Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
This week I have a rather unusual question. Were you ever hungry for something, but you didn’t know what? For example, did you ever go to the refrigerator, open the door, look at everything on the shelves, and say, “I’m hungry for something, but not for any of that”? Or were you ever thirsty for something and didn’t know what it was? Again, did you ever go to the refrigerator, open the door, look at everything on the selves, and say, “I’m thirsty for something, but not for any of that”? Or put it still another way. Do you have everything in life that’s important – a family, a job, and an income – but still feel something’s missing? If our answer to those questions is yes, then today’s Scripture readings could hold an important message for us. For they remind us of something that we often forget. It’s this: There are two kinds of hunger in the world. First, there’s a physical hunger, which only food can satisfy. Second, there’s a spiritual hunger, which no food in the world can satisfy. In other words, we can be rich and successful and still feel an incredible hunger inside us. Let me illustrate with the true story of two people. First, there’s Tom Phillips. At the age of 40, Tom was the president of the largest company in the state of Massachusetts. He had a Mercedes, a beautiful home, and a lovely family. But Tom Phillips was not happy. In fact, he was downright unhappy. Something was missing from his life, but he didn’t know what it was. Then one night, during a business trip to New York, something happened to him. Tom Phillips had a religious experience that changed him forever. Speaking of that experience, he said: “I saw what was missing (from my life),” It was Jesus Christ. “I hadn’t ever…turned my life over to him.” And that night Tom did just that. And that night Tom’s life changed in a way that brought him a happiness he never dreamed existed. That brings us to the second man. His name is Charles Colson. He too was a successful man. In his own words, he had “an office next to the president of the United States, a six-figure income, a yacht, a limousine, and a chauffeur.” But he too was an unhappy man. In his own words, he had “gnawing hollowness” deep inside him. Something was missing from his life, but he didn’t know what it was. Then one August night in 1973, Tom Phillips, the first man talked about, told Charles Colson about his conversion. And the more Colson listened, the more he became convinced that Tom Phillips had put his finger on what was causing the “gnawing hollowness” deep inside him. He too was hungering for something. And now, for the first time in his life, he had an insight into what it was. Charles Colson left the Phillips home that night knowing exactly what he must do. He hadn’t driven 100 yards from the house when he pulled up alongside the road and began to cry so loudly that he was afraid the Phillips family might hear him. Describing what happened next, Colson said: “I prayed my first real prayer.” It went like this: “God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try? I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to you.” He then added: “I didn’t know how to say more, so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.” To make a long story short, that was the beginning of a religious conversion that surprised not only the White House staff but also the entire country. The so-called “hatched man” of the Nixon administration, who once supposedly boasted that he would “run over his own grandmother to reelect the president,” underwent a dramatic religious conversion. The Los Angeles Times gave it this headline: “ ‘Tough guy’ Colson has turned religious,” The New York Times gave it this headline: “Colson has ‘found religion’”. To this day Colson crisscrosses the country preaching the Gospel wherever he can, especially in prisons and on college campuses.
This brings us back to our original question. Have you ever hungered for something deep inside you and didn’t know what? Have you ever thirsted for something deep inside you and didn’t know what? If your answer to those two questions is yes, then we’ll want to take seriously today’s Scripture readings. For they contain an important message for us. Jesus himself sums up that message in these words: “I am the bread of life…He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” The message in today’s Scripture readings is simply this: There’s a deep-down hunger and thirst in all of us that only Jesus can fill. This message has brought new meaning to missions of lives. And it can bring new meaning to our lives too. If we but let it.
Let’s close by repeating the prayer that Charles Colson prayed in his parked car on the unforgettable August night in 1973:
“God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try! I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to you. Take me! Take me! Take me!”
God Bless You,