In 1980, Bruce Springsteen released a single off his album, The River, called, “Everybody’s got a Hungry heart.” Whether he realizes it or not, Springsteen is, in a less grammatical way, simply echoing what Blaise Pascal once said:
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”
I certainly relate to Springsteen. I have felt a hungry heart. I have felt an emptiness of soul. There have been many times that I have felt a hunger for something that is missing in my life – even if I wasn’t sure exactly what I was hungering for. Have you ever had a hungry heart? The symptoms of this hunger are not a noisy and restless stomach but a noisy and restless spirit full of anxiety, sadness and loneliness. These are symptoms that your spirit is hungering for something, but it seems that the world can’t supply it.
The world claims to have what it takes to satisfy this hunger of the soul. For example, investment companies tell us that if we invest our money with them they will relieve our anxiety by making our money grow. Ontario Lotteries Corporation claims that if we buy their tickets that we have a chance to become instant millionaires and we won’t be sad anymore. In a commercial that borders on blasphemy Axe body spray implies that if guys simply spray on their product, their loneliness will disappear because even female angels will fall out of heaven to be with them. Yet somehow the hungers persist. Well, I can’t really say that I’ve tried the Axe body spray. Debra wouldn’t be too impressed if I used it and all these women stampeded to me. To be honest, I don’t think she’s the least bit worried.
Can you relate to the idea of the hungry soul? Can you admit that there are times in your life when you have felt the same hungers very deeply? In my experience, women have a much easier time admitting to these things. Men might find it a little harder to admit to these hungers of anxiety, sadness and loneliness. Men are supposed to be able to handle whatever life throws at them. Big boys don’t cry. Yet I have to agree with Henry David Thoreau when he said that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Where do we find what really satisfies the hungers of the soul? Does the Bible say anything about this? Basically, it tells us that the answer to a hungry soul is found in God. In his letter to the Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul speaks about how we can have a relationship with God. In the first chapter, he speaks about how mankind in general is out of relationship with God because of sin – because we as human beings persist in rebellion against God. He then tells us that God has made a way for us to get back into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He shows us that Jesus, in dying on the cross, took the punishment for our sins and that if we place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are put into a right relationship with God. Paul uses the word “justified.” In other words, because we have identified ourselves with Christ, who sacrificed himself for us, we are made righteous. In his grace – his undeserved favour - Christ took our sin and gave us his righteousness. In God’s eyes, therefore, it is “just as if we never sinned.” In chapter five, Paul begins to talk about some of the wonderful benefits we have because we are justified in Christ – benefits that address the problem of a hungry heart. He says:
1 ¶ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
I. For the hunger of anxiety, Christ gives us peace.
1 ¶ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
Christ gives us the ultimate peace – peace with God.
In Chapter 4, Paul quotes King David in Psalm 32:1-2 when he says:
"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
It is a blessed state to be forgiven of sin. It is a blessed state for the rebel to be granted amnesty. It is a blessed state to have peace with God.
Peace with God is the fountain from which all other peace will flow – inner peace and peace with people.
The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said this:
"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe."
think that he had it backwards. The Bible teaches that we must be in harmony with the universe before we are in harmony with ourselves. We get in harmony with the universe by getting harmony with the creator of the universe – that is God himself.
I have read several quotes on inner peace in my research. Most of them are by people with a Buddhist or Hindu bent like the Dalai Lama. Almost all of them say to search for peace by looking within. The Bible teaches if we look within we instead find greed and selfishness and pride. If we look within we are more likely to find lust and rebellion and envy and jealousy and all kinds of evil. Jeremiah the prophet said this:
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
We need to look outside ourselves for peace. We find that peace in forgiveness of sin and a transformed heart. We find that peace in a relationship with God. To find inner peace we need to get right with God. We need righteousness. As God, through the Prophet Isaiah said:
7 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32)
For the hunger of anxiety, Christ gives us PEACE.
II. For the hunger of sadness, Christ gives us joy!
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
The Joy of eternal life.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
When Paul talks about the glory of God here, he is talking about the glory we will receive from God in Heaven. We will actually share God’s Glory! The glory of God is a major theme in the Bible. To God alone belongs the glory: as Creator, as Ruler of all, as Savior. Only God has such glory; nothing in the world deserves our praise and admiration as much as the glory of God. As God says through Isaiah, "My glory I will not give to another" (Isaiah 48:11). Yet in a sense the gospel is about God giving His glory to another, to many others—in fact, to all of His people. The great hope of the gospel is that we are going to share in the glory of God. We are not just going to see His glory or experience His glory; we are going to be glorious like He is. God wants to display his glory in the universe. And friends, in Heaven, He will do it through YOU!
When I think of this, I think of an obnoxious hockey dad. I think of the dad that yells at the referees over bad calls real and imagined. I think of the dad who yells the loudest and brags the most when his son makes a good play. Why do some hockey dads act this way? They want their offspring to display their fatherly glory! Now I realize that this illustration breaks down a bit. Hockey dads often do those things because of their own insecurities. God is different. God is glorious in and of Himself. He is not insecure. How could he be? What is similar, though, is that God wants you to display his glory and in eternity that is exactly what we will do. We will share his glory. We will display all that is wonderful about God. We will show the universe how magnificent God is.
