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  • Writer's pictureAdelee Russell

Characteristics of a Fervent Life Part 1: Insatiable Hunger

In our last series we talked about things that keep us from living a fervent life. We discussed unhealed wounds, unresolved sin, lack of intimacy with God, isolation from the church, and lies from the enemy. I encourage you to check those out before diving into this next series.

As we delve into the characteristics of a fervent life we’ll be moving forward. We’ll be tackling the next five topics assuming that all the areas listed above have already been addressed. We're going to move forward assuming that the foundation has been laid, and we’re ready to embark on a new adventure with God.

Around February of last year I made the decision to take my health seriously. A lot of things have changed over the course of a year. I’m eating things I never thought I would—healthy things. And I’m actually loving it.

I’ve heard it said many times before: “We eat what we crave, and we crave what we eat.” This is so incredibly true.

I changed what I ate, and eventually my cravings shifted. My taste buds changed. Refined sugars, processed foods, and unnatural enriched breads don’t hold as much power over me as they used to. I don’t crave them anymore. Some of them I still enjoy occasionally when I’m hanging out with friends, but in my day to day life I hardly ever think about them.

Instead I crave all kinds of tasty veggies cooked all kinds of creative ways. I enjoy organic whole grain breads, lentil pasta, fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate covered almonds (and dark chocolate in proper amounts is good for you! Google it if you don’t believe me.) I’ve fallen in love with the taste of black coffee (for real. No cream. No sugar. No nothing. This shocked me). And I chug water like my life depends on it (because… you know… it does).

The point is, my days of craving pizza, candy bars, cheap ramen, sugar-filled drinks, mac n’ cheese, and all manner of mainstream pasta are over. I’ve changed. My tastes have changed.

The biggest miracle here isn’t that I’ve lost my craving for the unhealthy things. For me, the most shocking thing is that I now actually look forward to and crave things I used to hate!

I used to hate healthy whole grain breads. I used to hate the majority of vegetables. I used to hate dark chocolate. I used to hate black coffee. Now I look forward to all of those things. Now I crave them instead of the other stuff. And that’s a miracle.

We think about craving food all of the time. But have we ever considered what it is to crave God?

When we eat healthy food our bodies heal and grow. The same is true in the spiritual world. The more we partake of God and His Word the more we heal and grow spiritually.

In John 6:55-58 Jesus makes a strange statement. He says, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever” (NLT).

What’s going on here? Is Jesus speaking some sort of gross cannibalistic mantra? The kind nightmare cults are made of? No. He makes this point a bit clearer in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well when He tells her, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14, NLT).

Jesus is stretching our brains to look beyond the temporal into the eternal. He’s using our earthly cravings to illustrate a spiritual truth.

We humans get so consumed by our temporal desires that we often feed off the high they give us instead of the satisfaction that comes from God.

When Satan tempted Jesus to give in to temporal hunger in Matthew 4:4 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (NLT).

In addition to growth and healing, the Scriptures suggest there is something even better to be found in the time we spend consuming God’s presence and truth.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" (NLT).

Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (NKJV).

Joy and pleasure. Those are two things many Christians never consider gaining from God’s presence. I hear about wisdom, guidance, correction, patience, etc, etc. But I rarely hear Christians talk about the sheer joy they obtain by being with God. And I’ve hardly ever heard them talk about the pleasure they experience in His presence.

But wait. There’s more.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 63 verses 1-8:

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!

"I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

"Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely” (NLT).

Love. That is what we see in Psalm 63. Read those words again only slower this time. Ask yourself: have I ever felt this way toward God?

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you…” Have you ever searched for Him so hard you were willing to give up anything in order to find Him?

“My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water…” Have you ever longed for Him? With a yearning so intense you could feel it throughout your entire body?

“I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself …” Have you seen Him? Truly seen Him? Have you encountered God in such a way that you can genuinely say His love is better than life itself; that you could lose everything but as long as you had Him you would be completely satisfied?

“How I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer…” When you praise God does it affect your soul? Is there joy? Is there emotion? Or is there only duty? Are you praising God because that is what you are supposed to do, or are you genuinely praising Him because you’re thinking about how beautiful His love is and all the things He has done in your life?

