By Brock Bondurant
Luke 4:1-4 – 1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit… was led by the Spirit into the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’
I used to read this verse and think, ‘Man. Just like that old devil to attack him when he’s at his weakest.’ I always saw this occasion as the moment in which Jesus could be most vulnerable, most weak and prone to giving in. Maybe the weak part is true for him physically (but then again he is Jesus, so maybe not). But a question was asked of me: What if fasting in the wilderness was not a place of weakness to temptation, but rather was his place of strength?
In our culture today, we’re likely to recognize fasting as a fad diet or something to supplement with a CrossFit routine. “Intermittent fasting” is growing in popularity so much that I think I hear someone talking about it around the office at least once a day. But as Christ-followers, we know fasting differently than the new secularized version of this Judeo-Christian practice.
Fasting is praying with our bodies. In the words of John Piper, “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.” We fast in order to remind ourselves that there is more to this life than bread alone. When I am hungry I eat. But give me two hours and I’m hungry again! That meal will not ultimately sustain me. When I fast, I remind myself of the only thing that does sustain: relationship with God. Fasting reminds me of my real hunger, yearning, and longing. We all have a God-sized hunger whether we’ve come to realize it yet or not.
Fasting can help focus our thoughts and prayers. In fasting, we can redirect that hunger for food towards a pursuit of Jesus. As we stop listening to the desires of our flesh we become more in tune to the desires of the Spirit. Now, a lot of times I do confuse the desire of the Spirit to be a cheeseburger. But when I really use that hunger to yearn for God and the return of Jesus, my prayers are focused, reflecting the will of the Holy Spirit within me. Fasting is not denying ourselves to impress God or others, but is aligning our hearts with the will of God rather than the pangs of our stomach. We’re not looking to manipulate Him. We intend to draw near to him in our weakness as He is the place of our strength.
So, I’ve come to see the hungry Jesus in the wilderness as him at his strongest. He resists the devil by using the spiritual warfare weapons we’ve been given, wielding the sword of the Spirit by quoting Scripture. In the words of my friend Cam when speaking on Ephesians 6, “Satan tempts Jesus and the dude quotes Deuteronomy.” Fasting helps Jesus in the battle versus Satan as Jesus has spent time drawing near to his place of strength.
As we think about practicing the way of Jesus and participating in Kingdom warfare, consider how fasting may benefit you. Again, not to impress like a Pharisee, but approach fasting with the humble heart of Jesus. We deny the flesh in order to commune with the Spirit. Through fasting, we yearn for Christ’s return, saying Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Set aside a time during the week to fast for two consecutive meals. Perhaps it works best to begin your fast after supper. Go to bed, wake up, read Scripture for breakfast, enjoy prayer for lunch, and celebrate with a good meal around family and/or close friends at dinner to break your fast. Remember Jesus’s teaching on fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. Don’t make this legalistic, but rather let this time refocus your yearnings, your hunger for the coming of Jesus.