After Jesus was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist, in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit led Him out into the wilderness/desert for a period of forty days. While He was there, He didn't eat or drink anything- NOTHING at all for almost 6 weeks! And during this time, both Luke and Matthew tell us that the devil came to Jesus and tempted Him with several things- power, luxury, and food.
After 40 days, any of us would be starving, and probably willing to do just about anything to fill our bellies with something. Satan comes to Jesus and tells Him to prove He is the Son of God by turning some stones on the ground around Him into bread to eat.
In a fashion only Jesus can pull off, He responds to this tempting offer by quoting Daniel 8:3: "People do not live off bread alone, but on every word that flows from the mouth of God!" #micdrop!
In the midst of a culture, and even a world, where much of what we do is dictated by our next meal, or snack, or second breakfast, Jesus tells us that there is something we need in life more than food. We need God! Repeat after me: "WE NEED GOD!" And yet, we become so distracted by the things of this world, by our physical needs and comforts, that we often times allow those things to take the place of God, or keep us from seeking after Him more fully.
Enter fasting. Fasting is the biblical concept of voluntarily denial ourselves an otherwise typical or normal activity for the sake of a spiritual activity. Basically,fasting is a great practice that typically involves not eating for a certain amount of time, in order to focus more on God. But it can also involve giving up video games, time on the computer, spending money, or any other activity that causes us to lose focus on God. It's about sacrificing something in our lives so that we can have more time with the God who sacrificed so much for us!
So how do we fast?
Start by preparing your heart. Make sure that you are fasting for the right reason- because you want to become closer to God. Then determine what you will fast from and how long you will do it. (This next step is key) Then remove those things you are fasting of from your immediate vicinity. It is hard to resist the temptation of another Snickers bar when the bowl is right next to your desk. Lastly, and this is what makes fasting different from just giving stuff up: Fill that void with more of God, by praying, worshiping with others or on your own, Bible reading, devotions, etc.
By putting our physical hunger aside for a time, we are able to realize and feed our spiritual hunger!
Your challenge for this week: Fast from something three times this week! And as you're doing that, take some time to consider these follow-up questions: Do you think you could give up eating for a meal or longer? Why? What kinds of things distract you from thinking about God? What could we as a family fast from so we could grow closer to God?
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.