What Does Spiritual Appetite Mean? (Article 19-2)
Scripture makes many references to having spiritual “hunger” and “thirst”. For example, we see references to hunger in John 6:33-35, where our Lord says “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” In Psalm 81:10, God tells the Israelite people “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it”. In Deuteronomy 8:3 scripture states "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD”. We see even more references as it pertains to having spiritual thirst. For example, Isaiah 55:1 states “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost”. Jesus states to the Samaritan woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14). We even see instances where scripture uses the terms interchangeably. For example, in Matthew 5:6, Christ tells us “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. In fact, there is no shortage of commentaries that indicate that the terms are interchangeable in meaning – that being that both indicate an urgent need and craving for God. Therefore, while scholarly articles indicate that references to “hunger” and “thirst” are synonymous in meaning, I found one scripture that does not intend to understand them as being interchangeable.
Is There A Difference Between The Two Appetites? As it pertains to scripture, is there a difference between spiritual hunger and thirst? In answering this question, there is one scripture that makes a clear distinction between the two terms. In John 6:35, Jesus says “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” At close examination, we see Christ making a distinction between satisfying one’s hunger and one’s thirst. In fact, as presented, one builds on the other, that being one’s thirst cannot be quenched until one’s hunger is satisfied. Second, the verse points out that the prerequisites to having both satisfied are different e.g. to have your hunger satisfied, you must come to Him, while to have your thirst satisfied, you must believe in Him. While one deals with our urgent need to fill the emptiness of our soul, the other addresses the nourishing of our soul by way of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ).
Satisfying our Hunger Needs. Let’s review John 6:35 again. Note that Christ says “Whoever comes to me shall never hunger”. As believers, we understand this to mean that we are to come to Him and by doings so setting the stage for our rebirth (Born Again). With this rebirth, comes the indwelling of Christ and His Spirit. It is the indwelling of Christ that fills the void within our souls, thus removing the restlessness we in our quest for happiness. Without Christ, we attempt to satisfy our soul's hunger pangs with all sorts of worldly things: relationships, sex, entertainment, toys, food, academics, technology, money, self-help books, spiritual fads, prescription/illegal drugs, alcohol etc. – all of which appeal to our flesh and not our soul. For some, it takes an entire life time to realize that the restlessness and spiritual depravity we experience originates not from our flesh, but rather our soul. Making things worse is that our flesh is like a beast with an insatiable appetite. It can never be filled, thus can never be satisfied. As such, we remain restless and keep searching for new things to address our soul's needs, all of which have no connection with our soul's desire. This often leads to fleshly addictions which we become captive or enslaved.
Satisfying our Thirst Needs. The matter of “thirst” talks directly to the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit). It is His Spirit which nourishes our soul, thus sustains it, and sustains it for eternity. It is from His Spirit nourishment that we are able to bear “Spiritual Fruit”, for without the living waters of the Spirit, the fruit cannot exist. In sum, it is the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) that gives our soul life! Using the example of the Samaritan woman at the well, Christ tells her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10). It is the living water that the Spirit of Christ gives us that we experience the Spiritual Fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is by walking in the Spirit of Christ that we are able to overcome the lust of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ against the flesh. They are totally contrary to one another. (Galatians 5:16-18).
The Creation of a New Appetite. The indwelling of Christ leads to a new hunger and thirst - that being for righteousness. Recall at the beginning of this article, I made reference to the interchangeable use of the terms hunger and thirst. Specifically, Christ states in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. It is only after our souls' hunger and thirst needs are met, can we have a divine desire for righteousness - that being an urgent need and craving to be in the "right-standing" with God. This need comes from Christ's indwelling and His Spirit reigning over our souls. Without His righteousness we have no righteousness, nor any understanding of righteousness. Without any understanding of righteousness, we have no craving for it to exist within us. Without its existence, we cannot be in right standing with the Father.
Summary. John 6:35 provides a rich truth and understanding of our loving Father’s will for us as His children. God tells us that to find true and lasting happiness, we must first come to Christ and submit ourselves to receive Christ in our souls, and with this, the satisfying of our craving for Him. Key to this point however, is that we must first “come” and surrender ourselves to Christ, so His indwelling can be possible. With this, comes our rebirth into a spiritual being – a being that can only be nourished by the living waters Christ's Spirit (the Holy Spirit). It is from His Spiritual nourishment, by way of living waters, that spiritual fruits spring forth with in us. Where Christ’s indwelling removes our restlessness, thus giving us peace, it is the fruits of the Spirit that gives us life, and life more abundantly. In fact, Christ tells us that our abiding (indwelling) in Him (and He in us) produces “much fruit”. (John 15:5).
Finally, we must remember that it is only by walking in the Spirit of Christ are we able to overcome the lust of the flesh, which holds us captive and keeps us from experiencing the fullness of Christ. Once we give our life to Christ, we are reborn into Spiritual Beings. As spiritual beings, it is futile to live as human beings which pursue things to satisfy the flesh, for the flesh is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. As a spiritual being, our spiritual nourishment can only come from Christ, and only from this indwelling can we have thirst and hunger for righteousness.