HUNGER FOR GOD
We don’t hear much about fasting these days, certainly there are not many books about it. After all Paul warns Timothy of “people who advocate abstaining from food.” (1Tim 4:1-3). He says to the Colossians “why… do you submit yourselves to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch? For as Paul said the Corinthians, “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” 1 Cor 8:8
So then, what purpose does fasting have? How we answer this is absolutely important because of its potential pitfalls. Our tendency with any spiritual discipline such as fasting is to drift either to legalism on one side or extreme asceticism on the other side. Wesley once said “some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason, however, others have utterly disregarded it.” Of course, we should avoid either extreme. Though, rest assured that if Satan can’t keep us from using it, he will try to get us to abuse it. Therefore it is imperative that our view of fasting be biblical. So, why should we fast?
WHY WE SHOULD FAST
I believe that most of us here share a deep desire to be more intimate, more devoted to God. But something gets in the way of that devotion. The desire we all have to give our hearts to Him is shared with a desire for things… yet, the weakness of our hunger for God is not because He is unsavory, as John Piper puts it, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with other things. In other words, we are so full on food & entertainment, that we have no appetite left for God.
Is there something wrong with food or moral entertainment? Of course not… but because these things are not bad, we often don’t realize that they can be to blame for our lack of hunger. You see, it is not our feasting with the wicked that typically robs us of our hunger for God but the constant nibbling at the table of the world that leaves us so full that we have no appetite left for God. I experience this every Thanksgiving. I nibble all day long… so much so that when the main meal comes, I don’t really enjoy it. Again, what we are nibbling on, computers, investing, TV, surfing the web, work, shopping, exercising, talking on the phone, home repair, and even our Christian work, are all fine, though, taken together, can leave us so inebriated that we have nothing left for God.
Fasting is that discipline which tries to recapture our hunger for God. It says to God, I am willing to forgo anything in order to be in your presence. Fasting provides an atmosphere whereby we are prepared to face up to the dulling effects of food and all those things which we continually nibble on. If I told you that there were 10 million dollars in your house and that you could keep every cent if you found it, what would you do? You would take an early vacation, skip Seinfeld and Mad About You, and would take the place down brick by brick. Fasting expresses that passion to know Him more. Some time after Moses watched the Lord part the Red Sea, he said to the Lord, “I want to see your glory”. My goodness, Moses, you saw the glory of the Lord when the Lord closed the waters, delivering you from the Egyptian armies! But for Moses, the only glory that He really wanted was to rest in the presence of God. It is with that heart, one that longs to bask in the presence of God, that we need to consider the biblical discipline of fasting.
WHAT FASTING DOES
1. FASTING EXPOSES OUR HEART: Richard Foster says, “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.” Thus, it helps us to uncover what is really inside. For example, if you are one who eats in order to feel better, to forget, then the absence of food will make that clear. It can reveal to us just how much pain, pride, or anger is inside of us. If we had a terrible morning… the one thing that might get us by was knowing that we were going out to lunch. But, all of a sudden you realize that you are fasting. You are forced to consider another way of dealing with your feelings. Piper writes of fasting, “humbly and quietly, with scarcely a movement, she brings up out of the dark places of my soul the dissatisfactions in relationships, the frustrations of the ministry, the fears of failure, the emptiness of wasted time. And just when my heart begins to retreat to the delicious hope of eating supper at Pizza Hut, she quietly reminds me: not tonight.” Our fasting proves the presence and fans the flame of our hunger for God and through it, God wants to awaken us to the reality of His presence.