“You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy…” When your heart longs for something, do you consider searching for the satisfaction of that longing in your relationship with God? Does that seem plausible to you? Or is it hard to imagine God actually satisfying your tangible longings?

“I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night…” Do you ever find yourself caught up reveling in the goodness of God? As you drive to work? As you lay awake at night? Is there such a tender connection between your heart and His that you find yourself daydreaming about Him? Like a person day dreams about someone they love?

“Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely…” When you’re in a jam and you need help, does it occur to you to ask God? Is it second nature to find refuge in Him? Do you go to Him first? Or to other things?

Now before you start condemning yourself if--deep down--your answers to some of these questions is no, please know that we are all in a state of growth. And once we reach one level of intimacy with God there is yet another one right in front of us. And we are human. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get distracted. We all have moments where we need to allow God to draw us back to Himself.

That said, some people may look at this passage and think: “Well that kind of relationship with God isn’t for everyone. It’s only for those really emotional types. I don’t relate to God that way because I’m more logical. I just don’t get as emotional about things like they do.”

And although the ways we express our emotions for God may be different, I have to say I don't believe that being in love with God and His goodness is “only for those really emotional types.”

Jesus Himself said that the greatest commandment ever given was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV).

I ask you: How can one possibly love anything with all of their heart and not be connected to it emotionally? How on earth can someone love a person with all of their soul without feeling deep, intimate emotions towards them? And how can they truly love them with all their mind if they do not think of them often and day dream about them?

We are human and we are frail. We are not perfect in our love towards God and we never will be until we reach heaven. But this kind of love remains the kind of love God wants us to yearn for. It is the kind of love He wants us to allow Him to grow in our hearts. This kind of love—it’s the goal of every. single. Christian.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us” (KJV). And Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 3:18, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (NLT).

God’s love is deeper than we could ever imagine. And the more we come to know His love, the more we fall in love with Him. This is the true purpose for which we were created. And as we revel in our intimate relationship with Him we end up sharing His love with others, accomplishing the Great Commission. But love comes first. And as Paul says, this journey into an intimate love-fueled relationship with God is for ALL of God’s people. Not just those crazy emotional types. Not just those who are comfortable being raw and honest. Not just those who aren’t afraid to cry in a room full of people. No.

Even those reserved types. Even those with logical thought patterns and restrained emotions. Even them. Even they are supposed to fall into God’s great love for them, and become in love with Him.

When you love someone, you start to crave them. You want to be around them all the time. You laugh at all their jokes. You take note of everything they say. What they say, what they do, is a source of beautiful fascination to you. You want to be around them every second you can. You crave their presence in your life.

Have you ever tasted this kind of love with God? It’s okay to be honest if you haven’t. The truth sets you free (John 8:32). Growth will never come unless we are completely honest with ourselves about where we’re at.

And there is no shame if you haven’t experienced this kind of depth with God yet. It is a journey for each and every one of us, and we all have to start somewhere. Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (NLT).

Whether you're someone who has just recognized your need to repent, or you’ve been a Christian for a long time and you realize you’ve allowed other things to take God’s place in your heart; or maybe you’ve already tasted a loving intimate relationship with God and you’re just grown weary, God is rejoicing over you. It brings Him great joy to see you take small steps of faith and start to grow wherever you’re at.

There is no shame in small beginnings. God rejoices to see the first step you take.

I mentioned earlier that we eat what we crave and we crave what we eat. So how can we deepen our craving for God? What are some things we can do to fan the flames and increase our yearning for God?

Getting Hungry

1. Personal devotion. I hesitate to say devotional time because I think most of us have a little mental box we put that term in every time we hear it. We think of our daily devotional books, or our twenty minutes of “quiet time” reading the chapters of the Bible assigned to us on our reading plan. Maybe we think about acronyms we’ve memorized to help us structure our time with God, or maybe we think about prayer lists, etc, etc.

None of these things are bad on their own. In fact, I myself am currently following a reading plan. But if we’re not careful we can skip right past the point. We cam burrow into the predictable safety of our to-do lists. We can get caught up checking off boxes and setting timers to the point that we get so focused on the task we miss the presence of God completely.