My challenge to you is to grasp this. My challenge to you is to get this deep in your heart. God will share his glory with you. Right now we don’t have much glory. We have weak, frail, and imperfect bodies. Even those who have a form of glory find it fading day by day as their bodies age. Some of us are in less than glorious situations. We don’t have glorious jobs or we don’t live in glorious circumstances. Don’t let that rule your life. Don’t let that get you down or depress you. One day, in Heaven, we will share in God’s glory.
And we rejoice in this hope of the glory of God.
Joy in suffering.
3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
If we see suffering as pointless, we will give into sadness and despair. In fact, the website where I found this picture is called “despair.com.” It calls itself the “anti-motivational site.” It’s a funny site, but if you take it seriously, you just might give into despair because of the things it says about suffering.
On the other hand, people are willing to suffer great things if they know that there is going to be a payoff.
Paul tells us here that our suffering as Christians results in something very wonderful. If we believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, we can see that God can use suffering to work out great purposes in our lives. First, he says, trouble suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance is an overcoming attitude. It is a spirit that desires to overcome the difficulty. When Beethoven’s hearing began to fail, instead of giving into despair he said, “I will take life by the throat.” When Sir Walter Scott, the author, was financially ruined because of the bankruptcy of one of his publishers, he said, “No man will say, ‘Poor Fellow!” to me; my own right hand will pay the debt.” When someone was involved in a great sorrow, a friend, said to him, “Sorrow fairly colours life, doesn’t it.” The man replied, “Yes. And I propose to change the colour.” That, my friend, is perseverance.
Then Paul says that perseverance produces character. The word Paul uses for character is the same word that was used of metal that was refined by fire. When trouble is met with perseverance, out of the battle a person emerges stronger, purer and better and nearer to God.
Then Paul says that character produces hope. In other words, Paul says, People of good character meet the challenges of life with hope.
William Barclay says,
“If ... a man has insisted on meeting life with head up, if he has always faced and, by facing, conquered things, then when the challenge comes, he meets it with eyes aflame with hope. The character which has endured the test always emerges in hope.”
For the hunger of sadness, God gives us joy – joy in the hope of the glory of God and joy even in suffering because we know that our suffering is not pointless.
For the hunger of loneliness, Christ gives us love.
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
When Paul says that the hope that is developed in suffering doesn’t disappoint us. He is saying that we are putting our hope into something sound and solid. And we know this because we supernaturally receive the witness of the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Someone once described our search for love as a game where everyone has a half-full pail of water and the object of the game is to fill your bucket by begging, borrowing or stealing water from everyone else’s half full pail. It’s a game that people are bound to lose. Yet, what if one of the players discovers a fountain of water? What if that player filled his bucket up at the fountain and then went around filling up everyone else’s buckets and telling them where the fountain was? Well, everyone would win, wouldn’t they? What would probably happen is a great big huge water fight with water – or love in this case – splashing about everywhere!
But how can we be assured of God’s love? What is it that can help us to believe in God’s profound and powerful love for us?
6 ¶ You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In the human realm, people don’t generally sacrifice their lives even for righteous or even good people. If we love a good person enough, we might be willing to die for them. I recently read a story of four teenagers whose car had gone off the road and into a canal. Three of the teens managed to escape the sunken car. As one came to the surface, however, he realized that his sister hadn’t made it out of the car. He dove back down to the car, found his way in and was in the process of getting her out when he himself died. They found him later with his arms around his sister. He had given his life trying to save hers. All through history people have given their lives because they love them. They usually love them because they are good people.
Christ, however, died for sinners. Christ died for people in rebellion against him. He even died for people who even hated him. That is the great love of God.
It is that kind of love that Christ has given us for the hunger of loneliness.
Bruce Springsteen has it right. Everybody’s got a hungry heart. But Springsteen is like a doctor who can diagnose an illness, but can’t prescribe the cure. However, in these few verses, Paul does. Paul tells us that the cure for the hungry heart is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And so my question is, “Do you have a relationship with God.” I’m sure you have tried all kinds of other cures for your hungry heart. I’m sure you have tried all kinds of ways to deal with anxiety, sadness and loneliness. Why not turn to God so that he can give you the peace, joy and love that only he can give?
You might say to me that you have placed your trust in Christ but you are still experience anxiety, sadness and loneliness. I understand that. These hungers don’t immediately cease when we become Christians. In fact, I don’t believe that the hungers of our hearts will be fully satisfied until we enter into eternity. Only in eternity will we know peace, joy and love in their fullest. However, my encouragement to you is to let those hungers drive you to get to know God more and more fully while you are still down here. When our stomachs are hungry, they drive us to seek food. When our spirits our hungry, they are really driving us to seek God – whether we realize it or not. Seek God when you are anxious. Seek God when you are sad. Seek God when you are lonely. Don’t settle for the substitutes the world tries to peddle to you.
We all have hungry hearts; we all have that God shaped vacuum. God desires to fill it and he does as we seek Him.
C. 2011 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.