of thorns. The seed was planted, and it started to grow, but it was choked to death. Why? Because the heart that it was sown into was filled up with junk. The seed was good, it was even starting to grow, but it was crowded out by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.

Oh, how sad! I’ve seen it over and over again! How many people give up the good word of God for the weak and beggarly things! The words of Jesus are so true: ‘Woe to you that are full!’

But what if we just aren’t naturally inclined to hunger for spiritual things? What if our hunger is for the things of this world, even when we know it shouldn’t be? What should we do?

This is a problem, but it’s not an unusual problem. The same problem happens in the flesh when a person become accustomed to eating unhealthy food – they don’t hunger for healthy food. What they need do is recognize that healthy food is what they need (and ultimately want), and then they must begin to feed their bodies with it whether they hunger for it or not. After a while, their bodies will appreciate the healthy food so much that it will hunger for it. And, believe it or not, it will actually begin to loath the junk food.

This same principal applies spiritually.

This is were discipline and faith come in. Discipline is doing what you know you must do even when you don’t feel like it. Faith is believing the truth even when you don’t feel like its true.

When you are not accustomed to it, seeking God will be hard. You must have the discipline to do it anyway.

When you are not accustomed to it, seeking God will seem like it’s not what you really want. You must believe that it is anyway – because it is.

You also must understand that seeking God will not always be hard, nor will the truth always feel untrue. The more you genuinely seek God, the more you will begin to crave the things of God. You will become like the sons of Korah, who developed a great hunger and thirst for the Lord. Look at the things they wrote:

My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. – Psalm 84:3

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? – Psalm 42:1-2

And the sons of Korah did not have a very good example to follow. To be honest, it’s a wonder why they even refer to themselves as the sons of Korah.

If you remember, Korah was the man that challenged Moses’ authority, rebelling against God’s established government. God judged him for this, and the earth literally opened up and swallowed him down into hell. Yikes. Yet, instead of growing bitter towards God, Korah’s sons began to seek Him with all of their heart. They decided not to follow the path of their father, but to devote themselves God, so much so, that even some of their songs are among the ranks of inspired scripture (Ps 42, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, 88).

Korah hungered for pride and power (Num 16), but his sons followed not in his ways (Num 26:11). They put their eyes on the One that is above (Col 3), and developed a burning hunger for Him.

Will you hunger for God? Will you be one of the blessed? Or will you be full of this world, loving it instead of loving God? Woe to you if it is the latter.

Here are some practical steps to developing a hunger for God:

  1. Repent – anything that you love more than God is an idol. Do you desire it over God? Repent. Then destroy it, burn it, smash it – whatever you must do – do it.
  2. Replace – Don’t leave an empty void after smashing an idol. Replace your sin with service to God – service in prayer, reading the Word, reading good books, going to services, meeting with godly people, etc.
  3. Re-focus – Purposely set your mind on the things of God – do not let it wander. You will begin to feel passionately about whatever you direct your attention toward. Take control of your mind and put it on God. (Col 3)
  4. Rewind – go back to your first works, the ones you did when you first fell in love with Jesus. Do them again, even if you don’t feel as you did then. Doing them again will help to re-kindle the flame. (Rev 2:4-5).

Develop your hunger for God. It will drive you to go deeper. It will motivate you to press on. It will ultimately lead to a deep and rewarding satisfaction. Not so for those who make this world their portion, for they will be left wanting.