Sermon Details




“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6

This fourth beatitude is really a turning point in the series. The first three have been about our need, about our desperate position…

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit—being “poor in spirit” means I know that before God, I do not have what it takes.
  1. Blessed are those who mourn—why would I mourn? Because I see that my sins are many. They’ve been costly to me and to others, and most of all, they were unspeakably costly to Jesus Christ;
  1. Blessed are the meek—I grow in meekness because I see that God has not treated me as my sins deserve (Psalm 103). He has treated me with grace and kindness.

The first three beatitudes are about seeing your own position. This fourth beatitude moves us forward. It speaks about the desire that arises out of the work of the Holy Spirit in the first three beatitudes.  

Roots-Life-Fruit pattern

I’ve suggested that there is a roots-life-fruit pattern to these beatitudes: The first three beatitudes deal with our need: We are poor in spirit because we do not have what it takes to live as God commands. We mourn because our sins are many. We become meek rather than self-willed and defiant, because we do not have the ability to direct our own lives wisely.

These are the roots of a godly life, and out of this awareness of our need, comes a deep longing for what we do not have: A hunger and thirst for righteousness—a desire to be like Christ, who is the Righteous One.

This is the life of godliness that springs from the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The soul of a godly life is a hunger and thirst after Jesus Christ and His righteousness. This life produces the beautiful fruit of mercy, purity of heart and peace.

Then, there is an eighth beatitude, which reminds us that the person who pursues this righteous life will not only be blessed by God but persecuted in this world.

Now, following our usual pattern, our aim today is to get inside what Christ is calling us to. What does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? Then next week we will look at how we can pursue this.

A Relentless Pursuit

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6

Hunger is more than a vague interest, it is an intense desire. A person who is really hungry will do almost anything to get food. His life depends on it.

Hunger is the strongest of motives. It produces energy and it drives decisive action. It’s powerful.

This intense desire, this hunger and thirst for God, and this passion to pursue His righteousness is a hallmark of a true believer. Listen to how David put it:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

Think of the apostle Paul writing in the New Testament. What is so striking to me is that he is writing towards the end of his life, after years of service in ministry:

I want to know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Philippians 3:10

“I want to know him,” as if he didn’t know Jesus already!

Three observations about hunger

  1. Hunger is a sign of need

When you are hungry, your body is telling you something: It’s been too long since your last meal and you need to eat. Hunger indicates the absence of food in the body. It is the body’s awareness of its own need.

Jesus tells us that the ones who are blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, the blessed ones are not those who think they have righteousness, but those who feel they lack righteousness.

Here’s what it feels like to be a Christian: You don’t feel that you have arrived. You find yourself longing to be more like Christ than you are. You say, “I wish I was further along.”

Some people are confident of their own righteousness. The Pharisees were like that, but Jesus does not pronounce them “blessed.” The blessing does not belong to those who see themselves as paragons of virtue. The blessing is for those who see how far they have to go.

Other people are content in their sins. Jesus does not pronounce them “blessed” either. The blessing belongs to those who are not content to remain as they are, but have a strong desire to grow in righteousness.

If that is you, Jesus says you are “blessed.”

Three observations about hunger

  1. Hunger is a sign of life

Nobody teaches a newborn baby how to be hungry. They don’t need mentoring on this—where there’s life, there’s hunger. Spurgeon says:

To hunger 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…

When the Spirit of God has changed our nature, that new nature hungers and thirsts after righteousness. The old nature never did, never could, and never would do so. [1]

The flesh never hungers after righteousness. It wants to go and sin. If you hunger for righteousness, thank God for it.

Three observations about hunger

  1. Hunger is a sign of health

A healthy appetite is a good sign that a person is well. But if a person loses his appetite, it is usually a sign that something is wrong. Apply this spiritually: If you have a deep longing to grow in Christ, that’s a good statement about your spiritual health. The sign of spiritual health is not to feel that you’ve arrived, but to have a great longing for more.

The mark of a true Christian is that he never feels he has arrived at a righteous life. What does he do? He hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  And this hunger is a sure sign of spiritual life and health.

A Holy Passion

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6

All of us are involved in a quest for satisfaction. The great question is: Where will you find it? What do you think will satisfy you? Whatever you think will satisfy you, will become the great pursuit of your life.

If you think that satisfaction is to be found in achievement, then achievement will become the consuming passion of your life. If you feel that satisfaction will be found in leisure or retirement, then leisure and retirement will become the consuming passion of your life.

What do you think will give you real satisfaction? Is it being loved? Is it being appreciated? Is it to get revenge, to achieve a certain goal or position? Whatever you think will satisfy you, will become the consuming passion of your life.

Jesus tells us that there is one desire, and only one, that will be satisfied: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Why? Because they will be satisfied.

Here’s my question: Is this what Christians today are looking for? Is this what we Christians want from God, or are we after something else? If you go into a Christian bookstore, you’ll see what those who profess to be Christians are looking for—happy families and growing churches.

But what about righteousness? What do we know about hungering and thirsting for this? You will not find 10 books on the pursuit of a righteous life in the Christian bookstore.

