Spiritual thirst is a consuming passion for God that we are born with. No matter how we try to fill it, only His Living Water can truly satisfy our need.
My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84: 2)
Thirst is a terrible thing, because the body cannot survive the absence of water. It’s a simple fact that we can survive longer without food than without water. Symptoms of water deprivation affect every single part of us, including our bodies, minds, and emotions. Animals and people alike, without water, will ultimately descend into a place of madness as the body’s cells are slowly drained of life. And no matter what our beverage of choice, it’s basic component is that miraculous source of life – water. The consuming desire for water is something that can drive us to extreme feats of endurance because it’s a deep-seated drive to survive.
A consuming desire is ‘all or nothing.’
An innate drive to survive will always take precedence. It swallows up the ordinary and burns away the unnecessary. It’s wired into the very fabric of who we are. Often, we may go through much of our lives without aware of its existence. But when it’s ‘life or death,’ what we need to survive will automatically kick into overdrive and become a consuming desire – the thing that drives us relentlessly. It’s a very apt definition of real thirst. Offer a man who is dying of thirst anything he wants and the answer will always be the same. Water.
When something is ‘consumed’ it is utterly used up, swallowed up, burnt up. Any other distinctive traits or characteristics are lost, ‘consumed’ by the single most important thing. All thought and action is focused on a single outcome. There is no room for anything else. It’s total desire, total focus, total pursuit, and total immersion. A consuming desire is one that takes over a life and steers everything, without exception, to the object of the desire. That is very much the nature of thirst. Water is the only ‘must-have.’ It overrides every other temptation, and it directs us to overcome often impossible odds. Thirst is all or nothing – unless we have water, we die. There’s no maybe tucked comfortably anywhere between life or death.
God and consuming desire.
Exodus 34:14 says this: for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Hebrews 12: 29 adds this: For our God is a consuming fire. As we read the Bible, these and other passages make it very clear that God has a consuming desire for His people. An integral part of our relationship with Him is His work of transformation in us – removing anything that is of self, and therefore a hindrance to consuming desire. We’re fond of saying ‘God is love,’ and it’s absolutely true. But it’s worth reminding ourselves of the nature of that love so that we fully understand the powerful truth shared in today’s verse.
To understand how God wants us to respond to Him, we must first understand how He responds to us. For this, we need go no further than the cross – the ultimate expression of the all or nothing, consuming desire God has for His people. It is so consuming that He was willing to die for it. He has focused all His love, grace, mercy, power, and efforts from the beginning of time to satisfy this consuming passion. Everything He is and has went into it, and He continues to work in our lives to perfect it.
Our part in consuming desire.
It’s easy, if we take the full weight of biblical truth, to find all kinds of other things that ‘demand attention.’ We can always find something else to focus on and sidestep having to face a challenging reality. While God loves us with an everlasting – and all-consuming – love, He expects it in return. Anyone who has any doubts on this need only look at Mark 12:30 and linked passages. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. That’s as close to consuming passion as we’ll ever find.
That little word ‘all’ packs quite a punch, doesn’t it? God doesn’t say love Him ‘more,’ or love Him at least as much as other things. Jesus expressly uses the word all – and four times, at that. It’s plain as a pig’s tail that His ‘all’ covers every single human capacity. Today’s verse paints a powerful and poignant portrait of that ‘all’ as a consuming passion. It’s a spiritual thirst, a driving, desperate, obsessive, all-consuming thirst that only Living Water can assuage. It’s a thirst that sweeps aside self and searches out God with a deeper inner instinct for life.
The practical nature of consuming passion.
There’s a danger, when we start to throw around expressions like consuming passion, to make it all somehow ‘super spiritual.’ That’s not what God intends at all. Rather, it’s a very practical survival drive. If we’re thirsty, we find water. Then we drink as much as we need – not just enough to stay alive, but enough for us to live. There’s a difference. Being alive doesn’t necessary mean living to the full. A few sips here and there will keep us alive, but we need a lot more to actively live.
The message in all of this, of course, is the absolutely necessity of Living Water to spiritual life. An abundant spiritual life is only available when we tap into abundant Living Water. In turn, overflows into our practical lives to sustain and empower us to live spiritually in the natural world. A thirst for God is there to draw us to God so that we drink from the eternal well in His presence. The more we desire God, the more we experience Him, and the more we receive from Him. When God is our consuming passion, we can be sure that our thirst will always be assuaged with the water of life itself.
Consuming passion is in every human being.
We only need to look at humanity in general to see the truth of this. From birth, people have an innate drive for ‘something.’ We are born with a spiritual loneliness – a thirst for the life we were created for and which we lost in the fall. Just like our bodies are wired to respond to thirst by seeking water, so our spirits are wired to seek living water to assuage our spiritual thirst. Of course, self, the world, and the devil get in the way to cloud the issue. They divert our innate thirst for God to other things.
To see the evidence of this, do a little research into percentages of people who have dabbled in things alternative, from the simply esoteric to outright occultic, at some point in their lives. The spiritual void created by the absence of God is a consuming passion, even though we may not be aware of it. It pushes deceived humanity in searching in the wrong things. It seduces us into buying into counterfeit alternatives. Even the so-called atheist or agnostic has something which becomes their consuming passion – ironically, this usually manifests as absolute conviction that they don’t need anything, or that there isn’t anything to need. Either way, it requires a hefty dose of spiritual passion to deny the existence of spiritual passion.
The two sides of all in consuming passion.
The word all carries both negative and positive connotations. On one hand, it has a rather nice ring to it. Who doesn’t want to ‘have it all?’ On the other hand, who really wants to ‘give all’ or ‘lose all.’ Our response to all depends on how we perceive it. It’s human nature to automatically kick against the traces the minute we feel ‘too much’ is demanded of us. All seems a little over the top. While we really like the idea that God is willing and able to give all, we want it to end there. We really don’t want to have to ‘give all’ in response. That implies losing something. It suggests deprivation. The notion of consuming passion makes us resistant because its…well, consuming.
What we lose sight of in all of this is that consuming passion for God is wired into us. Pretending it isn’t doesn’t alter the truth. Like our bodies need water, our spirits need Living Water. It’s an eternal spiritual truth that no amount of tap-dancing can obscure. Pretending I’m not thirsty, or not being willing to do what it takes to get the water I need, doesn’t alter the fact that I’m thirsty. My resistance is simply delaying the inevitable. At some point, I simply have to have it.
Consuming passion is the only way to live.
We can tick by on the bare minimum, or we can fling ourselves into consuming passion with glorious abandon and live a full life. God put an exchange in place on the cross. He gave all so that we could receive all – Him, the Water of Life. But this exchange is ours as well. We give all so that He receives all – us, the desire of His heart. It’s a humbling thought, because hands down, we get the better ‘bargain.’ He has placed a consuming passion in each of us for Him. We only need allow Him to stir it up and live each moment in the knowledge that He alone can satisfy the thirst. He does the rest. David’s life is a moving example of consuming passion for God. What we learn from both the shepherd boy and the king is that the all of God is way beyond our foolish and limited imaginings.
Forgive us, Lord, for holding back when You gave Your all so freely. Stir up a consuming passion for You in our hearts. Empower us to hunger and thirst after You, and draw us deeper into Your Living Water. Help us to pursue You and Your righteousness, to have the courage to live with a zeal and desire for You that grows every day.