The Cure for a Hungry Soul
Dr. Jim Denison
We have too many choices to consume. That’s the conclusion of Barry Schwarz, author of the bestseller The Paradox of Choice. His thesis explains why so many people tell pollsters they are unhappy despite living in a world of greater material prosperity than ever before. We buy something and then experience the second thoughts known as “buyer’s remorse.” We then respond with “regret aversion” by storing it rather than giving it away. “Maximizers” accept only the best and often experience the paralysis of analysis. “Sufficers” settle for whatever is good enough. More of us are “maximizers” than “sufficers,” to be sure. It’s never enough.
Now you can buy a lawn mower with an automatic transmission, cruise control and power-steering, a CD player and cup holder, all for $17,000. Or a robot to mow your lawn for $2,400. Or running shoes which adjust their cushioning levels automatically while you jog, for $250. Or a tiny digital camera for $3,900, and a chrome-plated MiniDisc player for $1,900. Or binoculars which instantly replay what you just watched, for $600. All in time for back to school. But it won’t be enough.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). His bread is enough—enough to feed our hungry lives.
So where is your soul hungry today? Where are you dissatisfied and disillusioned with your life? You’ve climbed a ladder only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. You’re wondering if this is all there is.
You’ve been in school long enough to learn that there’s always another grade to make, a friend to impress, a touchdown to score. You’ve been working long enough to learn that there’s always another client to sell, another goal to achieve, another rung to climb. You’ve had children long enough to learn there’s always more that they need, that you’ll never be finished.
Where do you need something more? How do we come to his table to find the “bread” we need?
For what are you hungry?
Jesus has just fed the 5,000. Now they find him in Capernaum, his ministry headquarters. Meeting them there, perhaps in his hometown synagogue, he warns them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). His words are not a suggestion, but an imperative.
The consensus of counselor, psychologists and philosophers is that you and I have four basic “hungers” in our lives. We need four kinds of “food.”
Once our essential physical needs for clothing, shelter and food have been met, these four hungers drive us. In fact, they drive all we do.
All our desires, hopes, and wishes reduce to these four: knowledge rather than ignorance, pleasure rather than pain, power rather than helplessness, and wealth rather than poverty. Whatever you desire today fits into one of these four.
In preparing this message I sought knowledge. Today I desire the pleasure of teaching God’s word well, and the power of being used by his Spirit to do so. You came to church seeking one or more of these four.
Now here’s my one request, my “ask:” take your hunger to Jesus’ table first. Whatever it is you need or desire. Go to him first. Pray first. Worship first. Seek his word first. Submit to his will first. Go to his table before you go to any other.
Why come to his table first?
Why? Because he claims to be the bread of “life.” Not the bread of church, or of religion, or of Sunday. “Bread for life” is another translation—the bread we need for every dimension of our lives. “The” bread—the only bread of life. We find our needs met with him first, or not at all.
Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of knowledge, meeting your intellectual needs in his will.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).
Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Wherever you need guidance, you can come to his table.
Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of pleasure, meeting your physical needs in his will.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Wherever you have physical or emotional needs, you can come to his table.
Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of power, meeting your relational needs in his will.
“Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me'” (Matthew28:18).
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16). Wherever you feel powerless, you can go to his table.
Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of wealth, meeting your financial needs in his will.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Wherever you have financial needs, you can come to his table.
No other bread will do. We seek that which humans cannot supply—that knowledge, pleasure, power and wealth which our fallen lives and world cannot fully find. They are found at only one table, from one Host. The One who died to provide what you need. The One whose death we remember with gratitude today.
How do we come to his table?
The crowds asked the same question: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v. 28). Jesus answered that there is only one “work”: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). Don’t just “believe” with intellectual assent. Believe “in”—the preposition means to place complete trust in him.
Make this Host your Savior and Lord. Then “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40).
Go to his table first. Pray first. Seek his word and will first. Not as a last resort, but as a first option. Develop the reflex of bringing every hunger to the table of Jesus. Start with your need, your worry or discouragement or burden today. Now.
And expect to find what you need: “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). No exceptions. Everyone.
Until that day when we come to this table and receive its elements from nail-scarred hands. In the third Lord of the Rings movie, titled “The Return of the King,” war has come to the city of Gondor. The city is virtually surrounded by the evil hosts of Mordor. The cause is hopeless. The city’s inhabitants will soon be slaughtered without mercy.
The little Hobbit named Pippin comes to the wise wizard Gandalf. Pippin is terrified, and tells Gandalf that he is afraid to die. Elderly Gandalf leans back, looks into the distance, and tells Pippin, “Our journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One we all must take.” Gandalf explains that this grey world in which we live is rolled back to reveal “silver clouds. And then you see it.”
Pippin asks, “See what, Gandalf? See what?” Gandalf replies, “White shores. And beyond, a far green country, and a swift sunrise.” Pippin considers, “That isn’t so bad.” And Gandalf agrees, “No, no it isn’t.”
Until you come to that table, come to this table. Every day. Starting today.