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Devotional: March 30, 2020

‘Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

Matthew 4: 1-4 The Message

The liturgical season of Lent is traditionally a time when many explore the classical spiritual disciplines, including fasting. Who would have thought that almost everyone would have to give up so much of the familiar during this Season of Lent this year? The coronavirus “stay home, stay healthy” order has forced most of us to change our routines, whether we want to, or not.

The discipline of fasting is one that Christians, and many other people of faith, have engaged in for thousands of years. Going without something, such as food, is a discipline which allows us to focus on God. It also causes us to appreciate that “given-up” something even more, even for a brief period of time.

John the Baptist, who was Jesus’s cousin, was preparing the way for Jesus. He was preaching and baptizing people. Yet he assured all who heard him that he was not the Messiah. One day, while John was preaching and baptizing people, Jesus appeared. He asked John to baptize him. At first, John did not feel it was his place. Yet eventually, he realized that this man Jesus was what he had been preparing people for. When Jesus arose from the Jordan river after being baptized, the heavens opened. The spirit, like a dove, came down upon Jesus. A voice from above said, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life”.

What did Jesus do next? He himself prepared for His ministry by going into the wilderness, for a time of fasting and prayer. Now, I have thought a lot about this passage, especially since I have looked out at the desolate desert in Israel. There, I wondered to myself, “How could anyone sustain themselves for forty days out here?” The scripture does say that Jesus was not alone, for angels were with him. It clearly states though that Jesus had nothing to eat.

I think we sometimes skip over those simple words, that “angels took care of Him.” Although Jesus was fasting and preparing, God did not leave him alone. Jesus had angels to care for Him.

When we think of fasting, or giving up something, it seems like it will be a lonely, isolated experience. In many ways, it is lonely. It is intended to be a time of quiet contemplation, prayer, reading scriptures, praising, singing, and worship. Right now, many people are physically alone during this “stay at home” period in our lives. I am thankful that Jeana and I are able to be together during this time, but we know many people who are physically alone. Yet as the scripture clearly states, we have reassurance from God. We are never truly alone, for God has placed His angels amongst us.

It is very easy to be discouraged, frustrated, lonely, helpless, anxious, and worried. Feeling negative emotions is giving into a kind of a “cup half empty” mentality. It’s pretty easy to tap into those emotions. Yet our cups are half full. We do have much to be thankful for, if we pause and take stock of our lives. In centuries past, when there were devastating pandemics, there were so many more challenges.

Jesus did go into His wilderness. When He came out, He was weak and hungry, and the Devil was there to greet him. Jesus was at one of the most physically vulnerable points of His life. Yet He had prepared Himself. He had taken the time to get ready for all the challenges that He knew He would be facing.

As we look out at what is happening around the world, there are going to be significant challenges. This will be true even when the “all’s clear” signal is sent, and we can leave the safety of our homes. Some business may have failed, the markets have been hit hard, and families have lost loved ones. Who knows what else is going to challenge us?

How do we prepare for what’s coming? Well, we are in somewhat of a forced “fasting period”. It may not be food we are going without. Yet every one of us has given up something during this time. Rather than lament and complain, we need to seek God’s guidance, so we might learn to what He wants to teach us. This is our opportunity to prepare. So, I encourage each of us: take advantage of this time to secure our spirits for whatever comes our way.

Jesus responded to the Devil by saying that life was about more than just eating, and indulging our appetites. It is about the life of the Spirit. Sometimes, it helps to go without something, in order to create a longing within us. Perhaps it was because of the experience of testing, and fasting, that Jesus later said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).

Let us all take this time to seek God’s Kingdom!

Prayer for the Day

Everlasting God,

We are feeling tested. Sometimes, we may even feel like we are at the end of our rope. Remind us to rely upon You, and Your word. Especially during this time when we are separated from our normal routines. Remind us of Your faithfulness. May we always put You first in our lives. We pray this prayer in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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