Seized by the power of a great affection

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

If you were able to hook up a secret camera in the church sanctuary and watch me in my morning prayer time on some weekday mornings, I swear that you would think a crazy person had entered the building. It’s hard for me to put into words what happens to me in those moments. On most Sundays, or when I am worshiping with others, I am fairly reserved, often preferring silence and introspection to loud music or many voices. I do not find inspiration in stadiums filled with dancing Christians or at large conferences. But get me alone in the sanctuary with God, and my spirit comes alive, with an insatiable hunger and thirst for Him, an other-worldly desire that completely transforms me into a charismatic Christian. I yell, I run, I cry, and I fall to the ground, unable to get low enough before my great God.

Seized by the power of a great affection. That phrase, coined by the 20th century pastor Gordon Cosby, best explains what I feel in those times. It is not a state into which I can work myself, and so it does not happen during every time of prayer. Rather, it is as if something supernatural has captured my whole being. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:13-15, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” In those times of private devotion, I believe that it is the manifestation of Christ’s love and presence that is compelling me, pulling me in so that I might desire to live for Him with my whole being.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, speaks of those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” While righteousness is often thought of as moral purity, I believe it is best understood as “right-relatedness;” in other word, the righteous person is the one who is in a right relationship with God and with others. This definition resonates with me, because what seems to grip me when I am in the sanctuary with God is the chasm between what my renewed heart desires, which is to be united with Christ and to be fully His in every way, and the reality of my broken, fallen, sinful nature, which I can not seem to rise above the very second I leave the sanctuary. The painful divide between spirit and flesh, which Paul so eloquently and agonizingly spoke of in Romans 7:15-25, causes me to alternate between an intensely passionate zeal for God and a face-down agony as my soul cries out to God for His divine intervention. Whatever you want to call this experience, I know that within me during those times is a deep hunger and thirst to be rightly-related to God, to be completely His and live wholeheartedly for His glory. And I believe that one day, by God’s grace, I will be filled.

I do not share this with you so that you might think more of me. As I have said, this is not something I can make happen through sheer force of my will, but it is rather the undeserved gift of God, to whom alone belongs all glory. However, I pray that peeling back this curtain into my private devotion might cultivate in you a growing hunger and thirst in your own spirit to intimately know our great God, and to be seized by the power of His great affection.

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