Central to the Christian life is the truth that we have been created and designed for relationship with our Maker, Savior, Master and Friend. In our design, we have been given the “equipment” necessary to know Him and experience Him; this is what it means to be created in His image and likeness.1
Therefore, this relationship with Him is to be normal and natural. We are “wired” to know Him; to desire Him, to “hunger” after Him. Immediately we protest; why then does it seem at times such a struggle? Why does He seem at times (from our perspective) distant, and frankly, impersonal?
We know from experience that appetites are part and parcel of our make-up. From the desire for food to significance to sexuality, we are designed to hunger. And these appetites are given so that we will seek their fulfillment.
Now, here we need to take a short rabbit trail. Aren’t appetites, well, bad? Unfortunately and falsely, we have come to equate them with lust. Interestingly, the NT word translated lust (epithumia – evpiqumi,a) means, simply, strong desire. Strong desire only becomes sin when legitimate boundaries are crossed or when the object of desire is wrong.2 Sin is the misuse of something God-given and legitimate in an illegitimate way or amount.
Strong desire is not only a fact, but when focused appropriately gives energy to our life as believers. Jesus Himself “lusted!” He “strongly desired” (epithumia) to have a final meal with his disciples before His death.3
Appetites are the result of the cultivation of desire; they grow with cultivation. Think about broccoli. I actually really love the stuff. Twisted, I know. Bt it took time and diabetes to cultivate my appetite for it. If we can condition our physical appetites by what we eat, could it be that we can and do condition our appetites in other areas of our lives? What we focus our desire upon, what we fill our minds with, cultivates an appetite for those things. I both laugh and am pleased to hear my grandkids ask for celery or fruit with a sense of eagerness. Their parents have wisely cultivated their appetite for healthy and beneficial foods. But feed them a regular diet of Snickers and Pop-Tarts and see if they still ask for celery with “epithumia.”
Why does it seem so difficult at times to connect with God? Perhaps we have conditioned our appetites with a diet that hinders our hunger for Him. Consider the impact of media on us. We live in a very sensory culture. Media of all kinds stimulate our senses. We can soon, unconsciously, become addicted to the stimulation. Anything less engaging or entertaining seems rather trite and boring. Like the things of God. Like the still, subtle voice of the Holy Spirit.
Such over-stimulation is like sitting down to a great meal, ready to indulge your appetite, and the first thing you do is burn your tongue; every bite after that is tasteless. Try this experiment. Watch a really powerful movie; one that fully engages your senses – mind and emotions. Then go pick up your Bible (or any other book for that matter) and begin to read. What did you discover?4
Is media evil? Should we avoid movies, TV, etc? Hardly. But it helps us to understand the need to cultivate our senses and develop our appetites in such a way that God and the things of God receive the place they actually deserve in our lives. If God really is the most valuable thing in the whole universe, then what should be our attitude toward Him?
How can we cultivate an appetite for God?
First, we choose upon what we will focus our desires. We must decide that we will pursue Him and seek Him because of His incredible value – He really is worthy of our lives! We must trust that He will meet us at the point of our decision – He Himself, the Personal and Living God will engage those who will seek Him wholeheartedly. 5
Second, we must ask Him what things in our lives curb our appetite for Him. Do we need to fast TV for a time to break its hold on us? Do we need to learn how to cultivate times of quiet and solitude so that our sensitive spiritual equipment can function afresh; so that the noise and confusion of our culture can be put in the background and the Holy Spirit’s voice in the fore?
Third, we must actively cultivate our appetite for Him. How? By filling our minds and hearts with Scripture, imbibing truth through reading good and substantive books, having meaningful conversation with other believers, taking time to worship. In doing so, we come to know Him for Who He really is, to truly know His character. It is His revelation of Himself to each one of us which captures our hearts with His incredible worth and value.
Finally, we need to ask. “God, would you meet me at the point of my need? Would you increase my desire, my hunger, my thirst for You?” God loves honest authentic prayers; such prayers He can wisely answer!
David knew what it was to have an appetite for God. Make meditation on this psalm a point of beginning. Personalize it and pray it for yourself.
1O 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. 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3 Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! 4 I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5 You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. 6 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 7 I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings. 8 I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely. Psalm 63:1-8. NLT (A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.)
Copyright by Mike Huckins 1-12-2011
1 Genesis 1:26-27.
2 James 1:12-18.
3 Luke 22:15.
4 “One of the most disturbing truths about TV is that it eats books. Once out of school, nearly 60 percent of all adult Americans have never read a single book, and most of the rest read only one book a year.” Larry Woiwode
5 Jer. 29:11-13. Written to the Babylonian exiles, these words reveal an important Biblical truth: the God who is after our hearts will surely embrace us if we will give Him all of our hearts. Andrew Murray captures this, “The law is unchangeable: God offers Himself, gives Himself away, to the whole-hearted who give themselves wholly to Him.”