Cultivating a Thirst for God (text)
Topic: Thirsting for God Passage: Psalm 42:1–42:2
Cultivating a Thirst for God
Last week we began a series titled Thirsting for God and this morning I want us to consider how we can cultivate a greater thirst for God. But before we do, someone might be wondering: what does it mean to thirst for God and why should I thirst for God?
What does it mean to thirst for God and why should I?
Thirst is one of the metaphors that the Bible uses to describe our deeply imbedded need and longing for God. In Psalm 42, the psalmist compares his longing for God’s presence to a thirsty deer desperately in need of a flowing stream. We have physical thirst because we need water. We have spiritual thirst because we need God.
I made the point last week that we live in a thirsty world – evidences all around us that it is a part of the human condition to have a deep thirst that nothing in the world can quench. Money, fame, power, possessions, sex, relationships, peace – none of these things can completely satisfy this deep inner thirst. I’m not saying that some of these things can’t be very meaningful and even partially satisfying – especially love and relationships and family and caring for one another - but none of these things completely fills this deep inner longing that we all feel. As George Bailey said to Henry F. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life - I know very well what you're talking about. You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on, and it's galling you.
That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a thirst for something we can’t get our fingers on and it’s galling us. It’s always there but we can never get a firm grip on it, like a passing shadow that we can only see out of the corner of our eyes, but when we try to look at it directly, it’s gone. Like an echo in our soul but we never hear the original sound. It’s a desire, a longing, for something that nothing in this world ever seems to satisfy.
So why should we thirst for God? The Bible tells us that the reason nothing in this world can completely quench our thirst is because our souls thirst for something far, far greater than anything in this world. God created us for relationship with Him - to walk with Him, know Him, and worship Him. Only God is glorious enough, only God is big enough to satisfy our thirst and deserve our unrestrained worship and awe. One of the words used to describe God is the word “holy” which means “other” or “separate”. God isn’t like His creation – He is “other”, He is holy. One of the ways that God is “other” than His creation is that He is not only perfect in all that He is, but He is also infinite in all His perfections. In other words, God is really, really big!
So let’s try and wade into this aspect of God’s infiniteness for a minute, not because we could ever really understand it, but because it relates to one of the characteristics of our spiritual thirst which is that we always long for something “more”. When we get something we were thirsting for and it doesn’t satisfy us for very long, many times we think that the reason it no longer satisfies is that we need “more”. And in a sense, we’re right. God created us to long for more – but its more than all the world combined could ever give us. The Bible tells us the world simply isn’t big enough to satisfy our souls – only God is big enough. But that term is misleading, because when we think of big and large and more, we are thinking in finite terms – we have to, we’re finite beings. We understand big, we understand more, we can’t begin to understand infinite. Infinite doesn’t relate to large the way that large relates to small. So, speaking of large, our national debt is currently stands at 17.5 trillion dollars and is growing at approx. 2.37 billion dollars a day. That’s large! Trillion makes a million look small in comparison:
A million seconds is 12 days. Most of us were around and can remember May 13th.
A billion seconds is 31 years. Many of us were around – but many weren’t.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years. America wasn’t around. Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the apple yet. If you’re a young earth proponent (as I am) the earth hadn’t been created yet. That’s more.
But infinite doesn’t relate proportionately to a trillion the way a trillion relates to a million. It’s not just more, it’s infinitely more. All finite things, no matter how much or how vast, have a beginning and an end. The universe is vastly large, really beyond our ability to conceive, and yet it is finite – it has an end. And when you reached the edge of the universe, infinite would stretch infinitely beyond it. Perhaps that’s why Isaiah 40:12 asks these rhetorical questions about staggeringly vast, but finite, measurements:
Who has measured the waters [oceans and waters of the earth] in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
The answer, of course, is God, the holy One. The heavens (universe) were marked off with a span – in those days a span was the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. This verse isn’t meant to somehow measure God, but demonstrate the “moreness” of an infinite Being. God is infinite in all that He is: infinitely loving. Infinitely compassionate. Infinitely just. Infinitely wise. Infinitely righteous. Infinitely pure. Infinitely true. Infinitely faithful. Psalm 103 contrasts our puniness with God’s infinite quality of love.
14 For he knows our frame;a he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep his covenant (Ps. 103:14-18)
We can’t comprehend all that God is, and we aren’t meant to. But we can worship Him for how awesomely great He is, and an awesome part of the eternal life that He promises those who put their faith in Christ is that we’ll have an eternity (infinite time moving forward) of learning and exploring all that God is and we’ll never get bored and we’ll never come to the edges of all that God is.
Ok, I realize that some of your eyes are beginning to glaze over, and you’re blacking out from lack of oxygen. So how does this relate to our spiritual thirst? Because we never want to think that God is some kind of killjoy who wants us to turn away from the exciting things the world has to offer, and settle for quenching our thirst at some boring, stuffy little pool called religion. God doesn’t want us to minimize our desires – He wants us to maximize our desires! CS Lewis writes:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
When Jesus says in John 7:38-39 “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” he’s not asking us to downsize our desires. He’s asking us to seriously upgrade our desires so that rather than settling for the mud puddles of the world, we would drink deeply of living water! That’s why we should thirst for God – because only God is great enough, glorious enough, powerful enough, perfect enough, good enough, and infinite in all these qualities, to quench our spiritual thirst. We were created to thirst for God!!
