This summer I had the privilege to travel to the country of Zimbabwe with 9 others from our congregation, Rose Hill Church of Christ. We had the opportunity to teach, feed orphans, plant seeds (literally and metaphorically), host a youth devotional, tour the new medical clinic, as well as, walk the land where a new school will be built. Led by Dorian and Cheri Flynn, Partners 4 Africa is doing some wonderful things in the name of Christ for the people in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We were able to see just a small portion of the great works being done.
We go on mission trips, often times, to be a blessing to others. However, I am the one usually be blessed by the people that I meet. This was certainly the case in Zimbabwe. These were people truly hungry and thirsty for God's word.
In Matthew 5, we see a large crowd gathering, Jesus sees a large crowd gathering. He sees an opportunity to teach to this crowd, so Jesus goes up on a mountain in Galilee. He preaches a sermon that would become simply known as, "The Sermon on the Mount". Arguably, one of the greatest sermons ever preached. One thing, in particular, to notice is the accommodations that Jesus had to preach His sermon. Jesus had no convenient place to preach. He had to building to invite the people to. Jesus had no building with air conditioning, heated baptistery, and sound system. Jesus had this mountain and that would suffice for Him to begin teaching the crowd that had gathered.
In Zimbabwe, in particular the rural areas, they did not have a convenient place to worship, usually. We met under trees, in a school library with wooden benches, under a tent (wooden supports with tarp), in buildings with no air conditioning and no baptistery. Whenever someone desired to be baptized, they had to walk dry river beds in search of water. In some cases, they walked 4 miles just for someone to be baptized. 4 miles was nothing compared to the distance that some walked just to attend worship services. Worship services that would happen in some of the least ideal places, at least in the mind of Americans. I wonder, how far would we walk to worship with our church family under a tree in the hot and humidity of the summer? Sometimes, we feel it is an inconvenience if we have to drive more than 15 miles to service.
One verse from Jesus' sermon that kept popping up in the back of my mind was, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (5:6)
These were people who knew true thirst and true hunger. They were struggling to feed themselves and their family. The unemployment rate is 95% in Zimbabwe (yes, you read that correctly), so most of the people are trying to live off the land during a longer than normal drought while fending off wildlife that might eat their crops and livestock.
When we have hunger pains, we have a strong desire to satisfy that hunger, so that we do not die. When we are thirsty and our mouth is dry, we have a strong desire to quench that thirst to avoid dehydration. In most cases, we will search until those needs are satisfied.
How strong is our desire to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness? How strong is our desire to satisfy our hunger and thirst for God's word? Will we search until we are satisfied? Will we find our satisfaction in living out God's will for our lives? We will be satisfied through learning and understanding God's word? What satisfies us?
During our time in Zimbabwe, it was common for us to have a worship/devotional with people in different areas of the city during the week. We met on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with Christians and congregations all over the area. One thing that each place had in common - the place where we met was full of people who were hungering and thirsting after God's word. I remember in particular meeting in a school library (while school was in session) to worship together. It was a small space, but more and more people kept filing in to be there. People were sitting along the edges of the walls, and every space in between. I would guess there were easily over 100 people in a room no bigger than some of our classrooms we have in our church buildings. This was common every where we went for the meeting space to be packed with people yearning to hear God's word.
One Sunday morning when we met under a tent, there was over 200 people in a space that we would probably fit 100 people or less. However, the largest crowd they had there at one time was over 300 people.
These people, who knew true hungering and thirsting, were choosing to receive satisfaction through God's word instead of the world. These people would give up time in their day to walk many miles to listen and learn from God's word. These people were being blessed, being satisfied, because of their hunger and thirst for God's word.
It struck me, because, in America, we struggle to get people to attend weekly bible study (Sunday and Wednesday), to attend Sunday Night services, fellowship, etc. I think, sometimes, we get so spoiled with our comforts that we lose our desire to hunger and thirst after God's word. We receive our satisfaction through so many other avenues like sports, jobs, music, etc., that we forget that true satisfaction comes through God, through living a righteous life.
John 10:10 - Jesus says, "I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly."
Our satisfaction should come through the life that we have been given through Jesus Christ, the son of God (Romans 6:23). Our satisfaction should come through our willingness to serve God (Colossians 3:23-24). Our satisfaction should come through our holiness and separation from the world (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16).
Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Will you search and do whatever it takes to quench your thirst and relieve your hunger? Jesus says that only true satisfaction comes from those who are hungry and thirst for righteousness. Where does your satisfaction come from in your life? God or the world?
Andrew Thompson is the Youth and Family Minister at Rose Hill Church of Christ. He is married to the beautiful, Joy Thompson (who is way out of his league!). They enjoy sharing life together, ministering to teens and families, football in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!), and musical theatre. Andrew is a proud supporter of sarcasm and dry sense of humors. Thank you for reading!