I myself have stumbled into this trap many times. And when it happens I find my time “spent with God” feels dry. I feel empty. I still feel good doing it, but it’s more like the sense of satisfaction you get from personal achievement, Like brushing your teeth, or making your bed, or completing a home workout.

I feel good. But I don’t feel hungry for God. And I certainly don’t feel captivated by the grandeur of His love.

That’s why I don’t like to call it devotional time or quiet time. Our personal relationship with God should be as real and organic as our relationships with other people. Because God IS real. And He wants a real relationship with us.

So when I mention personal devotion to God I mean the time we spend with Him. The moments or hours we choose to connect and interact with Him through the day. Our conversations, with Him. The kinds of conversations where we can hear His voice in return. After all, why would Jesus say such a thing as “My sheep listen to my voice,” (John 10:27, NIV) if He never intended to speak to us?

By personal devotion I mean the kind of encounters that touch our hearts in such a way that we know we’ve experienced the presence of our Heavenly Father. Sometimes this takes time. As with any other relationship, we become more comfortable over time. We come to know the other person’s personality and mannerisms. We start to recognize the sound of their voice, their laugh, their sigh.

Gradually our walls come down and we’re able to reveal our true selves to them. The beautiful and the broken. The noble and the unkind. The crazy and the sane. The slap happy and the serious.

God wants a relationship with our whole selves. He wants to interact with us as a good father does his children. God delights over our personalities (that He created). That includes our idiosyncrasies. The only way to experience this intimate kind of relationship with God is to show up and spend time with Him, whatever that looks like. The more we do, the more we experience this personal interaction with Him, the more we crave His presence.

2. Saturating ourselves in God’s truth. The primary source of God’s truth is His infallible Word: the Bible. Sometimes reading the Bible can feel like munching on dry lettuce. It can feel boring, and unrelatable, and really really confusing.

But like the example I gave about the process of craving healthy food, the more we read the Bible, the more we develop a taste for it. This requires first and foremost asking the Holy Spirit (who teaches us and leads us into all truth, John 14:26, John 16:13) to engage our spirits and speak to our hearts in a way that makes sense.

It also means staying in one place and reading it long enough to allow our distracted brains to settle down to the point where we can hear His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12).

Sometimes it means doing a little research (consider this the salad dressing for that dry lettuce). It could mean looking us the context of a verse or the layered depths of the original language. Check out multiple commentaries to get a better view on complex issues, utilize the incredible research tools that are available with one click on the computer or one tap on our phones.

God has provided so many resources in this day and age through the diligence of His people, and the assistance of His Holy Spirit. Take advantage of it! It might just change the game when it comes to relating to the Holy Scriptures.

Another way to saturate ourselves with God’s truth is through the Gospel-rooted teaching and ministry of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Fervency for God is contagious. God has gifted us with the family of God, and we can learn from each other. Sometimes the passionate word of a brother or sister in Christ can jump start our hunger for God.

Lately I’ve been listening to sermons when I get up in the morning, or when I drive to work. An otherwise dull moment of my life is suddenly sparked by the fervency of a brother or sister, and the perspectives and passions He’s given them.

Sometimes (when I’m still stumbling to make coffee) I’ll listen to the fervent truth being spoken in a sermon and before long, I feel a stirring in my spirit. A hunger is awakened. All of a sudden, I have a serious craving for the things of God. All of a sudden, I’m falling in love with Him all over again. The distractions and the lies that were swimming in my head fade. My vision clears. I feel focused. I feel refreshed. And I am hungry.

3. Fellowship with the community of believers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched as my husband, weighed down by the stresses of life and exhausted from work, leaves to go meet with some brothers in Christ to talk about God and His Word… and when he gets home he’s got the biggest smile on his face. His weariness is gone. And it’s been replaced by a passionate hunger for God.

I experience the same thing after I meet with a group of Jesus-loving sisters and we dig into the things of God together. My spirit lifts. I’m reminded of truth. My heart feels lighter. The day seems brighter. I am refreshed.

Keep Craving

A spiritual diet, much like physical diet, is not a onetime decision. We must continue to cultivate healthy habits. We must continue to fuel the fire. We must continue to partake of God and His presence in our lives.

But when we do, when we find ourselves in that sweet spot—completely consumed by our hunger for Jesus—there’s nothing else like it. And it fills every area of our being with pure joy.

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