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February 22, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Hunger for God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we journey together may we be fully committed to denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus (Matthew 16:24). May we hunger and thirst, not for the things of this world, but for the sustenance that only our Lord can provide (Matthew 5:6). May we be willing to engage purposefully in the discipline of fasting that we might know God in a deeper way (Joel 1:14).

Fasting is an issue with which many Christians wrestle, including as to whether the Scripture makes it obligatory upon all Christians. Although many passages of Scripture deal with this subject, there is one that stands out. It’s found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus declared, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18). It is as if there is an almost unconscious assumption from the Lord that fasting will be a part of the faithful Christian life. Yet it’s not required.

In other words, Jesus says, “When you fast…” He seemed to assume believers would fast, and what was needed was instruction on how to do it properly. Yet, at the same time, we must also realize that those words, “When you fast,” do not constitute a command. Therefore, although Jesus did not say “If you fast,” neither did he say, “You must fast.” He simply said, “When you fast…” Jesus assumes we would fast and that when we do it should not be a public spectacle. He then concluded by stating that when it’s done properly “your Father… will reward you.” So, what would such a fast look like? Ponder Gilliland states: “On the matter of fasting, all you need to do is to follow the inner promptings of the Lord. There is no set pattern in all this. It may be that for a day, or a longer period, you will want merely to pass up some part of a meal – desert, or something else that you enjoy and you’d like to give it up… It may be that God would only direct you to fast one meal. Or one day. The important thing is… why you are fasting.” May it be for no other reason than to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him.

Let us pray together: You know, O Lord, to how many sinful allurements, interior trials and dangers we are exposed, both from natural and violent inclinations to evil, our unceasing hatred to good and the assaults of temptation. How shall we be able to resist such powerful enemies, if you do not assist us? It is to you we raise up our hearts and our minds. It is to you we look for assistance to keep us from yielding to temptation and to preserve us from perishing. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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