The Fourth Sunday in Lent March 14, 2010
24, 406, 144(1-4), 144(5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
In the year 1765 a famous children’s story was published. A girl named Margery Meanwell owned just one shoe, but that didn’t stop her from being kind and good to others. She so impressed one wealthy gentlemen with her behavior that he gave her a complete pair of shoes. Now you may not have heard of this story, but you probably know the familiar phrase that came out of it: “Little Goody Two-Shoes.” A person is a “Goody Two-Shoes” if they try very hard to do what is right like Margery did. Unfortunately, in this day and age being called a “Goody Two-Shoes” is not always a compliment. Christians who do good and stand up for what is morally correct are often criticized as being either insincere or else trying to show everyone up with their “holiness.”
But what does Jesus say to us, His believing children, about doing good? He tells us “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Jesus doesn’t make fun of those who trust in Him and try to do what is right. He encourages those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—those who want to live godly lives—to keep on desiring that, to keep on striving for things that are pure and pleasing to the Lord.
All of us Christians hunger and thirst after righteousness, don’t we? We know our Savior Jesus and we love Him. We want to do what pleases Him—the things that are right. After all, He has freed us from the bondage of our sins by offering His own life for us on the cross. Where Satan and evil once had dominion over us they do not have that same power and influence over us anymore. The One we love, the One who forgave our sins and kept us from being separated from God in Hell, He now exerts His influence over us.
A “New Man” has also been created in us by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. That “New Man” is the part of us that wants to do what God wants, that seeks to put away sin and conform to His good word. This is not our doing, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV).
Every Christian has a new Master. No longer is it the Devil, but the Lord Jesus who calls to us to serve Him and live under Him in His kingdom. Therefore, it’s not bad to do good, to behave, to follow the right and avoid the wrong! In fact, God is working in us so that we act this way! There’s nothing wrong with being a “Goody Two-Shoes” when you are living rightly out of respect and love for your Savior.
Do you refuse to get drunk at the party when everyone else around you says, “Don’t worry, go ahead”? There’s nothing at all wrong with turning away from sin.
Young people, when you seek to honor what God says about marriage by not having sexual relations until you are married it might not make you popular among the heathen, but Jesus is not ashamed of your good behavior. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for what is right.
Do you say, “no” to gossip even when everyone else around you is talking badly about someone else? There’s nothing wrong with you trying to obey the eighth commandment even if it seems as though nobody else will. There’s nothing shameful in seeking what is good instead of what is evil.
Sometimes at work you run into people who want to cheat on the job. Maybe your co-workers want you to cut corners, but you want to do things the way you know they're supposed to be done. You might even be ridiculed by others for not “playing the game” that they are all playing. A friend of mine who worked for a Menard’s store in Wisconsin told the story of a group of guys that was sitting around the warehouse one afternoon doing nothing while he was working. A man came up to them and said, “Hey, what’s going on?” They answered, “Oh, we’re just milkin’ the cow.” The man replied, “I'm John Menard, and it’s my cow you’re milkin’, at which they were all fired on the spot. My friend worked hard at his job to do what was right by the boss and by the Lord, but it wasn’t always easy when he was surrounded by those who didn’t care if they did what was right or not. Sometimes others make fun of us when we Christians try to do good, but that doesn’t need to discourage us. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus said.
Our Christian lives are not without their problems. There is a struggle that goes on in each of us when it comes to right and wrong. There is a certain frustration in living according to God’s Word that is experienced by all believers. The Apostle Paul tells of this frustration in Romans. “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do…for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…so I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:19ff).
What happens when we try to do what is good? We find that more often than not we do not do it. When we want to speak well of someone, the evil has a way of accidentally slipping out. When we want to do something nice for someone, stubbornness or pride might rear its head and keep us from doing it. Whenever we try to lead Christian lives, free from sin, we find ourselves time and time again making mistakes.
You can hear Paul’s anguish of heart when he says “What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” This is our anguish of heart too. We hunger and thirst for righteousness, but we have such a hard time doing it. We fail. We come up short every time, never making it to a level of purity and maturity that satisfies us. We don’t want to get into fights with others, but we still do. We don’t want to worry about the future when God has told us not to, but we still do. We don’t want to be impatient, angry, or rude, but we still are. We don’t want to be lazy or careless, but it happens. We sin even when we are trying our hardest not to.
Is there any hope? Are we just fighting a losing battle? Here is where Jesus says, “No, I have delivered you.” The Lenten season is a time when we Christians especially focus on that deliverance. That deliverance happened when Jesus accepted the penalty for our sins. The penalty was separation from God—eternal separation. Jesus endured it when He cried out from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). As we see Him suffer and die we know that He does so for us in order that we might escape a terrible judgment.
The price for our guilt has been paid. The price for every time we have failed to live up to the righteousness God wants from us was paid in full by Jesus. Yes, it is true that we come up short when we try to do good, but it is also true that the Lord is near to those who call on Him. When we come to Him confessing our sins and sorrowing over the mistakes we have made, when we come with the same frustration that the Apostle Paul had, Jesus has an answer for us. He says, “Do not be afraid. The price has been paid,” and He points us to the cross.
Does that help us in our daily walk? Of course it does! With that good news in your heart you can continue the fight another day. You can go forward without being afraid to live for Him, without being afraid to follow the path of righteousness. Trusting in His forgiveness you do not have to despair over your failures, but day-by-day you can bring them to Jesus for perfect cleansing. You can rise again each morning to live a new day in love and service to Him.
Will we ever do everything right in this life? No. Even our best efforts will be tainted with sin, but those who do hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Jesus will fill us with His forgiveness and He will also fill us with satisfaction in following Him.
One of the Devil’s biggest lies is that the way of sin is more “fun” than the way of holiness, that the real way to be happy is to be a little “naughty” once in awhile. This is not the case. Sin is not “fun,” but it litters and ruins people’s lives and eats away at our trust in Jesus.
On the other hand, living for Jesus is satisfying. Although the Christian’s life is not free from troubles, it is a joy to follow and obey the Lord who cares for us so much. In following His way instead of the way of the wicked, we will find goodness and blessing. Not surprisingly, things do tend to come out better when we really do them God’s way, when we don’t stand in the way of His blessings with our own foolish behavior. Psalm 1 says: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).
May we never lose our hunger and thirst for righteousness! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.