July 1, 2012

Come Hungry

Have you ever sat down to eat dinner when you were not hungry? Nothing looks good. You push the food around on your plate, and maybe nibble just a bite here and there. Perhaps the problem is that you did something to curb your appetite. Maybe you ate a candy bar just before supper, or drank a milkshake on the way home from work like I did one time when I was extra hungry. My wife was not pleased about the fact that I did not have much interest in the dinner she had cooked that night. She told me, “If you are going to do that, then I won’t cook!”

When I get up in the morning, I am hungry. I go to the kitchen, make two cups of coffee, and take one to my wife. Then I go back to the kitchen and often I get out a bowl, crack an egg in it, put in a little buttermilk and some biscuit mix, and then add a tablespoon or two of oil. I put a pan of bacon on the stove. While the bacon sizzles, I take strawberries out of the refrigerator and cut them up. A pancake breakfast is in the works, and I can’t wait to eat!

It is good to be hungry in the natural. It is also good to be hungry in the spiritual sense; Jesus himself told us so. We read in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Jesus compared spiritual desire to physical hunger and thirst because everyone can relate to those sensations. We have experienced them! Whenever Jesus taught, He presented His message in terms that everyone could understand.

Just as there are things we can do to increase or decrease our physical appetite, there are things we can do to increase or decrease our appetite for the things of God. In our church we have camp meeting every summer, and a series of special meetings in the spring and fall. We look forward to those events as spiritual “feasts,” and we enjoy the spiritual food that we receive because we come to the meetings with a healthy appetite for the things of God. As a result, we experience the blessedness Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:6.

As special as those times of the year are, we want to remember that “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” every day of the year! Every time we come into God’s House we should anticipate what we will receive, and make sure that we do nothing to diminish our spiritual appetite.

If we want to nurture our hunger for what we will receive in the house of God, we can start by praying for the next service throughout that day.

If we want to nurture our hunger for what we will receive in the house of God, we can start by praying for the next service throughout that day. Say, “Lord, bless the meeting tonight. Bless the music and the testimonies. Inspire Your messenger with the words You want him to say. If there is someone at church tonight who is not saved, speak to his heart. Encourage those who are seeking their sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Give us all a spirit of prayer.” As we pray that way, we will get so excited down inside that we can hardly wait to get to church. And if we are excited, and we come and listen with an open heart, we will receive something from God. We will be fed spiritually!

On the other hand, there are activities that take away spiritual hunger. If we watch or listen to the wrong thing before we come to church, our spiritual appetite will be dulled. When we get to church, we may find ourselves just pushing the food around on our plates in a spiritual sense. Nothing appeals to us; we feel no real hunger so we go away without nourishing our inner man, or receiving the blessing that comes to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

A young father testified in one of our services a while back about his hunger for sanctification. One day as he was driving along the freeway, talking to the Lord about that experience and his desire for it, God came down and sanctified him. He was excited when he got to church. When he stood up and told about it in his testimony, the rest of us were excited, too! This did not happen during special meetings or camp meeting; it was just an ordinary day to everyone else. But there was a spiritual hunger in this young man’s heart, and God satisfied it.

A spiritual hunger can be dulled by doubts or questioning. How much better it is to put all questions and doubts aside, and look to God’s Word. I do not want to miss anything that God Himself says is His will for us. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we read, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” How clear that is—our sanctification is the will of God! The author of the Book of Hebrews describes why we need this experience, explaining, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). If you are not sanctified, ask the Lord to give you a hunger for that experience.

When we seek the Lord for sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or any other answer to prayer, there are steps we can take to whet our appetite. God’s Word tells us, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). How do we draw nigh to God? A good place to start is to take the Bible and look up verses pertaining to what we are seeking. We can jot them down on a piece of paper, and keep that paper with us. When we have a break on our job or at school, or wherever we are, we can take those verses out and read them. Doing so will increase our hunger to receive!

Many years ago, while I was in the military, I received word that my brother-in-law, Earl Garrison, had gotten saved. I could hardly believe it. As an unsaved teenager, I had wanted to be just like Earl. He had beer in his refrigerator. I remember being at a ball game with him, and watching him take a drink on every hit and every run. He used to smoke in his house. When my sister would get after him, he would tell her, “The ashes are good for the rug; they keep the fleas away.”

The next time I was home on leave, my wife and I were invited to the home of some friends, along with Earl and my sister Velma. It was Saturday night, and before we left, Earl said, “Maybe we could read our Sunday school lesson together before we go home.” I thought, Am I hearing right? Earl wants to read the Sunday school lesson?

I quickly recognized that my brother-in-law was totally different. Earl received his sanctification, and then he got hungry for his baptism. Oh, how he wanted that experience! He prayed every prayer he knew how to pray, and made every consecration he knew to make.

As he drove, he said he used the time at each red light to pray, “Lord, give me my baptism. Please give me my baptism.”

One morning Earl got in his car and headed for Hyster, the forklift manufacturing company where he was employed. As he drove, he said he used the time at each red light to pray, “Lord, give me my baptism. Please give me my baptism.” He was hungry! He did not sit back and say, “Well, in the sweet by and by when the Lord is ready to stir me, I suppose I will receive it.” He stirred himself! He was a machinist, and he said that all day long, each revolution of the machine he operated seemed to say, “You’ve got to have your baptism. You’ve got to have your baptism.” He was so hungry he could think of nothing else.

When his working day was over, he got into his car and headed toward home. As he was driving down S.E. 39th Avenue just north of Powell Boulevard, the Lord honored his hunger and started to baptize him right there in the car. Earl said, “I couldn’t drive. All I could do was turn the wheel to try to get the car off 39th.” He made it around the corner and he said that the power of God came down into that car so mightily that the whole car shook. You can imagine that when a man who weighs about 260 pounds receives the baptism of the Holy Ghost in a car, it is no small thing! You talk about excited!

When he could finally drive again, my brother-in-law could hardly wait to get home and tell his wife. He opened the door and said, “Velma, guess what!” She took one look at him and said, “You got your baptism!” When God fills you with His Holy Spirit, you cannot hide it from the world. Remember, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” That blessing will be evident to others.

God’s promise to fill the hungry applies to whatever you are seeking from God. There is a wonderful table spread before you with spiritual food. I never could see that table until the day I made my way down to an altar of prayer and knelt before the Lord to seek salvation. But there my eyes were opened and I found out that what the Lord offered was wonderful! I will never forget that night as long as I live.

When I got up from the altar, all I wanted were the things of God. Before that, all I wanted were the things of the world. Truly, all things became new in my life. That night I went home and got out a little Bible my mom had given me when I was a kid. I have no idea what I read, but I wanted the Word of God. When I got up the next morning, instead of smoking a cigarette as I always did, I got out that little Bible and read again. I got down on my knees and said, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.” God had done something wonderful for me.

In the days following, God continued to lead me to a closer walk with Him, as He helped me seek and receive the experiences of sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All these years later, I can say that I enjoy life today. If I had understood as a young boy what a thrill and satisfaction serving God brings, I am sure I would have chosen the Gospel much sooner.

God will do something wonderful for you too. If you are not saved, come to Him with a hungry heart and ask Him to make that change in you. For those who are saved but have not been sanctified, ask God to give you a burning desire for that experience. If you have been sanctified, seek God for the baptism of the Holy Ghost—the infilling of power for service.

Whatever your need today, God can provide abundantly, if you will come to Him with a hunger in your heart.

apostolic faith magazine