15 Feb FASTING: FINDING SUPERIOR SATISFACTION IN GOD
“You, LORD, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands.”
Psalm 16:5, Good News Translation
Have you ever wondered why it is tradition to give something up for Lent? Or what that even means? The season of Lent provides an opportunity to empty ourselves of lesser things so that we might be filled with the greater things of the Gospel. It is a season to prepare ourselves for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we enter into the sorrow and pain which preceded it. And because of that, fasting is a common tradition of the Lent season. It is the act of abstaining from something that, when we go without it, we have to depend more on God. It’s a reminder to press deeper into Him. It reminds us of our humanity and utter dependence on God. The true act of fasting is simply sacrificing a physical need or emotional comfort to meet a spiritual one. Physical needs are typically met through daily rituals, eating three meals a day and sleeping 6 to 8 hours each night. We honor these rituals so fervently that they become assumed and expected in the structure of our lives. There is no question that eating and sleeping are necessary. Our bodies NEED them. Comforts, on the other hand, are things we turn to or engage in to bring us satisfaction in one way or another. Our comforts, however, do not meet a physical need – they meet an emotional need. While our comforts are more than likely good, when paired with the lie that they can fill a void, they become a never ending quest for satisfaction. John Piper said, “It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for Heaven, but the endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the x-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night…The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts…For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” So what if we gave up our place at the table of the world and pulled up a chair at the table of God? What if we let God truly satisfy us – to let Him completely and utterly meet our needs? Fasting is a physical representation of trading in your seat at the table of the world for a seat at God’s table.
One of the first times fasting is seen in Scripture is in 1 Samuel. Within this story, came the inspiration for this very platform called Ebenezer Collective. It takes us back to the story of Samuel and the Ebenezer stone. During this time the Israelites were far from God, and Samuel challenged them to return to the Lord. They gathered together, fasted, and confessed. They gave up their endless nibbling at the world’s table, quite literally, and feasted on God. When the Philistines heard the Israelites were gathering, they planned an attack. The Israelites discovered the plan of the Philistines and, in response, Samuel offered a lamb as their sacrifice. A lamb which could have met their physical need of hunger and given then the strength they needed to fight. Can you imagine…you haven’t eaten, you are weak and hungry, and an army who is powerful and great in number is about to attack you? You are not prepared with ammunition, strength, numbers… anything. But God…Because the Israelites’ hearts had repented and trusted Him enough to sacrifice their physical needs to turn their hearts’ desire to God, He intervened in a supernatural way. “The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they were defeated by Israel….Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘the Lord has helped us to this point.’”(I Samuel 7:10 & 12)
Oh, what God can do with a fasting heart! By fasting, you are telling Him that you trust Him to meet your every need. You are telling Him that He is enough. He is your portion and your strength. When you are weak, He is strong. And when we humble ourselves in that way, He promises to honor us. James 4:8-10 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Biblically, fasting is almost always paired with repentance, grief, and/or desperation (Nehemiah 1:4, Psalm 35:13, Joel 2:12). So when you fast, take on that posture. Let the roar of your physical hunger be the lament of your spiritual hunger. Let your longing for comforts turn into a longing for the ultimate Comforter. Sit in the self-deprivation and cry out to God. Watch what happens when you turn your face toward Him and engage in this counter-cultural experience. Helen Lemmel says it best in her hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
When we fast, we are turning away from what the world is offering us to fix your eyes on Jesus. We tune out the things of this world that distract us from finding superior satisfaction in Him…. and what comes to light? His glory! What grows strangely dim? Our physical needs and the worldly comforts that lead us on a never-ending quest for satisfaction. Let His glory overshadow everything else as you lean into Him. I know fasting can sound uncomfortable and scary – trust me! Do you think I could write a post on fasting without going first? But, also, trust me when I say that the honor that you will receive will far surpass the short-lived satisfaction the table of the world has to offer. Pull up a chair at God’s table and watch as the things of earth grow strangely dim.
Fasting from food: First of all, be smart. if you are pregnant, have a medical condition, or struggle with an eating disorder, it is more than likely not safe or smart to do a food fast. If those don’t apply to you, consider starting small like fasting during lunch once or twice a week. Take the time that you would eat to satisfy your physical hunger to pray and meditate on Scripture in order to satisfy your spiritual hunger. Make a plan. What will you do instead of eating?
Fasting from comforts: If the comfort you are considering fasting from is, by nature, a sin (pornography, for example), please understand that we are not called to fast from sins. Rather, we are called to full repentance. Fasting is holy and set apart for those who desire to seek after God. Take a good look at the comforts you are turning to. What “comforts” are sending you on a never-ending quest for satisfaction? For me, it’s social media. For you, maybe it’s Netflix or certain foods or shopping.
This article has good, practical advice on fasting:
Biblical sermons on fasting: