Hunger and thirst. That is what comes to mind when I think of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. These basic needs are present in every human being in order that we may stay alive.
As a baby, I had no conscious awareness of this. I made a noise, I cried because my body craved to be fed. My mother knew what I needed and she fed me. As I grew, I was given more solid food and after a while I even figured out that I could put things in my mouth myself. Some things tasted bad, could even be harmful, but bit by bit I discovered what was good and tasty. (As all children, I also had to eat some things because they were healthy, not because I liked them.)
I believe that God also has given us a hunger and thirst for a relationship with him. I don’t remember that I was aware of this as a young child. However, I am sure that I was prepared to have a conscious spiritual hunger by the fact that my parents fed me simple, spiritual experiences.
When I made a personal choice to receive Jesus, it was also the start of reflecting on what I saw and experienced among other believers. There were many who had a living relationship with God. To use the analogy, it was as if, through their personality and ministry, they were serving lovely, home-cooked food and drinks. There were also those who seemed to share cold leftovers.
This experience of constant learning has continued all my life. My thirst for Living Water and my hunger for the Bread of Life in Jesus have been stimulated by people I meet, by attending services of different church traditions and by reading the Bible and other books.
In my mid-teens I had a classmate who radiated joy in Jesus. She sent me a postcard with an illustration and the words of Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38). I got thirsty!
In the mid ’70s, many young people in The Salvation Army got a new experience of God’s love through the Holy Spirit. I began to read Catherine Booth’s sermons and found that the young Salvation Army was filled with this life and power. The words of Jesus in Luke 11:13 encouraged me: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” I asked!
When I was in my third year as an officer, I thought I had what I needed from the Holy Spirit. Through the ministry of an evangelist, God was doing special things with people in some corps. Many were changed and renewed while others were afraid. I was challenged to trust and go deeper with God – not just as a personal experience but in order to be equipped to serve with God.
However, it has not stopped there. Like the food that feeds my body, I need both daily intakes of ‘Life to the full’* in Jesus as well as the special Spirit-filled feasts of conferences and events.
Hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit. Thank God, I still have it. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Jesus, in Matthew 5:6).
This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #5 2018