Surrounded By Hungry And Thirsty People

Surrounded By Hungry And Thirsty People

Neal Pollard

I was a child when I saw news coverage of the famine in Ethiopia, the mass starvation, the distended stomachs, and the deaths from malnourishment. I had never seen anything like this, and I was deeply saddened by the images on the screen. If you had asked me if I ever expected to see or know about anything more tragic than that, I would surely have said no. Now, decades later, I routinely see something much more tragic. I can observe it whenever I wish, though it’s not something that ever gets easier. Noah Icenhour, the fine, new associate minister at the Mabelvale church of Christ near Little Rock, Arkansas, shared a concept with me that he read from N.T. Wright about our culture. Describing why so many are swallowing foolish, harmful ideas, whether false religion, fleshly indulgence, materialism and greed, evolution, atheism, narcissism, or the like, he says that so many are consuming these things because they are so hungry and thirsty that to satisfy and slake these inner yearnings they are willing to consume even sources that are polluted.

We are surrounded by spiritually hungry and thirsty people. They long for purpose, meaning, and value, but so often they seek it subjectively. Or they go to an improper source to satisfy these. Consequently, they squander their precious lives pursuing the wrong things, a path that Jesus describes as one in which “the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction” (Mat. 7:13). Spoken or unspoken, they are crying out for proper direction. They want their lives to matter. While the majority (Mat. 7:14) will refuse the biblical answer, I am convinced that our society is full of people who are honestly searching. They would be open to hearing the Bible’s answers to these preeminently important questions of origination, motivation, and destination.

Today, wherever you find yourself and whatever else you are doing, will you have the compassion and concern enough to look for and seek to help the kind of person I’m talking about? Let’s pray for courage and wisdom, and walk through the open doors we find. In so doing, we will be aiding hungry and thirsty souls who will ultimately go somewhere to satiate their cravings. With us in their lives, they can find true bread (Jn. 6:35) and living water (Jn. 4:14). Such will lift them now and save them eternally! May our hearts be touched enough by their dire condition that we cannot help but help.

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LEARNING FROM LENINGRAD

LEARNING FROM LENINGRAD

Neal Pollard

Anna Reid has written a gripping book chronicling one of the least talked about devastations of World War II.  From 1941-1944, the Russian city of Leningrad, along with surrounding villages, were besieged by the German army.  Leningrad, being encircled, was cut off by land and water from adequate resupply of food.  This created a famine that cost hundreds of thousands of Leningraders their lives.

One of the survivors of this prolonged plague was Dmitri Likhachov, a Russian scholar who would live to be almost 93 years old.  He chronicled one of the most detailed accounts of the siege, both the heroic and horrible actions of people facing starvation and death.  Reid shares one of his quotes:

I think that real life is hunger, and the rest a mirage. In the time of famine people
revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery.
Some turned out to be marvellous (sic), incomparable heroes, others–scoundrels,
villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half-measures. Everything was real.
The heavens were unfurled and in them God was seen… (Leningrad, 194).

It is truly hard to imagine the kind of hunger and privation these Russians endured, even reading it in detail.  But, what Likhachov says about the extremes of starvation seems to apply to people in times of any tragedy or death.  Adversity brings out the best and worst of people, or rather it has a way of “stripping away” the facades people project to reveal what is beneath the surface.

Jesus taught, “And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).  So, while controlling our actions is always a spiritual necessity, Jesus urges us to achieve an inside-out makeover!  We may or may not ever endure tragic circumstances in our lifetime, but the Bible tells us a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:16).  Let us take greatest care of that part of ourselves which, though “stripped” and “freed…of all trumpery” will reveals us to be “marvellous, incomparable heroes” of faith!