We Must Hunger for God

As Easter comes closer, we continue to explore what it means to draw near to God. Fasting is one way we can learn what it means to truly hunger for his presence. 

After the Jews were conquered by Rome, they fought to maintain their religious and cultural heritage by turning to the Law of Moses. Essentially, they created practices and rules to help protect Mosaic Law so no one could even get close to breaking it. They dressed differently, kept strict dietary practices, and did not mix with other cultures, all in the name of obedience.

The Pharisees and Sadducees relegated the Jewish people into a system of rule following. They followed the Law to avoid being punished by God rather than following it to be closer to him, often very publicly displaying how “holy” they were.

This made it incredibly difficult for the common person to follow the Law. It also made it difficult to be close to God, because the cultural understanding was that works made a person holy.

But Jesus changed everything.

Christ revealed the heart of the Law. He elevated some, did away with others, and invited everyone who called on his name to become part of the family of God. His sacrifice sanctifies us and reconciles us to the Father.

Jesus said our actions should flow from the intention of our hearts:

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:9-14)

God doesn’t want us to go through the motions. He wants us to move with intention and purpose.

And he wants our sole focus to be him and him alone.

Doing something for recognition or a pat on the back might feel good – but that isn’t the heart of the Father. We should give out of joy, not obligation. We should serve because we want others to feel empowered. If we go to the mission field, we should go because we seek to build the Kingdom.

If we fast, we must do so because we hunger for God.

Fasting is difficult because it is easy to focus on what our body is feeling and less on the heart behind this discipline. It is an act of giving up something life giving, such as food, drink, or recreational activities, and submitting that act to God.

We empty ourselves of one thing so that we may be filled up with with the Spirit of God.

The Lord is concerned with our intentions, our longing to be near him. What good is it if we go into all the world, plant a thousand churches, and baptize millions in the name of Jesus simply because it is the right thing to do? Jesus is more concerned with our hearts and minds being transformed to his likeness than he is with us following a set of rules.

It all starts with our hearts, where we know pain, joy, sorrow, need, and desire best. In that place of dreams and hope, of heartache and ambition, above and before all else, we must hunger for God. 

Do you hunger for God in all areas of your life? Do you feel him calling you to serve him out of your love for him?