I’ve been thinking a lot about what draws the presence of God in a tangible way. It’s to hunger and thirst for him. Psalm 42:2 says, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?” We are urged by James that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). This principle is true, even during desert experiences, and hard times.
Right now Tony and I are living in South Africa, at a time of serious drought. Many have been praying for rain, and we will gather with Angus Buchan for a massive corporate gathering to pray for rain and spiritual rain of awareness of God, turning away from our sin and cravings for evil, and being deeply satisfied in him within our beings. The reservoirs in the region are very low, and while the city and environs of Cape Town are by the south Atlantic Ocean, there is virtually no desalinisation, although two short term plants are under construction. Residents of the region are urged to use no more than 50 litres of water per person per day. Think of how little that is, including showers, cooking, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and hydrating during a very hot summer. Then there’s agricultural and industrial use. Water is something we absolutely need for everyday life. This draught not only affects South Africa, but other southern Africa countries as well. I was also in northern Kenya during a drought, and they were afraid for their cattle.
Hunger is similar – we need food as well – spiritual and physical. Tony and I were in Mozambique for the Iris Global Harvest School from June – August 2016. We saw the hungry people with our own eyes. Since they were that hungry, they would eat large amounts of scrawny chicken, beans, rice, bony fish if it was available to them simply to feel full again. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that far in deficit for food and water, but they were.
We learned from the Mozambicans on Monday mornings for our cross-cultural class. We sat on the floor with the mamas and connected with the Makua pastors. On our last Monday, Heidi Baker had some of the pastors share what the extreme hunger did to their families. Pastor Pedro shared that some of his family members died of hunger and extreme want (during the colonial period of persecution before 1976). Pedro became very hungry for justice on the earth, and through his prayers, God has raised five people from the dead (as of July 2016). Hunger caused him to break through so many difficulties – spiritual and otherwise. Tragedy made him not bitter, but better. It made him hungry for justice – God’s justice; God’s righteousness. The beatitudes scripture about righteousness surely applies to such a man: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV).”
Pedro and these other Mozambican pastors may be physically hungry now, but their spiritual hunger has been so intense that this has brought them so many answers to prayer from God.
Fasting from food was of use in this context. It can make you hungry for righteousness and justice in ministry and needs. Pedro fasted for six days, with prayer for someone who just died, and that person came back to life. Then Pedro became even more hungry. Every week he fasts for two days. He was healed of the painful family memories and turned their hunger into his own supernatural hunger. He no longer feels the pain from the past, but has extreme trust in God for the future. This invites us to trust and believe to press in for more hunger for God.
Hunger is a gift. While I have often thought I was hungry for God, it hasn’t been as deep as these Mozambican pastors. Their hunger and gratitude are a shining example for us to follow. I want some of that.
Heidi then asked for the Mozambican pastors to pray over all the international Harvest School students, Tony and myself included. TWO pastors laid hands on me and did not stop for some time. I felt like huge electric shocks ran down my body, and in my mind’s eye, I could see a picture of myself. I was not the plus-sized lady that I see when I look in the mirror. I was like one of the latch-key children in Africa. I was standing beside an empty well, with no water and no food. I was pitifully thin and no longer felt hungry, since I had learned to “just get by” with my own resources. Even though I love the Lord, I am still learning complete dependence on him. It’s a life-long process. When I saw the empty cistern and the thin child, I was reminded of Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.”
While I’m not saying that drought is necessarily caused by sin, there is an element of leaning on God, and being responsible for what he gives. So that day, I was filled upon filled with a new level of electricity… which needs to be refilled daily, of course. I sense that’s only the start of a journey learning about hunger and thirst for God. Jesus’ own 40 day fast in the desert is also telling. When he is tempted by the bread, he rebukes Satan by telling him, “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.
“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
The Israelites’ time in the desert was a time of utter dependence. Not all of them learned that lesson, so some died in the wastelands, and the next generation was finally able to cross the Jordan river.
They did not act on their spiritual hunger and seek God, but instead had an attitude of complaint and entitlement. They did not use their time of want into an intentional fast as a sacrifice to the Lord. Their time was wasted.
I remember going on a Power Weight Loss seminar with Patricia King. She encouraged a lot of common sense, temperance and once a week fasting (sometimes more). The fasts weren’t necessarily fore-going specific foods, but rather eating specific soup that would target cleansing of the lymphatic system and other areas of the body, along with additional time of prayer. She said that when we fast, we flip the basic needs pyramid (Mazlo’s hierarchy of needs) so that the spiritual needs are the most important, and food slides to the lesser need. For some reason, this activates something in us in our prayer life. Normally when one goes without food, the metabolism decides to hibernate. This is certainly the case with my very slow thyroid. It makes fasting a challenge. However, if this is done properly, it can kick-start a breakthrough of a journey. Yet it’s a daily and weekly discipline, as is our daily hunger for God.
I found a devotional blog by Francine Winslow that shares about the magnet of spiritual hunger for God’s presence. Spiritual hunger is a gift, that God then honours and fans into flame. God is looking for hearts that are open to him, in order to stir up a hunger that leads to a deep romance of the soul. The Holy Spirit draws us. (Luke 24:32) We need to follow that burning sensation in our hearts – to read the Bible, ask questions, be with other Christians who are loving God, and spend time with him in worship and prayer. It’s simple and yet hard. We need time with him.
Act on that hunger, or it will fade. That hunger is an invitation to God’s banqueting table (Song of Songs 2:4) and to what will satisfy your heart (Isaiah 55:2). If you feed that hunger, it will grow. If you ignore it, it will fade and you’ll be left with eating crumbs, when you could have had the richest of foods. Francine urges us that we must RSVP to that invitation.
Hunger increases more hunger. This is just like the example of Pastor Pedro. As he fasted, he became more hungry for justice and righteousness. He became more hungry for God. Just like our physical appetites for certain foods can easily become larger as we develop, so it is the same with spiritual appetites. Don’t settle for crumbs, when you can have so much more! Francine says, “the more you get, the more you will continue to have. The more you taste, the more you want. It’s a cycle of spiritual life and growth!” If we decline our spiritual hunger, we can dangerously fall into apathy and lose our joy. That’s not the way to go. Instead, turn to God daily, and ask for more hunger. Be thankful always in the process and he will bless you even more for what you really need. I’m not talking about riches, I’m talking about joy, refreshment, and deep satisfaction that comes from eating and drinking what the Lord gives us daily.
In John 4, Jesus invited the woman at the well to taste the living water. When his disciples offered him food, he told his disciples that he had eaten a different kind of food and he was satisfied. Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work (John 4:34). Again, this is spiritual food.
So I invite you to join me at the banqueting table, where the banner over us is love. May we come to the living river, where those who have no money can still buy what we need (Isaiah 55). Listen to the words of Revelation 22:17. It’s an invitation to you and to me.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the one who hears, say “Come.” And let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus. Bring us your rain in Cape Town. Bring us your spiritual rain, and fill our hunger for you. Amen.
Blessings to you all,
To listen to Ways to Grow in God podcasts (from CWCP-Copples Western Cape Radio) – click here
If you are led to donate to Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple’s ministry work in South Africa, you can donate via Canada Helps Iris Ministries Canada portal – click the link and scroll down to South Africa-Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple on the fund drop down box. Thank you and bless you!