In his book, A Hunger for God, John Piper begins the last paragraph with the startling claim: “Our hunger for God is too small. This is true not only because our capacities to desire are atrophied—like a muscle that lifts only feathers—but also because our capacity to see the Desirable is untrained on the telescope of God’s Word.” He then asks the question, “On what do we exercise the muscle of desire?” and immediately answers it: “We are meant to desire the Great with great desire” – as per Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1; Philippians 3:8 – before concluding, “But we flex our desires for small things rather than for God. And so the very potential for desire diminishes.”
The last two sentences are quite the indictment. Have we really flexed our desire for small things rather than for God? A deeper question could also be, “As believers, what do we desire the most?” The Psalmist left no doubt as to the extent and object of his desire when he cried out, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1,2). In other words, just as the thirsty, dry-throated, lips-parched, panting animal desires or yearns for water to quench its thirst, in the same way my soul pants or desires you, O God. Without the desired resource, the deer stood a chance of dying. Without the One who is the Source of life, the believer is at risk of dying. Our greatest desire has to be and must be for Him.
Again we see the heart of the Psalmist as he writes elsewhere, “O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). This is a cry of desperation. Yet is there any other way to seek Him? To covet His favour for our ultimate good and seek His glory as our highest goal? It is instructive that he uses the word “earnestly” to describe his search. In this instance, desperation drove earnestness. The need was so great that he could not afford to miss what he was looking for. He had to be earnest in his search. As it was with the Psalmist, so it should be with us. Our hunger for God should be of such that it becomes our greatest priority.
How do we get to the place of desiring God above all else? Piper suggests, “If we do not see Him in His greatness, we will not desire Him in His fullness.” It is only as we see Him and His glory through the lens of His Word that we fuel our desire, our hunger, for Him. The central goal of studying God’s Word is to know God better, and the better we know Him, the more we should desire Him. Like the apostle Paul our position should be, “I count all things [everything that I have accomplished] to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8a). Nothing else compares, for “whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25).
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.” How strong is your hunger for God? Are you even hungry for Him?