Thirsting For God

September 9, 2018 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Thirsting for God

Topic: Thirsting for God Passage: Psalm 42

Thirsting for God

Pastor Allen Snapp

Psalm 42:1-11

12 year old Landon Jones woke up one day suddenly feeling no hunger or thirst. We’re talking a total absence of the desire to eat or drink. For over a year his parents had to continually urge him to eat and drink and even then he would only take a little. They arranged with Landon’s teacher to give him a hand signal every so often to remind him to take a drink. Doctors are stumped and say they have never seen anything like it, but one biologist did offer the theory that medication Landon was on for a bacterial infection zapped his hypothalamus, the portion of the brain that tells us to feel hunger and thirst. Landon still needs water, he just doesn’t feel like he needs it. 

Thirst. Mild thirst is uncomfortable, severe thirst is painful. So it might seem like a good thing not to feel thirst. But we need thirst because we need water. Thirst is a powerful craving that leads us to what we need: water.  

In Psalm 42 the psalmist uses the metaphor of thirst to describe his longing, his craving, for God. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (vv. 1-2) In the way that physical thirst draws us to water because we need it, spiritual thirst is meant to draw us to God because we need Him. 

This morning some of us might feel our need for God. We’re thirsty for God. And some of us might not. We’re spiritual versions of Landon Jones feeling no thirst for God at all. But just as we need water whether we feel thirsty or not, we need God whether we feel thirsty for Him or not. So let’s consider this thing called thirst, and how we can stir up a deeper thirst for God. 

Psalm 42 expresses a deep longing for God but it’s also really honest with God. The psalmist finds himself in deep distress and is discouraged to the point of depression. His enemies seem to have the upper hand over him in every way, and their taunt, “Where is your God?”  is particularly painful because it echoes the question that his own heart is asking, God, where are you? Have you forgotten me? He longs for God’s presence the same way a deer dying of thirst longs for a flowing stream. 

  1. What are we thirsting for?

We live in a thirsty world. A popular song by Bruce Springsteen said, everybody’s got a hungry heart. Everybody’s got a thirsty heart too. Spiritual thirst is a universal human condition. We are born with a thirst for something that this world just can’t ever seem to quench. 

What I admire about this psalmist is that in the midst of a lot going wrong in his life he bores deeply into his own soul and recognizes that his soul is thirsting. It’s craving something. We’ll talk about what his soul is thirsty for in a minute, but let’s just pause and consider his honest assessment of his soul. This may not seem like such a big deal, but I think that many of us rarely bore down into our souls to identify what we’re thirsting for when we do what we do.

Unreflective activism

I once heard a Christian counselor use the term “unreflective activism” to refer to the tendency we have to be busy doing things without taking the time to ask why we’re doing what we’re doing. Why are we responding to life the way we are responding, and what’s driving those responses? One way to frame this is to say we are driven by thirst but rarely, if ever, stop to ask what thirst is driving us - what is it we are craving? How is thirst driving us and where is it driving us? 

  • The guy who puts in long hours at work – and then is available to be interrupted at home 24/7 knows that he is driven, but does he know what thirst is driving him? Is it a thirst to succeed? Fear of failure? Is it a thirst for more money? Is it a thirst to be admired by his coworkers? Is it unhappiness with his home life? He might know he is driven, but not know what thirst is driving him.
  • Or consider the person who never wants to disappoint anyone, so she says yes to commitments that she knows she should say no to, which makes her life so busy that she has even less time to catch her breath and consider where she is going and why. What craving, what thirst, drives her to want to please everyone?
  • Or the person whose life goes from crisis to crisis, and every time a crisis pops up, they run back to God and cry out to Him for help. But as soon as the crisis is resolved, they return to the same habits and lifestyle that leads them into crisis after crisis in the first place. For them unreflective activism means they never ask the bigger questions such as, why does my life go from crisis to crisis? Or, why don’t I pursue God until I find myself in a crisis?

We all have cravings – thirsts – that work deep inside of us and drive us, but do we take the time or find the quiet to reflect on the state of our souls? Whether it’s a thirst for approval, or for security, or to have our ego stroked, or peace and quiet, or a thirst for conflict, or power, or pleasure – our souls are thirsty, but many of us rarely do what the psalmist does: bore down deep to examine what it is our souls thirst for, and why. I know that’s true of me, and I suspect it’s true for many of us in this room. There is a deep, spiritual thirst that goes deep within all our souls and it drives our lives in ways we may not even be aware of.

  1. Spiritual thirst is meant to drive us to God but sin has redirected our thirst towards things that can never quench our thirst 

Just as God designed physical thirst to drive us to water, He designed our spiritual thirst to drive us to Him. Thirst isn’t an end in itself – we get thirsty because there’s such a thing as water, and we have spiritual thirst because there’s such a thing as God. But we need to know that sin, Satan, and the world all work in tandem to redirect our thirst away from God and to things that can never satisfy our souls.  

Obey your thirst – not!

In the summer of 1996 Coca-Cola was looking for a way to change the image of its Sprite products. At that time they had been running an ad that said “I like the Sprite in you!” and it wasn’t connecting with the younger crowd. I had to look up what a Sprite is, I didn’t know. A Sprite is an elf or fairy. So for some reason “I like the elf in you” wasn’t connecting and sales were down. So they contracted with a well known advertising company to come up with something fresh and hip to attract the Gen X crowd.

