Tuesday on the blog I talked about putting food in the place of God. Today, I want to suggest a way we may combat that temptation.
Have you ever been so hungry it made you angry? Your appetite was in overdrive and you felt like the Incredible Hulk just wanting to smash things. Your desire to eat something had escalated from a want to a need and food was all you could think about. In fact, once you got some food and satisfied that stomach rage that had come from deep within, you had to apologize to some people for the way you treated them. Have you ever been that hungry? Would you choose to do that on purpose?
About a month or two ago, I decided to get hungry on purpose at least once a week. It wasn’t some weight loss fad I had heard about, but I was convicted that Jesus doesn’t just suggest that we fast, He commands it. However, few of us in the church do it. Fasting is that spiritual discipline of getting hungry on purpose. We may fast for specific reasons or we may fast just to say, “God, You’re better than food and I want to focus on You more than I want to eat.”
So I set out to fast. The only person I told I was doing this was my wife because she usually prepares our dinner. I didn’t want her to think I all of a sudden decided I hated her food so I thought it would be a courteous thing to tell her. However, Jesus says in Matthew 6:16-18, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Ultimately, that’s what this was all about for me. I wanted that reward. It sounds selfish, right? If my wife didn’t prepare our meals, I wouldn’t have even told her. I wanted to do it like Jesus said to. The Father’s reward is a compelling reason to fast. It’s not the only reason though. Notice Jesus said at the beginning, “when you fast” so this is not just a suggestion if you’d like a reward, but it’s a command. However, in God’s graciousness, the command does not come without a reward.
The days I fasted were typically to petition the Lord for a specific person I’d love to see saved. I was also at the time focusing on trying to be more evangelistic in my day to day life. I was definitely given opportunities to share with people about Jesus and that was such a blessing for me. I was overjoyed in getting to talk with people about eternal things that mattered. The person I want to see know Christ still doesn’t. That’s just reason to fast more.
But let me tell you about the reward. The reward, I believe, is a sweet closeness with God that you don’t have in your day to day life. It’s this hyper awareness of His presence with you. God is always there, but sometimes we just don’t recognize it. When fasting, I’d get hungry. When I was hungry, I would talk to the Lord. It was a constant reminder for me to be talking to Him and telling Him how I was feeling and what I cared about. There was a sweet fellowship between me and the Lord during my fast unlike most days. I can honestly say it was more desirable than food. To be in the presence of the One who saved you and created you is simply amazing. God, in His goodness, shows us time and time again that it’s not about what we give up, it’s about what we gain.