A few years back, while Leila and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first son, I decided to take my big bellied, 8-month pregnant wife on a romantic date. On our way to dinner a man passed us in his old pick-up truck going about 80mph. He swerved into our lane...
and missed hitting the front of our car by about 6 inches. Normally I would have just let it go, but I had precious cargo riding with me. And it made me mad.
Without even hesitating, I pulled right behind his truck, we made eye contact and I proudly gave him the middle finger, as the blood in my body boiled. It was less of a decision, and more of a reaction.
In Matthew 4, the scriptures tell us that Jesus was led out to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by Satan. This particular passage is rarely talked about, but is so important. The rest of Jesus' ministry depends on how he will respond to this temptation. It's the Garden of Eden scene being played out all over again. And so Jesus prepared himself.
We are all instinctual creatures. When we are hungry, we eat. When we are tired, we sleep. When we see something appealing, we lust. And when we are angry, we pull behind their truck and flip them off; It's instinct.
Forty days after Jesus had been fasting in the desert, Satan shows up. And he tempts him, with food, of course.
Here is how Jesus responds,
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God" - Matthew 4:4
It's interesting that when Jesus knows he will be faced with temptation, he decides to fast. He allows his flesh to be weak so that the Spirit in him will be strong.
Like Jesus, you and I will be tempted.
Obedience to Jesus today means not living by bread alone, but by the word of God. What would it look like for you to not simply live by human instinct, but rather by the word and spirit of God? What if instead of eating when you're hungry, you say "no." You practice saying no to your flesh and allow the spirit of God in you to have a louder voice. Fasting means you don't have to eat when you're hungry, but really that's just practice; it's less about the food and more about the discipline of saying no to the reactions of your flesh. Because you also don't have to lust when see something you like. You don't have to yell at your wife or kids out of anger. You don't have to flip a guy off when he almost crashes into your car. And you don't have to fall into temptation when Satan tempts you.
If you feel like you're parenting or living more out of "reaction", I challenge you to pick one day this week, or maybe even just one meal, and try fasting. Practice saying no when your flesh and instinct beg you to say yes. I know this seems counter-intuitive, and you run the risk of becoming aggressively "hangry" (hungry + angry), but counter-intuitive seems to go hand-in-hand with Kingdom living.
I'd love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment below and share your experience; even if it's a hangry one :)