So how do we cultivate a deeper thirst for God? The psalmist isn’t just describing his thirst when he says, as the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…he’s also directing his thirst. With all that’s going wrong, his soul must be tempted to just want things to ease up but he takes his thirst and aims it right at God. He recognizes that what his soul is parched for is God, and so he chooses to direct his thirst at God. How do we aim our thirst at God? How can we cultivate a greater thirst for God? Let me share four things that can help us choose our thirst.
- Believe – this ties in with what I’ve been saying about how glorious and infinite God is, that we need to throw out this idea that it’s what the world has to give that’s exciting and following Christ is boring. But what I’ve shared about how infinitely glorious God is will only affect you or me if we believe it. If our faith is stirred within so that we believe that God is awesome, and that what our souls long for, and what can bring our souls the greatest joy and satisfaction is Jesus. It’s the world that offers us dirty dishwater packaged like fine wine. As the psalmist David wrote, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps. 34:8). We need to believe that Jesus offers our souls a depth of satisfaction and joy that the world can’t touch!
If you’re not a Christian, you might be thinking, “I’m not sure I buy all this about thirsting for God. I’m tracking with you about thirst and wanting more in life, but I can’t quite make the jump to believe that it’s God that I’m thirsting for.”
A relationship with God begins with faith in Christ and faith in Christ is more than believing information about Jesus, it’s coming to Jesus for living water. The Bible says that we are all sinners who have been separated from the holy God who cannot allow sin in His presence, and the chasm between us could never be bridged by our good works or religious efforts. But God loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus to live among us and teach us about our Father in heaven and then to die a brutal death on an old rugged cross and receive the punishment of God that our sins deserved so that we could be righteously forgiven and saved. When a desperate man asked Paul, what must I do to be saved? Paul answered, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Believing is to see your need for a Savior – if you will your desperate thirst for living waters – and to have an appetite for the glory and beauty and soul-satisfying power of Christ. Anyone who wants to come to Christ for salvation has to come believing that Jesus is what you need to live.
- Pray – only God can give us living water, but even before that, only God can give us souls that thirst for Him. Jesus promised us, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. James tells us “You have not because you ask not.” If you’re not a Christian, pause and ask God to give you a deep thirst for Him. If you are a Christian and yet find your thirst for God is often weaker than your thirst for the world, don’t try to hide that from God. He’s not looking for us to be phony. The psalmist is being honest, he’s not just saying what he knows God wants to hear, this really is where his soul is at. That’s how we want to be with God too. Be honest, confessing where our thirsts don’t line up with God’s word and asking God to give us a greater thirst for Him and all He is.
- Repent – repent means to have a change of mind. We need to repent of the worldliness that fills our hearts. I think that worldliness in the church is really a case of our drinking at the mud puddles of the world (and preferring the mud puddles of the world) instead of drinking at the living fountain of the Spirit. Listen to the warning found in Jeremiah 2:12-13:
 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD,  for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13 ESV)
When the church forsakes the living God for the broken cisterns of the world that can’t hold water, it is a double tragedy. We are forsaking the only fountain that can truly quench our thirst, and we are digging cisterns of our own making. What an accurate description of our own efforts to quench our thirst – every cistern we dig to hold water doesn’t hold water for long. The water drains out, the joy drains out, the excitement drains out, the pleasure drains out, and we are thirsty again. Isn’t that an accurate description of what happens every time we set our sights on something of this world to provide the joy and meaning that our souls long for? It started young, when we were little kids and thought that Christmas morning and the presents held all the joy and excitement life would ever need? But by Christmas afternoon we were bored with all our gifts and felt this let down. Then the cistern we dug was graduating high school, graduating college, getting a good paying job, finding a wife or husband, having children, buying a home, getting a new sports car, getting a promotion, retiring with a good pension, traveling the world…and again, these things aren’t necessarily bad and they can be meaningful and build sweet and lasting memories. But if we look to these things to provide the joy, the reason for life that we long for, thirst for, they don’t hold water. The Bible tells us that nothing in this world can hold the living waters that we are thirsting for because living waters can’t be contained in a cistern. It needs to bubble and flow from a everflowing fountain – that is the Lord. The antidote is to repent of turning away from the Lord to dig these worthless cisterns and return to the Lord, the fountain of living waters.
- Seek – God responds to thirst and thirst for God manifests itself in a people who are seeking God. When we seek, Jesus says we will find. The Lord promises His people:
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord…Jer. 29:13
Seeking God with all our heart is being thirsty ground crying for rain. What we need, individually and corporately, is God’s presence. Revival begins with repentance because revival begins with thirst. When the church thirsts for God, God pours out His Spirit in response to that thirst.
The last thing I want is for this to all sound complicated – I don’t think it is. It’s really all a way of saying we aim our thirst at God. Believe, pray, repent, and seek. Aiming. I struggle all too often trying to satisfy my thirst at the cisterns of the world. Going from one mirage to another. I suspect many of you do too. But God is drawing us to Himself, and stirring in us a faith to believe that He is what we long for. What we thirst for. That He is infinitely more than the world.
I remember when I was about 16 years old, a new Christian, and going through a hard time, one of the young women in our church wrote a song that I would have her sing over and over. I don’t remember all the words completely but the chorus went something like this:
Be my security. My strength in adversity. And when everything in the whole world fails,
Be more than the world to me.
That’s what Christ is, and he wants us to come to him thirsty, with a heart that says, when everything in the world leaves me dry and thirsty, be more than the world to me.