Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped! This month we will explore the topic of spiritual hunger.
Frenzied consumption is a mark of our current culture. We are rich with endless choices of everything from peanut butter to podcasts. Streaming video makes it possible for us to never have to wait a week for the next episode of our favorite television show. Constant connectivity gives rise to the expectation of immediate responses. The 24-hour news cycle means we can access the latest news whatever time of day we want.
We can even order our favorite drinks from an app on our phone so that it is ready when we arrive without having to wait. Delayed gratification is almost a thing of the past. It’s not that these things are bad. In fact, most of it is morally neutral. The problem is that we are so rich and full that we don’t realize how hungry we actually are. We feast on the things of this world in ever-increasing quantities while our souls are deeply malnourished.
I can’t help but think about the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). Jesus tells the story of the young man who comes seeking spiritual things, “What must I do to have eternal life?” After a brief exchange, Jesus responds, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” You might think that the man would have been eager to obey Jesus. Instead, he went away sad because he had many possessions. The young man was full. So full, in fact, that it diminished his hunger for all that Christ offered him.
John Piper once said, “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things and there is no room for the great.” I stuff myself with all kinds of things—clothes, shoes, desserts, decorating my house, books, movies, podcasts, or the latest iPhone release. I crave new, more, and different. And because I live in a society that is rich, everything I want is at my fingertips (and with next-day delivery)! My life is full. My belly is full.
The question is, am I like the rich young ruler? Am I too full for Christ? Has the consumption of this world masked a deeper hunger? Have I been living on peanut butter sandwiches, satisfying my hunger but starving my body of the life-giving nutrients it needs to flourish and grow strong?
I can say I desire Christ more than anything, but it’s easy to say that when I don’t know what it is to lack, to truly hunger. Fasting is a vital spiritual discipline for a believer, one that not only marked Jesus’ life but that he also expected his disciples to participate in. It’s a gift of grace meant to expose not only our hunger, but also our frailty and need.
February 26 marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season leading up to Easter, when many Christians will choose to fast from lesser things in order to remind themselves of and feast on the life-giving nourishment of Christ. This month’s resources are geared toward exposing our hunger and need and pushing us toward Christ. For those who are interested, we are also recommending a Lent Guide created by the Village Church, that will help guide you through 40 days of fasting from lesser things. We pray that this will increase our hunger for Christ and prepare our hearts to worship him well this Easter.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Book: Isaiah 44
This passage highlights the foolishness of our idolatry. An idol is something we look to for life; it’s our functional savior—something we look to for security, comfort, hope, and joy—instead of God. Read chapter 44 several times throughout this month. Think about how God describes idolatry in this passage, and ask him to expose what things you are feeding on and trusting in rather than him. We included a short section below, but we encourage you to read the entire chapter.
"Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, 'Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?' The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, 'Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?'"
Article: Why Do Christians Fast Before Easter
by: Newspring Church
This short article explores the spiritual discipline of fasting—what the Bible says about it and why we should or shouldn’t fast.
"Fasting is about remembering that God comes first in our lives. It helps us practice saying 'no' to our desires and saying 'yes' to Jesus. When we give something up for Lent, we are more focused on God than things that may distract us. Rather than focusing on a craving for food, we should hunger and thirst for what's good and true."
Sermon: Longing to Satisfied
by: Bobby Raulerson
Bobby Raulerson taught from Jeremiah 2 in the recent God our Savior series. In this message, Bobby highlights how we all long for satisfaction but look for it in other things. We, like the Israelites, trade the living water of God for broken cisterns that have nothing to offer but a thick layer of mud at the bottom.
“It was really, really good. And it satisfied me in that moment. There was a longing I had deep within my heart that I had to figure out a way to calm down, be at peace, have some comfort, and to gain a little bit of control over this situation. And as soon as I started eating, I felt good. In that moment, I felt great! Here’s the problem with moments—they don’t last very long.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
The challenge this month is to pay attention to our hunger. But in order to do that, we need to first realize just how full we already are.
- Take inventory of your consumption.
Begin paying attention to how much you consume. This will include everything from online scrolling and shopping to what music, movies, or podcasts you intake—or even how much you exercise. You can begin by looking at your phone and figuring out much time you are on your phone each day. Ask yourself: what would you have a hard time doing without? Then actually make a note that includes a list of everything that is filling your time, energy, thoughts, and body from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Ask God to give you self-awareness so that you can clearly see your rate and level of consumption as you move throughout your day.
Here are some categories to consider:
- Food choices (types/quantities)
- Screen time (phone/internet)
- Shopping for non-essentials
- Social Media
- Input: Radio, Podcasts, and Music
- Evaluate your consumption.
- What are you consuming?
- When do you typically do this?
- How frequently?
- Does your rate and type of consumption give you any clues about what you are really hungry for?
- Is there anything in particular you over-consume or over-identify with? In what ways has this thing become an idol for you—something you are relying on to fill your hunger and still the restlessness in your soul?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
Once you have completed your inventory:
- Pick one or two categories to fast from during this season of Lent (February 26-April 9). Or pick a different category each week to fast from between now and Easter. Reference the Lent Guide from The Village Church for additional guidance through this process.
An important note, if you are considering fasting from food. We do not encourage fasting from meals or any type of food restriction for anyone who has ever struggled with food-related disorders. There are plenty of ways you can fast that will help you accomplish the same goal (ex. Social media, television, shopping).
- The point of fasting is not just denying ourselves and suffering through cravings. The point is to allow those cravings to remind you of a greater spiritual hunger and to drive you to God for satisfaction. Create an action plan for how you will respond to your cravings. For example, you can use the time you would be spending on social media to pray and read Scripture. Or when you crave a cookie or coffee, you can thank God for the reminder that he is what you really long for.
- When I feel this craving for _____________, I will thank God for this reminder and be curious about or acknowledge what I am really longing for.
- I will confess my need for his help and rely on him.
- I will hold on to this Scripture: ________________
- I will cling to this truth about God: _____________
- I will fight this lie that I am tempted to believe: __________
- I will thank him for: ____________
- I will remind myself of the ways this thing has never truly satisfied me.
- As you fast from these things, make some observations about what you are learning.
- Is there a connection between what you are really longing for and the ways you are seeking to satisfy it?
- How has reducing your consumption in this area helped you realize your need for God and exposed your true hunger? In what ways are you relying on him differently now?
- Can you identify a lie that you are believing that causes you to reach for and feast on these substitutes?
Additional Resources for Further Study
Sermon: Fasting Sermon
by: Church of the Cross
Book: Counterfeit Gods
by: Tim Keller
Podcast: Detox from Tech
by: Andy Crouch
Book: How to Break Up With Your Phone
by: Catherine Price
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.