We live in a world of excess. Self-control is rarely practiced, and self-absorption is preached from fancy pulpits.
If you think you are entitled to riches and rest, you are dead wrong.
It is more blessed to be content with little monetary and physical wealth and a lot of Jesus, than to have great riches and no God. Of course, there are those who are rich and still love Jesus with all their heart; seeking to serve and glorify Him with their talents and wealth. They are rich by the earth’s standards and they know God; being far richer by God’s standard. But there are many rich people who gain wealth without glorifying God, and even if they proclaim to follow Jesus, He is more like a yacht to them; they can pull out His name, brag on having Him as their Savior, but they never actually go out onto the water.
I may not own a yacht, but I have a wonderfully comfortable home to live in and I have a car that runs. The blessings in my life outweigh the hardships. And though I know every good thing comes from God, I am still tempted to trust more in the physical comforts He blesses me with than the very arms that hold me; the truth is, whether I have a little or a lot, Jesus is enough. I like comfort and knowing where my life is going, but if I don’t bow to Jesus, praise Him, and give my all for Him, then rest flees from me and discontentment grows into a choking weed.
More than this stuff that makes me physically comfortable, I need Jesus. He is the One Who blesses me and also allows me to lose things that I hold dear, but whether I am blessed or cursed, blessed be Jesus’ name. Like Job or Paul, I am called to be content in what God provides, or does not provide; and Jesus Himself equips me to be content, to have the strength to endure. It is a funny thing that I have been called to believe in Jesus and love Him with my heart, soul, and mind, but I am not able to do that in and of myself; Jesus helps me in my unbelief and gives me the wisdom and the courage to love Him as I ought to. That does not mean that I didn’t have to believe, and that Jesus would have saved me if He so chose; it means that my faith is small, by my Savior is able to take that mustard seed of faith and make it grow into a beautiful tree. Jesus is the root from which my life springs and I am wholly dependent upon Him.
In this pursuit of God over pleasure, there are certain things I need to deny myself at all times. I cannot fast from sin; I must kill it and cut it off entirely from my life. The sinful parts of me are death, and if I let them stay, they will eat up nutrients that bring life; sucking out the full joy and blessings that I have in Christ. But there are some things that are not bad or destructive in themselves; they do not openly choke what is good. But if given enough praise and time, those things can become idols in my life, distracting me and pulling me away from Jesus. So, every now and again, I must fast from those things just to get my priorities straight and to instill a mindset within me that those things neither sustain nor bless me; God Himself is my sustenance. There are times when I have fasted from Facebook, video games, TV, other books, etc. Though those things are not evil in themselves, they can lead to evil thoughts or simply take up so much of my time that I have no time to sleep, pray, have fellowship with other believes, or read the Words of my Abba.
There was a time when fasting applied solely to giving up food, but we live in a society that worships thousands of idols; those things that take up our time and that we seemingly get the most pleasure from. Just like food, the pleasure and sustenance we derive from idols is short lived and perishes in the fire and the storm. A deep love for God and devotion to follow Him and glorify Him brings life to the seeker and a hope that endures. Seeking God over anything and anyone else is, in a sense, a fast from self. Self is attached to the sin nature, destined to drown, but Jesus indwells the selfless, fills them with Himself, and the sin nature is left without a home; our anchor of the soul is set in the sky, not in the deep darkness.
My desire for this year, starting today, is that Jesus would dwell in me, that I would fast from everything that distracts, especially self, and that I would feast on the truth of God’s Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.
So much of our days are centered on what we think is best for us. Rarely does the thought naturally enter our minds that we should do something or not do something, simply because it benefits someone else. Humankind is naturally centric and selfish; at least, the sin nature within us is more self-seeking and self-serving. But it is Jesus Who said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) He offers an alternative message to all that the world teaches. If you humble yourself, you will be exalted. (James 4:10, Luke 14:11) The one who is greatest will be least and the first will be last. (Matthew 19:30) Life is not about how much juice we can squeeze out of every second and pour into our own mouths; life is about how much we can give to Jesus and how much He has already given to us.
Life, breath, the ability to move, to think, and to dream, all of these things are made possible through the grace of God. Yet, when we lose any one of those things, the things we believe to be the rights of life, we scream at God and ask Him why He would ever do such a thing. Do you not understand, do you not yet see? Meat is for the belly and the belly is for meat, but God will destroy both it and them. (1 Corinthians 6:13a) The body is not for sexual immorality, neither is it for overeating, overspending, drunkenness, wasting of time, lusting, or jealousy, etc. No, the body is for none of those things, but it is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. (1 Cor 6:13b) Jesus has the power to give life and He has the power to take it away, but any good thing we have has been given to us by undeserved grace. We are entitled to absolutely nothing; it is simply our Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give us the keys to His Kingdom. Whether we can use our hands to take those keys is of little consequence. You do not need physical hands to believe and follow the King, but if your hands are full of other things, whether it be worries, fears, distractions, or selfish pleasures, then how will anyone be able to see that you love Jesus and are so deeply loved by Him?
Let go of what is holding back your faith; cut it off completely. Fast from what is distracting you and get back onto the Path. When you follow God’s way, it is a sacrifice. You are required to give certain things up entirely and everything else takes a distant second to Your Savior; but Your Savior is the One Who supplies your needs, gives you rest and peace when the world comes crashing in, and asks you to follow Him, even if it means meeting the same fate that He met. Jesus Himself lost the use of His limbs; they were nailed in place and the use of them became harder and harder as He suffocated for all of His enemies, friends, and family to see. Normally, I do not condone comparing your lot with others, and thinking that you have it better than that other person, but when you look at Jesus, seeing what He went through, I want you to remember that you do have it better, because He suffered all those things on your behalf. He never disobeyed His parents or bore false witness against a friend. He never lashed out in anger or hatred. Everything He did was done out of a zealous love for His people and for all those who would one day call upon His name. He died because you sinned, and He didn’t want your sin to separate you from Him. It was love that held Jesus on that cross, and it is love that can hold you when you think that everything is lost.
Before Jesus’ ministry began, He entered into the desert, fasting from food and water. He was in that desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Was He hungry? Yes. Was He thirsty? Yes. Did He think of giving up and going back? Yes. But every time He had those thoughts and every time Satan tempted Him to turn back, Jesus came right back with the Word of God. He knew His Father well, was wholly obedient, and trusted that His Father would bring Him through the desert and return to Him the glory and honor due unto His name. Jesus knew that suffering was in the mandate, but He also loved His Father and knew that His suffering was worth it. Do you love God? Do you know the Words He has written for you? No matter your answer to those questions, let me remind you; you are so deeply and passionately loved by Jesus, He has a plan, and anything you suffer is worth it when you suffer righteously. Sin is not worth the time of day that you give it, and without Jesus in your life, you will starve to death. So, take that step of faith. Walk with me. Let us look to Jesus together and find in Him the courage to cut sin out of our lives, to fast, and to live.
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears have You opened; burnt offering and sin offering have You not required. Psalm 40:6
O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will shew forth Your praise. For You desire not sacrifice; else would I give it. You delight not in burnt offering, for the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:15-17
O God, You are my God; early will I seek You. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. I desire to see Your power and Your glory, as I have seen You in the sanctuary.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift my hands up in Your name.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food; and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul clings to You: Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8
Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do so with meekness and fear; having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:15-18