Spiritual Discipline // SIMPLICITY AND FASTING
We live in a culture that is oversaturated with pleasures that can mask any sense of dissatisfaction. I, like most of the population, have spent much of January trying to lose a few pounds. Last week, I had a particularly trying day and found myself throwing MyFitnessPal (the calorie tracking app) right out the metaphorical window! Full Dinner. Full Dessert. Full Belly. It’s amazing what a full belly can do for one’s countenance. Food is not the only culprit. We can find distraction in any pleasure. Some play hours of video games to numb the anxiety and stress. Some use alcohol or others drugs to mask any pain.
This week we heard Nehemiah’s pain and discomfort over the plight of his people.
Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”Nehemiah 2:1–3 (NLT)
Nehemiah did not mask his pain. Nehemiah’s honesty with the reality of his heart led to favor (albeit selfishly). How often we mask our pain and discomfort through the pleasures of this world!
Today we will fast a meal. The purpose of a fast is to remove the satisfaction of food as a reminder of where our true sustenance and satisfaction comes from – God and God alone. Jesus said, when fasting and being tempted in the desert said,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Matthew 4:4 (NLT)
You and I do not live on bread alone. We cannot exist without the provision of the Lord. Fasting is a visceral reminder of our need for God, not just for food, but for nourishment in it’s deepest sense. Fasting creates space in our day that gives room for us to pursue God in a deep way. I wonder how many moments I’ve missed out on the provision of the Lord because I decided to provide for myself (food not being the only culprit). Nehemiah was absolutely helpless to change the life of God’s people, but he knew who could help. Nehemiah began chapter 1 with prayer, he prayed again in chapter 2, and we will continue to see Nehemiah trust God to provide for His people.
Today, fast for a single meal. Instead of filling your day with more busy work, take some time in the Scriptures and ask God for understanding of your own temptations to provide for yourself. During you scheduled meal time, read through Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’” 8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” 10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the LORD your God
and serve only him.’”
11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.Matthew 4:4 (NLT)
Questions to Consider
- In what ways are you tempted to be your own provider?
- What are you desperate for? Like Nehemiah, we find ourselves unable to affect change in ways that are important and vital for us.