Spiritual Thirst
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 18, 2005


Main Passage: John 4:1-14 (NLT)


We live in a very spiritual time. Not necessarily Christian, not even necessarily religious, but definitely spiritual. Turn on the TV, visit the bookstore, surf the web, or pick up a magazine and you’ll see that there is a high level of interest in anything and everything that can be defined as spiritual. This morning I want to take just about ten minutes to talk about what spirituality is, where people are looking for it, and why it’s important.

When I mention a “spiritual person”, who do you think of? If I were to ask you to give me an example of someone who is spiritual, who would you say? Would you say the Pope? Billy Graham? The Dalai Lama? Oprah? Tom Cruise? Angelina Jolie? Alanis Morissette? David Suzuki? Mahatma Gandhi? Perhaps anybody who lived in the 60s? What is spirituality, anyway?


What is Spirituality?

Traditionally – being in touch with God, valuing His Word, and trying to live it out day to day.

But in recent years, it seems the term “Spiritual” has been co-opted to mean something much broader. In fact, it’s gone from meaning someone who’s deeply committed to one thing, to meaning someone who’s loosely committed to everything. Let me read to you some disturbing words I found on the Internet. One person wrote…

“I consider myself a spiritual person, one who sees the truth in all religions… What is the difference? The Religious person acknowledges only their own path; the Spiritual person sees that there are many paths to the Divine and theirs is but one.”

“The goal of the spiritual person is self-realization, and his journey is towards the depth of his own being, his God, his ideal.”

So today being spiritual doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with God. You don’t have to be in touch with God; you just have to be in touch with yourself. You don’t have to value His Word; you just have to value nature. You don’t have to live it out day to day…. You just have to live and let live.

So with that in mind, let me give you a definition of spirituality in 2005. It’s not a dictionary definition, it’s just my understanding of what people are talking about today when they talk about being spiritual and seeking spirituality. It’s this:


In 2005 – the search for inner peace and purpose, sometimes involving a connection with nature or a ‘higher power’.

… whatever that “higher power” may be. So today, you can be a devoted follower of Christ and be considered spiritual, or you could be an agnostic or an atheist and be considered spiritual. As long as you’re searching for an inner peace and purpose, you’re spiritual.


It’s interesting to me that every culture has developed some form of spirituality, from ancient civilizations to tribes in the deepest parts of the jungle to us here today. Even if you look at science fiction, cultures on other planets are presumed to have some form of spirituality. There’s just something about us that craves the spiritual. The passage Betty read described it as a “thirst”. Someone has even said if God didn’t exist it would be necessary for us to create Him. There’s some kind of innate spiritual desire in each of us that wants to find meaning in life, to be at peace with ourselves, and to connect with God our Creator. And I believe that desire is placed within us by God Himself. He created us to be in a relationship with Him, a relationship that we as a species have rejected by rebelling against God, but a relationship that we still instinctively seek and desire.

Blaise Pascal was a great 17th-century mathematician who studies vacuums and hydraulics and probability. (I would say there’s a good chance his career had its ups and downs, and at times it would really suck.) This is what he said about this craving for the spiritual…

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
~ Blaise Pascal

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 is the place in the Bible where the Byrds got the lyrics for their famous song “For everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season…”, and in verse 11 of that chapter it says…

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Take your pen and underline the words, “He has planted eternity in the human heart…”

Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT)
I will give them hearts that will recognize me as the LORD.

So what do those two verses show us? They show us that God has placed a craving within us to seek after Him. But while this spiritual thirst… this so called “God-shaped vacuum”… was created in us by God, people try to satisfy this thirst with so many other things. Hiking, working, community involvement, prayer, meditation, sailing, therapy…

You know, most of these things aren’t evil or dangerous. In fact, many of them can be very good. But they become evil and dangerous for us when they are misused and when they distract us from the One person who can fill that vacuum and satisfy that thirst. Read this verse with me…

Matthew 5:6 (NCV)
Those who are hungry and thirsty to be right with God are happy, because they will be filled.

Earlier when I defined spirituality in 2005 I said it “sometimes” involves a connection with a higher power. I said “sometimes” because I find that people today tend to leave God out of the equation. Usually when you hear someone talk about something being spiritual today they’re not referring to God at all.

