The "Real" Upside Down - Part 3: How Hungry Are You?

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The Beatitudes contain eight principles that allow us to live in the “real upside down” Jesus came to establish. We’ve already looked at the first two principles:

1. Admit your need. We’re spiritually bankrupt and totally dependent on God. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

2. Accept your brokenness over the pain you’ve experienced and the damage sin does. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Today we’ll look at the next two. Each principle builds on the previous one.

3. Walk in submission. Submit to God’s authority and to the people He has placed in your life! (5:5).

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” —Matthew 5:5 NIV

What comes to mind when you hear the word meek? Is a meek person “soft spoken?” Does a meek person have a limp handshake? Does a meek person lack a spine?

Nobody in our world puts the “meek” on the fast track to success. No company has a “meek employee of the month.” Nobody lists “meekness” on their Match.com profile: “Hey girl. Looking for something different? I’m meek…”

When it comes to meekness, one of our problems is that the English word for meekness sounds a whole lot like the word, “weakness.’ And, nobody wants to be perceived as weak.

But as Rick Warren once said, “…meekness is not weakness. If you think meek is weak, try being meek for a week.”

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The word “meek” actually means, “POWER or STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL.” It's the opposite of rudeness, harshness and self-assertiveness.

The word for “meekness” is literally the picture of a “HORSE that has been BROKEN and now under CONTROL.” Its wild tendencies and passions are subdued and restrained. Its strength has been harnessed and brought under control. It has a sense of peace and calm, because its strength is directed towards purpose.  

Here’s the way Colin Smith describes it in his excellent book, Momentum.

Meekness is controlled strength. It tames the temper, subdues the self, calms the passions, manages the impulses of the heart, and brings order out of chaos in the soul. —Colin Smith 

A person characterized by meekness is humble, gentle, patient, forgiving and content. They’re a person who knows what it means to walk in SUBMISSION.

Wow! There’s a word we don’t hear a lot about in 2018!

Meek people submit to GOD’S WORD.

The book of James describes what this looks like.

…receive with meekness [humility, gentleness, patience and submission] the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. —James 1:21b ESV / NLT

God’s Word challenges us: “Place yourself under the authority of Scripture. Instead of forming your own opinions, let God’s Word shape what you believe and what you do. Let God’s word shape your attitudes and actions.”

Meek people submit to the PEOPLE God has placed in their life.

 Ephesians 5:21 contains a principle that has the power to revolutionize every relationship!

 …submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. —Ephesians 5:21 NLT

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Can you imagine what would happen if, instead of amping up on and demanding our own way with the people God has placed in our lives, whether it’s a spouse, kids, an employer or employees, friends, neighbors, or an elected official— what would it look like if we walked in meekness? If we brought our power under control? If we demonstrated humility, gentleness, kindness, patience and submission?

This could transform our relational world!

By the way, this would be what it looks like to actually follow Jesus. Because here’s how a guy who actually walked with Jesus described him. Peter wrote:

“When he was verbally abused, he did not return with an insult; when he suffered, he would not threaten retaliation. Jesus faithfully entrusted himself into the hands of God, who judges righteously.” —1 Peter 2;23 TPT

Jesus “faithfully entrusted himself into the hands of God.”

The next time you have to get “the last word in” or “set things straight.” What would it look like to “faithfully entrusted yourself, your cause, your idea and opinion into the hands of God”?

How are you doing on this one? Are you meek? Are you submitted to God and to the people He has placed in your life? Are you gentle, kind, patient and humble or do you struggle with being rude, frustrated, angry and harsh?

Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." This is what it looks like to live in his "upside down" kingdom! 

4. Passionately pursue God — His purpose, plan and presence more than anything else (5:6).

Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST for righteousness, for they will be FILLED. —Matthew 5:6 NIV

It’s tough for most of us who live in America to understand hunger. Most Americans don’t really know what it means to be hungry.

When we’re hungry, we eat…

When we’re thirsty, we drink…

We refrigerate our food to preserve it and our water to keep it cold. 

We shop at Publix, Target, Aldi or Whole Foods where food is flown or shipped in fresh daily from around the world…

We go to restaurants where we our order food one minute and it shows up the next…

If somebody asks us, “Are you hungry?” what they actually mean is, “If I put food on the table, will you eat it?”

The audience Jesus spoke to was different. They seldom ate meat. They couldn’t afford it. They were often hungry, sometimes even STARVING.

So when Jesus talked about hunger and thirst, they understood it!

Hunger is a SIGN of NEED.

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When you’re hungry, your body is telling you something! “It’s been a long time since your last meal, you need to eat!”

When a person is really hungry or thirsty, they can’t think of anything else except food or water. Hunger and thirst are compelling. When a person is really hungry and thirsty they are totally and singularly FOCUSED.

 Jesus said,

“Blessed are those who are totally FOCUSED on righteousness,

 for they will be filled. God is going to give them what they long for

and what they need!”

Hunger is a SIGN of LIFE!

If you’ve been around a newborn, you know that you don’t have to teach a newborn to be hungry. They don’t need to be mentored in hunger awareness! It’s just there! It’s innate!

That’s why Charles Spurgeon said this: “To hunger and thirst after righteousness is a sign of spiritual life. Nobody who was spiritually dead ever did this… if you hunger and thirst after righteousness, you are spiritually alive.”

Losing your appetite is usually a sign of sickness or stress. When your appetite starts to return, it’s a sign of recovery and life.

So, here’s the question:

Are you hungry for God?

How hungry for God are you?

Fasting and prayer are historical spiritual practices for cultivating a hunger and thirst for God.

In one of the best books I’ve read on fasting, John Piper writes:

“The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God….
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie.  It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.  It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.  For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a spouse (Luke 14:18-20).”  —John Piper, A Hunger for God

I read that probably ten years ago and hit like sledge hammer!

Piper isn’t saying that food, in and of itself is a bad thing. Neither is television, sports or a relationship. In fact, most of these things are good things and gifts from God when they’re received with a thankful heart.

But far too often we can anesthetize the HUNGER and ACHE in our soul for God, with a bite of food, a can of soda, a relationship or by binge watching some show on Netflix.

Fasting and prayer gives us an opportunity to deal a death blow to our “functional saviors and substitutes,” and fall on our faces before God to say, “God, I want YOU! I’m desperate for YOU!  I want YOU this much…”

David describes this kind of hunger in Psalm 42:

“I want to drink God, deep draughts of God. I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—arrive and drink in God’s presence?” —Psalm 42:1-2 MSG

Here’s the question one more time: Are you hungry for God?

How hungry for God are you?

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are totally focused on God and on righteousness, for they will be filled. God is going to give them what they need and what they long for!”

Here's a great prayer for spiritually hungry people?  

“O God, I have tasted Your goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire.

“O God, the Triune God, I want to want You; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.

“Show me Your glory, I pray, so I may know You indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.”  —A. W. Tozer

We’ll be back tomorrow with the last installment in this series on the “real upside down.”