Mankind has been trying to get satisfaction for an inner longing. Someone put it in terms of our having a “God-shaped gap” in our make-up. The famous poet, Lord Byron, described his experience vividly: he “Drank every cup of joy, drank early, deeply drank, drank draughts which common millions might have drunk, then died of thirst because there was no more to drink.” Clearly, he missed the Fount of life that only God can supply.
An atheist and a Christian were engaged in an intense public debate. On the blackboard behind the podium, the atheist printed in large letters, “God is no where.” The Christian rose to offer his rebuttal and the rubbed out the “w” at the beginning of “where” and added that letter to the preceding word “no” and the statement read, “God is now here.”
The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, was one of the most brilliant, combative, and persistent atheists in the history of England. He was raised in the Puritan faith and later came to reject everything that he was taught. After his death, his daughter, Katherine, wrote a book entitled MY FATHER, BERTRAND RUSSELL in which she observed, “Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put in it.”
I would modify Katherine’s statement to read, “…an empty space that should have been filled by God…” It is questionable whether God ever occupied that space in the first place.
But we all have such a place in our spirit. We are spiritual beings created with a capacity to know God. We are spirit – which is that part of us that hungers to know God; we are soul – which is made up of the mind, the emotions, and the will; we are body — which is made up of the five senses which are touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, and hearing. Spirit is the highest level of our being which gives us the ability to know God. Some people do not find God because they limit him to only what their minds can comprehend. As great as your mind may be, it takes more than your mind to know God. As tender as your emotions may be, it takes more than your emotions to know God. As vital as your will is, you cannot know God simply by an act of your will. Our five senses equip us to live in this world, but it is our spirit that reaches to the great unseen spiritual world and touches God.
There is a strong emphasis today on spirituality. Unbelievers are thirsting for spiritual reality and many are searching in the wrong places such as the New Age philosophies. You often hear someone say, “I am a spiritual person.” But that does not mean that they are Christians or that they know God. It means that they are searching for something to fill that part of their being that only God can fill. If you try to satiate that thirst with anything else, it will not satisfy. For as Augustine said, “God made us for Himself, and we cannot be at peace until we are at peace with Him.”
Also, there is more of a thirst for God on behalf of Christians, that we have seen before. Look at the great men’s movement through men’s gatherings in churches and conferences across the land. The youth are turning to God sooner in their lives than past generations. Church members are tired of playing church and thirst for God in their personal and family lives. There is an overpowering mood in the country that we are moving toward some great event. Because of this we could be on the threshold of the greatest spiritual awakening since Pentecost. Therefore, we will examine this in the next few weeks. Today, we will look at “A THIRST TO KNOW GOD.”
The text in Isaiah 55 is an appeal of God to Israel to return to Him. They had lost their way. They had drifted away from God and gone after pagan gods of the surrounding cultures. Although these religions satisfied on the physical level, they could not satisfy their spiritual thirsts.
I. GOD’S INVITATION TO SATISFY OUR SPIRITUAL THIRSTS. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.” (v.1a)
Do you know the importance of water to our physical bodies? When our bodies fail to retain the right amount of water, dehydration sets in. It is the water in our body that determines the vitality, strength, and energy associated with daily living. Think about these facts associated with our body and water: The human body is ⅔ water. The body absorbs cold water faster than hot water. By the time you are 70-years-old, you will have required 1½ million gallons of water. Studies show that increasing water consumption can decrease fat deposits. Water is a natural appetite suppressant. If you lose 2% of your body’s water supply, your energy will decrease by 20%. A 10% decrease in water, you will be unable to walk, and a 20% decrease – you’re dead.
Success and pleasure can never satisfy the soul that God has created for obedience. In the recent tributes to CBS newsman, Mike Wallace, he stated that he lost himself in his work so much so that he lost touch with his family. Early events in his life caused him to have inferiority complex and he was continually trying to prove that he was a person of worth. But as hard as he worked, his inner being was not at peace and he in times of depression thought of taking his life. Often, it times of compensation, the thirst is made greater.
What about your spiritual thirst? In Psalm 42 the Psalmist says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and meet with God?”
The invitation is for all who are thirsty to come to the waters. The picture is that of a sin-parched person struggling across a desert in the heat of the day and before him are the refreshing waters of grace.
In his sermon on January 1, 1733 at St. Mary’s Church in Oxford, John Wesley said, “One thing will you desire for its own sake – the fruition of Him who is all in all. One happiness shall you propose to your souls, even a union with Him that made them, having fellowship with the Father, and the Son, and united with the Lord in Spirit. You are to pursue one design to the end of time – the enjoyment of God in time and eternity. Desire other things only so far as they tend to this: love the creature as it leads to the creator. But in every step you take let this be the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, every word, every thought, every action be subordinate to this. Whatever you desire or fear, seek or shun, whatever you think, speak or do, let it be in order for your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as the source of your being.”