“Now it’s becoming the in thing to be spiritual. It’s more cool, modern, and progressive to be spiritual. But without God.”
~ [Buddhist teacher Jagad Guru] Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa

Let’s try someone with an easier name. Edith Humphrey, a professor in Ottawa, wrote in an article…

“Attitudes toward the spiritual have changed considerably in the past few decades, away from a ‘scientific’ dismissal of the nonmaterial toward an easy acceptance of all things mysterious.”
~ Edith Humphrey

So, many people today are very much aware of this spiritual thirst in their lives… they desire God… but at the same time they reject Him.

A while ago I heard a celebrity talk about how making a movie was a spiritual event for her. She didn’t really expand on it, but I didn’t get the impression that she had an encounter with God. I think she was just talking about finding some personal meaning in making the movie. I don’t believe God was included in her concept of spirituality.

I think part of the reason for this is that in recent years the Church has gained the reputation of being irrelevant and boring. And what really bothers me about this is that there’s some truth to it. Now, let me say there are some great churches that are exciting and are making a tremendous difference in lives and in communities, but at the same time there are some churches which have lost their relevance. And there are some churches that really are boring.

But that is not God’s design for the Church. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be and that’s not the way it always is. The Church is supposed to be involved in society, not locked away in its own little world. We are to represent God. And the Bible is completely relevant to our lives today and has tremendous principles and lessons that can help in our marriages and our friendships and our jobs and our everyday life, but we have often failed to communicate it that way. And there are great churches across this city and across this country and around the world that realize this and are striving to communicate the Word of God more effectively so it does make a difference in people’s lives.

You’re all aware of Gallup Polls. Well, George Gallup and now his son George Gallup, Jr. have been surveying and polling people for decades (sounds painful). And from their research, Jr. has listed the top six spiritual needs of people today.


Six Spiritual Needs of People
(according to George Gallup, Jr., adapted from Emerging Trends)

  1. To believe that life is meaningful and has a purpose

  2. To have a sense of community and deeper relationships

  3. To be appreciated and respected

  4. To be listened to

  5. To feel they are growing in faith

  6. To get practical help in developing a mature faith

Those are the top six spiritual needs that people have, according to George Gallup, and Sunrise exists to help meet all of those needs.

You see, there’s a spiritual thirst in Charlottetown, and in Stratford, and in Winsloe, and in Cornwall, and in York, and in Stanhope, and in Saint John, and anyplace else you may live… even in Lorne Valley. It’s a thirst that was created by God and can only be satisfied in a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. In the passage Betty read for us, Jesus told the woman…

John 4:13-14 (CEV)
“Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

John 6:35 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.”

Isaiah 55:1-2 (NLT)
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink--even if you have no money! … Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!”

So the answer to the spiritual thirst that permeates throughout society is found in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s the message the Church was created to deliver, and that’s the message Sunrise is here to deliver. Nothing else we could ever do could be more important than introducing people to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in that relationship.

A few weeks ago, the Rolling Stones were in Moncton. And for their encore, Mick Jagger sang that he “can’t get no satisfaction…” Well, I know where he can find satisfaction. There are already rumours that they’re trying to get U2 in Moncton next year. They sing, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I know where they can find it. I know where you can find peace, where you can find hope, where you can find love, where you can find forgiveness, where you can find wholeness, where you can find acceptance, where you can find satisfaction, where you can find meaning, where you can find purpose. It’s all found in Jesus Christ.


Four weeks from now we will be starting our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign. We’re going to talk about how we can find true meaning and purpose in life. Remember, that was the number one spiritual need, according to that Gallup Poll. We’re going to talk about how God created us with purpose. We’re not accidents. We really do have a reason for being here. In fact, we have five, as we’ll discover over the course of the campaign.

And I want to encourage you right now to commit yourself to being here for the campaign. If you’re in town, be here. And beyond that, you know people who are experiencing this spiritual thirst in their lives. They may be friends, family, coworkers… and they are searching for meaning and purpose. I want you to do two things for them…

First, pray for them. Pray that they won’t be able to suppress that thirst. Pray that God will prepare their hearts and make them receptive to what He has for them. Pray that God will use you to reach them.

Second, invite them. You can invite them here anytime, but specifically for this campaign, invite them to join you. Invite them to come to one of the 40 Days Small Groups. This could be exactly what they need for God to reach them and for them to discover who they are in His eyes.

Can we do that? I believe we can. To help you, there are some tools available on the Grand Central table over to your right. For the next several weeks, Bev is going to be available at that table to answer your questions about the campaign and to provide you with resource to invite your friends and family to take part in the campaign. Take advantage of it, and be amazed at what God can do.




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