Fasting for More Hunger
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” - Matthew 5:6
God created us all to experience hunger. It’s what we feel when we need food. As Jesus reminded reminded Satan though, we were not created to live by bread alone. We all hunger for more than just food. We hunger for things such as fullness of life, joy, peace and purpose. All these things we were created to experience in our relationship with God.
We didn’t lose our hunger for such things because of sin and the curse, we simply lost sight where to find it. Our default is to now look to the creation rather than the Creator to satisfy our hunger. We are now prone to live by bread alone. The problem is that no person or thing in creation can satisfy that hunger.
The parable of the soils indicates that this as not simply a sad reality but a perilous one, for is the “worries of the world, deceitfulness of riches and desires for other things” that actually choke out our hunger for God. I say perilous because most people know when they’re physically choking, because they know what it’s like to breathe freely. Unfortunately when someone is choking on the world desires, they don’t realize it. This means we are capable of choking ourselves to death by hungering for things in God’s good creation.
John Piper wrote a book on fasting called, “A Hunger For God.” In it he writes something profound regarding this alarming reality. It’s worth reading a few times over.
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but 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. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. (Piper, p. 14)
And so enters the role of fasting in the Christian life. Just to state it plainly, fasting is not a clear command in the NT and theologians take differing view on its role in the Christian life. Food is good and to be received with thanksgiving. Abstaining from eating (or anything else) adds nothing to Christ’s righteousness already imputed to us who believe by His work on the cross. What you eat and drink is a matter of conscience and will not lead God to take any more pleasure in us than He already does because of Christ in us.
Why fast then?
In Matt 5, Jesus promises that those who hunger for righteousness will be “blessed” (happy/fulfilled). Those who hunger more for God than pizza or the TV series we are in will find themselves more “satisfied.” Fasting from what we desire most in this world can revive a hunger for God and spiritual things. Abstaining from what easily controls our desires can free us to feast more on Christ, who satisfies our soul with the fullness of life, joy, peace and purpose we were meant to find from Him in the first place.
By the end of this week, may God allow us to say with the Psalmist all the more, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. ...God is...my portion forever” (Ps. 73).