It was the coffee. The White Chocolate Mocha or the Caramel Macchiato…extra, extra hot…whip cream…please. It was the Bustelo k-cup with caramel coconut cream. It was cafe con leche. I can deal with not eating, but my coffee though! That’s the thing I was most reluctant to sacrifice during our church’s three-day fast. My fellow coffee aficionados (addicts) agreed. Consider that the first thing fasting showed me about myself (and others).
All jokes aside, fasting from food and only drinking water for three days (72 hours or so) has a way of exposing where we really are in our relationship with God. This was the second year in a row that we participated in this corporate fast to start the year and surprisingly, it was a little “easier” this time around. When I pondered the reason why, I came to the conclusion that I’m just closer to God this year than I was last year at this time. I thank Him for that. But like I said, it was just a “little” easier.
Here’s the thing: fasting is going to be REALLY tough if we are not in the habit of denying ourselves or if we’ve been heavily reliant on ‘other’ things to fulfill us. Other things being the idols that we indulge in for comfort, pleasure and security. Trust me. I’ve been there.
Fasting also exposes our conviction and attitude toward sacrifice. For example, before this year’s fast, I found myself fearful and frustrated about what it’s going to be like without eating (and drinking coffee). I knew I was going to be weak and irritable. I knew I was going to hate water by end of day three. Let’s not forget about the bad breath…or maybe it’s just the acute sense of smell. Oh and those headaches. Caffeine withdrawal headaches. I started saying things like, “Why are we doing this?!” and “Who thought of this?” (Even though the answer was me.) I started dreading the thought of it.
Then my wife shared a scripture with me in Psalm 4 that helped her with something totally different. But when I read it in context, I found verse 5: “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust in the Lord.” These few words exposed something about God…that He cares about the attitude behind my sacrifice. Immediately I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 9:7 where it says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Sure there are times when we don’t feel like making that sacrifice (like I did) and must deny ourselves, but God expects us to wrap our hearts around the WHY we are denying ourselves and get to the point that we rejoice in the simple fact that it pleases God. We should strive to gain “the right spirit,” even if the process takes extended time and energy.
Back in Psalm 4:5, God exposes the real issue behind the state of our spirit: TRUST. It’s the kind of trust that believes if I willingly and deliberately give up something that is pleasing and beneficial to me, he will bless both the sacrifice and the spirit of the sacrifice.
From the Bible and my personal experience, I can think of 4 ways that God blesses us:
1. He gives it back (at his timing). For example, if you sacrifice a romantic relationship with a boyfriend or a girlfriend with the heart to seek God wholeheartedly, he sometimes brings that person back into your life at a later time when both of you are more prepared to spiritually thrive in this type of relationship.
2. He gives us more of it. I’ve learned that we cannot outgive God. One tangible way to see that is when we are sacrificial in our financial giving. Last year, my wife and I felt God calling us to give a crazy amount of money to the church’s new Vision Fund campaign ($5,000 is crazy to me!) We had never given that much money at one time and we didn’t know where it would come from. But we asked God to provide. Not only did he provide us with the $5,000, he provided a surplus that were were able to use toward other things we needed or wanted. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is a great reference for this concept. In teaching this principle to my children, I simply say, “The more we give, the more we get…and the more we get the more we give.”
3. He meets our needs (or desires) in another way. We may sacrifice a job or promotion because it will take too much time away from our physical family and our spiritual family. That job may have provided us with a sense of personal validation, perceived power, or emotional security. But ultimately, God wants to meet those needs in a spiritual way through our relationship with Him. For me, I’ve received those things through prayer, fellowship with other believers, and meditating on scriptures like Psalm 103 where it says, “Praise the Lord…who satisfies your desires with good things.”
4. He provides something else to sacrifice. I think about Genesis 22 when Abraham was called to offer his one and only son Isaac as a burnt offering on the mountaintop. We see that Abraham had the right spirit by the eagerness he showed waking up early the next morning and by the way he described this sacrifice as worship. Because Abraham proved that he feared the Lord, an angel of the Lord stopped him in the nick of time and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Verse 14 says, “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Or as I like to say it…God has a way of providing when we eagerly and faithfully take a journey to worship on top of the mountain of sacrifice.
Through confession and his Word, God helped me to get my heart right BEFORE I started my fast which allowed me to offer my sacrifice in the right spirit, trusting the Lord. I hope you will take a moment to ask yourself the following questions and pray this simple prayer:
- What is God calling me to sacrifice?
- What is my current attitude toward making that sacrifice?
- Prayer: “Lord, give me the trust that will help me offer this sacrifice with the right spirit.”
Look out for part two and three of this series – EXPOSED: A three-part series on what fasting showed me about myself, others and God.
Lead Pastor, The Path Church