II. GOD’S INVITATION IS ADDRESSED TO OUR HUNGERS. “…and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (v.1b).
We are in an economy at the present when all of us are affected by the high price of food, gas, and life’s essentials. But what God has for us can be bought with just a request. Money can do just so much for us. It can feed us, clothe us, house us, entertain us, make life easy for us, but it can never satisfy the thirsts and hungers of our spiritual nature. It can never remove our sin and guilt, and give us abundant or eternal life. God has created for us a different currency. The high cost of what we want most cannot be paid with dollars and cents. He has already paid for our wholeness and health and invites us to the waters of grace for a long, life-giving drink.
III. GOD’S INVITATION IS ADDRESSED TO OUR FAILURES. “Why spend money on what is not bread, and labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (v.2)
In Billy Graham’s book JUST AS I AM, he tells how he learned an important lesson in this regard. He was invited to speak to the students at Cambridge University and he was nervous about it. He wrote to a few close friends and expressed his doubts. “I do know that I have never felt more inadequate and totally unprepared for a mission. As I think over the possibility for messages, I realize how shallow and weak my presentations are. In fact, I am so overwhelmed with my unpreparedness that I almost decided to cancel my appearance, but because plans have gone so far perhaps it is best to go through with it. I will come in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and lean heavily on you.”
A friend wrote back, “I can well understand your feelings of apprehension about Cambridge, but Billy, do not worry. God has opened up the way so wonderfully and has called you to do it, and so all will be well. Do not regard these men as intellectuals. Appeal to their conscience. They are sinners needing a Savior. Conviction of sin, not intellectual persuasion, is the need. So many preachers fail at this point when they speak at universities. So Billy, keep to the wonderful clear and simple message that God has qualified you to preach.”
Still, in spite of the admonition, Billy diligently wrote eight messages with an intellectual format. For the first three nights, he presented the messages to one-fourth of the student body. The students listened intently, but the messages seemed to have little spiritual impact. After the third evening, Billy got on his knees with a deep sense of failure, inadequacy, and helplessness and asked God for help. The Holy Spirit impressed him that his gift “was not to present the intellectual side of the gospel.” “I knew that” he said. “What those students needed was a clear understanding of the simple but profound truths of the Gospel: our separation from God because of sin, Christ’s provision of forgiveness and new life, and our hope because of Him.”
The next night, Billy preached a simple message on the meaning of the cross of Christ. That night 400 students stayed behind to make their commitment to Christ. For the rest of the week, he continued this approach and the response was great.
It is possible for us to spend the major part of our time and money for that which does not satisfy. If we will listen to the Lord and eat what He offers for our hungers, we will be well satisfied with the richest of fare.
IV. HOW WILL YOU RESPOND TO GOD’S INVITATION? “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (vv.6-7)
The thirst in your soul and the hunger in your heart is put there by God to draw you to Himself. Long before you knew it, He was bringing about circumstances to bring you to Himself. That is why you must turn to him when he is speaking to you because that is when He may be found. At this moment the Holy Spirit may be warming your heart with a thirst for God. It is now that you must turn to Him because now he may be found. Later on, on your own schedule, the Holy Spirit may be quenched too much. You must turn to Him while He may be found. You must call upon him while He is near. He is near to you right now. Don’t you sense His presence?
Notice what he will do when you call on Him. He will have mercy on you. Do you need mercy? It you delay and do not call on Him there may come a time when mercy will no longer be available. It will then be justice. When you call on Him, God will grant you freely a pardon for your sin. Christ will become your sin bearer for he has already paid the high price for your sin. If you do not call on Him, you will have to bear the guilt and consequences for your own sin. You will have to do that alone.
But now is the time. This is the place. God may be speaking to your spiritual thirst and hunger. By an act of your will you can come to Him now and say, “Lord God, I am spiritually thirsty. My soul is hungry. I want to know you and fill that empty spot in my life.”
A story is told of a shipwrecked crew who had been drifting for days in a small boat off the coast of Brazil. They were suffering the horrors of thirst but they dare not drink the seawater because the salt would make it even worse. They saw a vessel coming towards them, and called out, “Water, water!” “Dip your bucket over the side” they were told. They thought they were being mocked. But no, the water was fresh. They had drifted into the flow of the mighty River Amazon bearing fresh water far out to sea.
You are in fresh water! Praise Be to His Name!