Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).
The mark of a true Christian is not that he feels righteous, but that he longs to be more righteous than he is. When it comes to righteousness, the blessed people are not those who think they have it, but those who feel their need of it. It is not the realization of the desire, but the desire itself that Christ pronounces blessed.
How can you develop more of this desire for righteousness?
Five Strategies for Cultivating a Godly Appetite
1. Gain momentum from the first three beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek… blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… (Matt. 5:2-6).
The Beatitudes are progressive. Each beatitude assumes the ones that have gone before. You can’t just hunger and thirst for righteousness, you have to start from the beginning. You can picture them like rings that are reached by the momentum you gain from swinging on the previous ones. If you become poor in spirit, mourn your sins, and submit your life to the will of God, you will find that a true hunger for righteousness springs from these roots.
2. Practice fasting from legitimate pleasures.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mk. 8:34).
One sure way to spoil your appetite is to snack between meals. Let’s apply that obvious principle from the world of the body to the world of the soul: Legitimate pleasures at the wrong time and in the wrong amount will spoil your appetite for holiness. They can make you dull and sluggish in following after Christ, spoiling your hunger and thirst to be all that you can be for God.
How do we keep the legitimate pleasures of life—like sports and travel and hobbies—in their proper place? One answer is to periodically fast from legitimate pleasures. Fasting is a means of heightening self-control—a special gift that can help you master something that otherwise might master you.
Suppose you see that legitimate pleasures have become your default pattern, holding you back from a more useful life. Take a month without TV or computer games, or without golf, or six months without buying new clothes, or without leisure travel. Drop a sport for a semester. You’ll be surprised at the freedom it brings to you.
Fasting has the effect of cleansing out the body, and the same thing can happen in your soul by choosing to deny yourself a legitimate pleasure for a season. This is a great way to bring appetites that have become inordinate back under control.
3. Make yourself vulnerable to the needs of others.
Train yourself for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7).
How do you work up a good appetite? By getting some good exercise. Go for a brisk walk or a run, and when you come back, you find yourself ready for a good meal. This is true when it comes to nourishing your soul. Extend yourself in serving others, and especially when you are serving others in great need, you will find that your hunger and thirst for righteousness will increase.
Think about this in relation to our Lord. How did the Righteous One practice this fourth beatitude? Since He has all righteousness in Himself, how could Jesus hunger and thirst for what He already had? The answer lies in the incarnation. Jesus left the comforts of heaven and came into our world where righteousness had been lost. He humbled Himself and became a servant. He saw that the people were like sheep without a shepherd, and His own heart was moved with compassion.
Simply seeing yourself as a Christian who needs to receive all the time will make you spiritually dull. But serving others will stimulate your spiritual appetite.
4. Use your blessings and troubles as incentives to feed on Christ.
I am the bread of life… If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (Jn. 6:48, 51).
Thomas Watson, the pithy Puritan whose writing I have found so helpful, asked the question: How can we stimulate a spiritual appetite? His answer was two-fold: Exercise and “sauce”!  Watson was right. What makes food more attractive? Sauce! God increases our hunger and thirst for righteousness by the “sweet sauce” of our blessings, the “sharp sauce” of our troubles, and the “hot sauce” of our persecutions.
When blessings come, learn to say, “God is so good, I want to know more of Him.” When trouble or persecution comes, learn to say, “My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).
5. Trust Christ especially for your sanctification.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely… He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thess. 5:23-24).
Some Christians feel they can trust Christ to forgive their sins and to get them into heaven, but when it comes to becoming a more loving and more effective Christian—one who is more like Jesus Christ—they feel completely hopeless. They trust Christ for their justification and their glorification, but they do not trust Christ for their sanctification.
Remember that Christ didn’t come just for the guilt of your sins or the consequence of your sins. He came to save you from your sins (Matt. 1:21) and to deliver you from all that holds you back from a better life.
Why is it so difficult for you to trust him to help you change by cultivating a new hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Hope is the key to all change.
Somewhere deep inside, you may believe that you will always be the same, that you can never be different. Without hope, change never happens.
Let me shine the light of hope into your discouraged heart. Why are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness blessed? Because they will be satisfied. When you see Christ, you will be like Him (1 Jn. 3:2). You’ve trusted Christ for this. Think what it will mean for you to be like Christ! Think of His wisdom, compassion, patience, kindness, righteousness, and strength.
If you can trust Christ to complete His redeeming work in you then, why should you not trust Him to advance his redeeming work in you now? If you can trust Him to make you completely like Christ on the last day, why should you not trust Him to make you more like Christ on earth?
Trust Christ for your sanctification today. Change begins when you say, “There is hope for me to be a better person, to live a better life in Jesus Christ.” Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God and for righteousness. They will not be disappointed.