Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." I recently went to Shiloh in Israel. For nearly four centuries, the House of the Lord was there before David moved the capital to Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the Temple. Today archaeologists are working on confirming the site where the Tabernacle once stood. Our group prayed at what is believed to be the Tabernacle entrance, in the area where barren Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord. We poured out our souls to the Lord there also, asking that He would answer the barrenness in our own hearts and make this centennial year for the Assemblies of God an unparalleled season of fruitfulness.
Amid prosperity and growth we must avoid the danger of the Laodicean church, which said, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing" (Rev. 3:17, NIV). Their attitude was the exact opposite of hunger. When believers and church bodies are no longer hungry for the Lord or even hungry to be used by Him, decay sets in.
I had the privilege of ministering at New Life Assembly of God in Chennai, India. Pastor David Mohan began that church in 1973 with only seven people. Now they average about 50,000 each Sunday. If you go there, you discover that on the bottom floor of their church facility there are prayer rooms. Twenty-four hours a day, every day, people are praying. It's no wonder the church has grown and the Lord continues to confirm His word with signs that follow!
As a Pentecostal/charismatic movement, we treasure the baptism in the Holy Spirit and our freedom of praying in the Spirit with languages we didn't learn. But Spirit baptism is an initial event meant to propel us into empowerment to bear witness. There must not only be initial evidence of being baptized in the Spirit; there must be continuing evidence of a Spirit-empowered life.
A Pentecostal church that is not reaching people for Jesus is a contradiction in terms. We were never formed to be a small group that gathers and says, "Here we are, Lord—bless us." No! Like Abraham, we are called to bless the world. There is a great, unfinished Commission to take the gospel to all the unreached peoples of the earth. If we are not hungry for more of Him, we will not be effective in that task.
We must also avoid being hungry for the wrong things. Some just want to be thrilled at unusual phenomena or extrabiblical revelation. Because of this, the Pentecostal movement has often collected a strange assortment of teachings. In fact, even back in 1914, a Pentecostal publication then compared the movement to a gas street lamp on a summer night that attracts "all manner of bugs."
In the Assemblies of God we have sought to be guided by the analogy that the Spirit is a river and the banks of the river are the Scriptures. If the river is dry, then the church is not effective; but if the river overflows the banks, terrible damage is done. In the past 100 years, we've seen in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements both drought and destructive floods. The river does its fertilizing, life-giving work when it is strongly flowing within the boundaries of Scripture. We seek not what is new, but what is true! We seek not the sensational, but the Savior! And He desires to keep filling us with the Spirit so we are effective for Him!
Hunger is at the very core of our Pentecostal experience. During the Azusa Revival, there were many churches, good preachers, stirring liturgical services and solid fundamentalistic doctrine. But these Azusa pioneers were driven by a hunger not to know about God, but to know God; not to hear about God, but to hear God. They wanted to know the Lord in His fullness—thus, the term full gospel. They took to heart what Jesus declared about the Spirit: that any who believed in Jesus could have streams of living water flow from within him (John 7:37-39).
They came to the Mission on Azusa Street expecting an encounter with God Himself. That expectancy and the reality of God's presence made them oblivious to things that seem to matter so much today: well-appointed sanctuaries, neatly packaged services, "star-quality" speakers, homogeneity and upward mobility in the members of the congregation, social recognition and acceptance.
May it be said of us in our day, "They hunger for the Lord and hunger to reach this world for Christ."
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