Ad executive Donald Ritkin knew exactly what that new campaign should be. He had recently read a speech given in 1971 by then Gov of California Ronald Reagan. Reagan was addressing the Boy Scouts of America on a scorching day and as he neared his conclusion, he paused to take a drink of water. When he resumed Reagan went off script and said, “If you are to remember one thing, and only one thing, it should be this: Speeches are nothing. Thirst is everything. Always remember to obey your thirst.” Ritkin took Reagan’s ad lib sentence and tweaked it to become the new Sprite campaign:

Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.


It’s ironic that the desire to change the image of a product began with the words, image is nothing. But this ad misleads us in another way. No matter what they say, Sprite doesn’t actually want you to “obey your thirst.” Thirst would never lead you to a can of Sprite. If you were in a desert dying of thirst, and saw a glass of water next to a can of Sprite, if you obeyed your thirst you’d choose the water. With all its sugar, Sprite will actually make you more thirsty. Sprite doesn’t want you to obey your thirst, they want to redirect your thirst away from water (and every other drink) and towards a can of Sprite. 


This gives us a picture of how sin, Satan, and the world tries to redirect our thirst away from God and towards things that can’t ever quench our thirst: Human history is literally filled with skeletons of corpses who died of thirst with a metaphorical can of Sprite gripped in their skeletal hands. Millionaires who testify through their unhappiness that money doesn’t quench the thirst. Ambitious men and women who stepped on others to climb the ladder of promotion, only to find that their thirst climbed the ladder with them. People who have lived incredibly self-indulgent lives only to find that the more they drank of pleasure, the thirstier their boredom got. A man sits up late in front of his computer feeding his thirst for pornographic images, only to find that when he turns off the computer and heads to bed at 2am his soul is dryer than ever, emptier than ever, thirstier than ever. 


The world promises us that the next oasis will be the one that quenches our thirst, but it always turns out to be a mirage –as soon as we reach it, we find it has moved again just out of reach. Over and over again we believe that the next mirage really will be the one that pays off. Sin, Satan, and the world tag team to redirect our thirst away from God – the only One who can quench our thirst – to things that can never quench our thirst. I feel it, you feel it. What do we do? Spiritual thirst was meant to drive us to God, but sin redirects it away from God and towards things that will never quench our thirst. I submit to you this morning that God’s word doesn’t counsel us to “obey our thirst” it counsels us to “choose our thirst”.

  1. Choose your thirst

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. We can choose what we thirst for. Isa. 55 talks to the thirsty man and woman and invites them to choose to quench their thirst with God:

[1] “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. [2] Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Isaiah 55:1-2

The question isn’t whether or not someone is thirsty the question is whether they will come to the Lord to

 quench their thirst. In John 7 Jesus goes to the Feast of Booths and calls on anyone who is thirsty to come to him for living water: “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.’” John 7:37-38

Jesus is inviting those who thirst to come to him where he promises to give us living water. Not stale, stagnant water but running, living water that will then bubble out of us and become a source of living water to others who are thirsty. Jesus not only satisfies our thirst, he wants to use us as channels to quench other people’s thirst. Jesus is what we thirst for. God is what we thirst for. Eternal life is what we thirst for. Jesus spoke about water to the Samaritan woman at the well and said:

 “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus says “come.” He says, choose. Aim your thirst at Jesus and ask him to quench your thirst. This takes getting alone with the Lord. Psalm 42 is a very personal psalm – it’s a man pouring out his heart to his God one on one. If we’re always surrounded by noise and distractions we will find it hard to drink deeply of the Lord. Choose your thirst means setting time aside to consistently get alone with God and drink. When you do…

  1. Be honest with God about your thirst

The psalmist isn’t spouting out some religious cliché that he knows God wants to hear. He really is thirsting for God. I can’t always say that and you probably can’t either. The Sprite ad campaign got one thing right: image is nothing. God isn’t interested in our image; He’s interested in our honesty. This is soul talk – My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and see the face of God? Maybe that’s not true of your soul, maybe it’s not true of mine, but God wants to hear where my soul and your soul is honestly. Be honest with God about your thirst or lack of thirst.

  1. Ask God to give you a greater thirst for Him

The psalmist goes back and forth between praying to God and talking to his soul. He opens with a prayer: as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. He’s praying about his thirst. That’s a good place for us to start too. Only God can give us a thirst for Him. Ask God to increase your thirst for Him. 

  1. Choose to do things that will increase your thirst for God

I mentioned that the psalmist goes back and forth – sometimes talking to God and sometimes talking to his soul. When he sees that his soul is depressed (cast down) he then talks to his soul – Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Ask the band to come up.

We can choose to direct our souls towards God and do things that will increase our thirst for God. It might mean turning off the TV, putting down the paper, slowing down the schedule. Directing our thirst will include simple things like meditating on God’s word, taking a walk outside with God, listening to a message or spending time with other believers who will encourage you in your relationship with Christ. The more we drink of the fountain of God, the thirstier for Him we become!

We need God. Desperately. Let’s spend a few minutes in worship drinking of His goodness and love.