We want to be blessed, but Jesus does not say that we are righteous, if we hunger and thirst to be blessed. He says we are blessed, if we hunger and thirst to be righteous. Do you see how easy it is, even for Christians, to get this the wrong way around?

If someone asked you the question, “Why did Jesus die?” there are many answers you could give that are faithful to the Bible: He died so that we might be forgiven. He died so that we might have eternal life.

But if you look at the great statements of Christ’s death in the Bible, you will find that God places something else at the center. Here are three of the greatest statements about the atonement in the New Testament. All of them tell us what Christ did and why He did it:

He [Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:15

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

The purpose of the passion of Jesus Christ is that we should have a passion for righteousness. Christ died to redeem a people who no longer live for themselves, but who live with a passion for holiness.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied. What do you know of this mighty longing after God? Is this passion growing in you, or has it been receding?

A Strange Paradox

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6

The paradox is that our Lord is talking about hungering and being satisfied at the same time. How are we to understand this?

When you feel hungry, you eat a meal, and when you have eaten you are satisfied. The food takes the hunger away, at least for a time. When you are satisfied, you are no longer hungry. But Jesus speaks of hunger and a satisfaction that exist together at the same time. A. W. Pink says:

Can one who has been brought into vital union with Him who is the Bread of Life… be found still hungering and thirsting? Yes, such is the experience of the renewed heart. [2]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

The Christian is one who at one and the same time is hungering and thirsting, and yet he is filled. And the more he is filled, the more he hungers and thirsts. That is the blessedness of the Christian life. It goes on. [3]

This is the dynamic of the Christian life, and nobody has spoken of this more compellingly than A. W. Tozer:

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love. [4]

Godly men and women have found joy in this mystery through the ages.  Bernard of Clairvaux, writing in the 12th century, penned these words:

We taste Thee, O Thou living bread
And long to feast upon Thee still.
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And Thirst our souls from Thee to fill. [5]

A. W. Tozer writes:

We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found God, we need seek him no more. [6]

Adapting that we could say, “We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we are righteous in Christ we need no longer hunger and thirst for righteousness.” But Jesus says we do. He calls us to this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…”

Paul says, I want to be found in Christ “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” Why? “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:9-10).

When we see Christ, we will be like him. But where does that truth take the Christian? “Everyone who has this hope, purifies himself, as Christ himself is pure” (1 John 3:3).  The distinguishing mark of those who are righteous in Christ is that they long for righteousness. They are not people who sit around saying, “I made a decision 25 years ago.”

Is this you? Do you feel your need for righteousness? Has God awakened in your heart a great desire to be holy, a longing to be done with sin? If this is the desire of your heart, you can be sure that you are a Christian. It is an “unfake-able” hallmark. But if this is not true of you, then I pray that God will use this to waken you up.

A Glorious Prospect

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Choose the wrong thirsts, you will never, never be satisfied. Hell is a place of unending hungers and thirsts, where the soul is always being destroyed, because it can never be fulfilled. But Jesus says, the people who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, because they will be satisfied.

What will it be like when the people of God are before the throne of God? They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore… for the lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water (Revelation 7:16-17).

God’s people will be satisfied, because Christ will give them the righteousness that they seek. This is the great promise of the Gospel: “Christ has become for us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Jeremiah, thinking of the Last Day, says the people of God will give Jesus this name: “The Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6), and here’s what that means: If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, the hunger and thirst for righteousness that is in you will be satisfied.

The holiness begun in you in this life, will be complete in you in the presence of Jesus, and you will sin no more. When you see Christ, you will be like Him (1 John 3). Sin will no longer be in you, or in the people around you. There will be a new heaven and a new earth; it will be the home of righteousness, and all who hungered and thirsted for righteousness will be there.

Is that you? I plead with you—ask yourself: “Do I have this desire for righteousness? What do I know of this all-consuming passion? Is holiness the great quest of my life? Or have I substituted this for something else? What have I put in its place?”

Ask yourself, “Is there anything in me like the spirit in David when he said that his soul longed for God, or like Paul, when he said he was pressing on to know Christ?” Does that Spirit live in me?

If the message today makes you feel your own need, then thank God! It is the Holy Spirit who is working in you. I invite you to come to Jesus Christ today: “Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1). Come to the One who is the bread of life, the living water.

If you have any hunger for righteousness at all, it is Christ who is provoking this, who is awakening this in you. He does not do this to mock you. He does this so that you will receive. He creates a hunger, a thirst for righteousness in you, so that you may be satisfied for all eternity.

I want to end today with a prayer from A. W. Tozer—it is a heart-cry for holiness, the response of a heart with a deep longing for God. I hope you will make this prayer your own today…

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 that I may know You indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul ‘Rise up my love and come away.’

Then give me the grace to rise and follow You,
up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. [7]


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, from sermon #3157, “The Fourth Beatitude,” 1873

[2] A. W. Pink, “The Beatitudes,” p. 30, Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2011

[3] D. M. Lloyd Jones, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount,” p. 70, Eerdmans, 1976

[4] A. W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God,” p. 15, Christian publications, 1982

[5] Ibid., p. 15, from the hymn: “Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts,” by Bernard of Clairvaux

[6] Ibid., p. 16

[7] Ibid., p. 20


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