Fasting and Feasting

by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

My dear Christian brothers and sisters, God took me away from writing and blogging for a week. He made it so that I had no time for anything but being a good husband, father, father-in-law, son and friend every day since Tuesday last. I spent a week in Oklahoma preparing for the marriage vow renewal ceremony for my wife and I. My time during this period was mostly with my wife and daughter during the day and my son-in-law in the evening. The ceremony was very well done. My son and my son-in-law took care of picking up my parents, making sure they made to the ceremony then taking them home afterward. I got to see some friends from our old church in Oklahoma whom I rarely get to see. After the reception, my wife and I drove to Guthrie and spent the next two nights in a Bed and Breakfast there complements of our children.

On Sunday, we visited Henderson Hills Church in Edmond. The pastor there is Dennis Newkirk. I listen to him via Podcast as much as possible. We have visited his church before, but he was out of town. However, this Sunday he was there and he preached a sermon on the one of the Beatitudes. It was an incredible sermon and I had the privilege of meeting Dennis in the lobby as we left afterwards. He is a very genuine and godly Christian. I knew he was preaching his way through the Beatitudes so I made a note to listen to each sermon in the series until I caught up.

I went back to work today and at lunch I had a very neat conversation with a fellow Christian with whom I work. I could not stop talking about the impact Dennis’ sermon made on me. My friend and I have a lot in common in that we both have a preacher living inside and would much rather do that than work in Information Services. :-) In any case, this conversation eventually made it’s way to my lack of writing for a week and what God was up to in that. My friend told me that he expected to see some very impacting things here this week. Well, that is more than a little intimidating. :-)

I listened to three of Dennis’ sermons in his Beatitude series today. It was as if God was showing me exactly what to write in this post this evening as Dennis preached on Matthew 5:6. It seemed that everything that happened today pointed to this passage and how crucial it is for us to grasp how vital it is to our spiritual health.

Spiritual health can be understood in an analogous sort of way by looking at our physical health. Can we continue to live if we stop eating? Is it possible for someone to fast and remain alive indefininitely? No, it isn’t possible. Yes, we can fast for long periods of time. It can take quite awhile for some people to starve to death, but eventually there will be a point where the body shuts down and death occurs if it isn’t nourished. Conversely, it is also possible to fill up on food that is not good for us. If I attempt to live on chocolate brownies exclusively then there will be a point where I will become very ill because I am not taking in proper nourishment. I asked my daughter when she was 3 years old what her favorite food was. She replied rather emphatically that her favorite food was candy. Needless to say, my wife and I had to limit her intake of candy, making sure she ate good food instead. Also, having experienced it very much this last week by eating out nearly every day for all of our meals, I feel as if I have maxed out on food loaded with saturated fat with portions that are way too big.

What am I driving at? Our health is affected by how we eat. If we specialize in foods that are not good for us then it will eventually show up in our health in a bad way. Likewise, if we fill up on bad things we don’t eat what is good for us. If we don’t eat then we will eventually die. Our spiritual health is also greatly dependent upon our consumption of either good spiritual food, or bad spiritual food. A few years ago, God taught me the principle of “fasting and feasting.” As He opened my eyes and drew me unto Him to walk closer than I ever thought possible, I found myself fasting from Television, Movies, Sports, etc. as I replaced them with Bible study, prayer, worship, research, and writing. The result was astounding (at least it was for me.) I went for a couple of months without watching any TV. I spent that time pursuing God. I was fasting from what I began to see as nothing but time wasting garbage while I was feasting on God and His Word. What was the result? God opened my spiritual eyes and ears. I learned to experience Him. He gave me the ability to “see” truth. He enabled me to be content for the first time in my life. He started changing my character from the inside out.

I learned through this that any spiritual food that is not on God’s menu for us is analogous to eating from the trash dumpster outside of Calcutta’s House of Dying. In this place the dying are treated and fed so they can die with dignity. However, their clothes that are thrown out in the dump are horribly contaminated with death. These dying people are given meals, but they are unable to eat much so the waste is thrown out with the clothes. Also, the lepers there have their sores drained with syringes. The pus and waste from this is thrown into the same trash as the clothes and uneaten food. As the bags of trash are taken to the dump, destitute children come to rip the bags open to get at the uneaten food. These children are desperate and wade through the worst smelling and contaminated body fluids from the dying and their old contaminated clothes to get to a few morsels of uneaten wasted food.

I am sorry if that paragraph offends, but this is a proper comparison for us. As God’s children we have a choice to be fed by God’s own hand from His table or from the worst smelling dumpster of death and contamination that we can imagine, which is the world and its ways.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:1-6 ESV)

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:21 ESV)

I am sorry to say that I spent much of the first twenty or so years of my Christian walk partaking from the dumpster of the World rather than eating from the hand of my Lord from His table. However, since God has awakened me, cleaned me up, and opened my eyes and ears, I can see the contamination that is “entertainment” and what it does to my relationship with my Lord. Instead, God has given me a hunger for Him.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

I testify before all who read this, this Beatitude is crucial for our spiritual health. We must grasp this. Can anyone develop this hunger on their own, or does it come from God? It comes from God. He must give us this deep hunger and drive to feed from His hand from His table. However, if anyone deeply desires a close walk with God then they will never be turned away by Him. After all, He is the one drawing them to Himself.

What is our responsibility in this process? What do we do? I have said this many times and I think it is vital for us to grasp the veracity of it then do it. We must put ourselves into position to be blessed this way. We must draw near to God then He will draw near to us.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10 ESV)

The walk of the Disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of repentance marked by humility. Those on this walk hunger and thirst for righteousness. This hunger is perpetual. It drives them closer and closer to God. He gives them intense satisfaction in Himself. They, in turn, love the Lord their God with their entire being. These are the ones who can be content no matter what their circumstances. These are the ones who are not conformed to this world, but live in constant transformation by renewing their minds as they fast from this world and feast on God.

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4 thoughts on “Fasting and Feasting

  1. Well….Amen Michael! The analogies you made between our bodies and our spiritual walk are right on. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said we are like children playing with mud pies…and we are so content, yet God has a feast for us. We are too easily satisfied….and our spiritual maturity…or lack there of is evidence of our intake.

    I am so thankful that God is faithful to call His children to the table of righteousness and goodness. I am so thankful that He takes full responsibility for my spiritual condition…yet I know too that we need to take the trash out of our walk. We must put to death the deeds of the flesh, by faith, and remember WHO WE ARE!! When we do this God faithfully and exponentially expands our understanding of His Word, thus increasing our thirst for righteousness. Once we taste the purity of the food from the Lord…nothing else satisfies, it may fill temporarily, but it will NEVER satisfy.

    Thank you for reminding us Michael that we need to thirst for righteousness! He is El Shaddai–the true source of Life!

  2. Seems God is working in the lives of all His children. Many hardships are being endured by His children through His grace. God has been showing me my hidden sins and has graciously forgiven me and washed me clean…everyday! How good and sweet it is to dine at His table…your metaphor is very appropriate times infinity because He is infinitely holy! Why do we leave His table at times…I don’t understand, but by His grace one day we’ll never leave it again.
    We’re all glad to have you back home, Mike, and feed on God’s word through you!

  3. Brusedreed,

    Good to hear from you! Yes, we must clean the trash out of our walks. We are what we ‘eat’ aren’t we? Great comment!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Sarah,

    Yes, it is good to be home. Dennis preached Sunday that we must continually ask God to draw us into feeding from Him rather than from the World. That is our part.

    I rejoice with you with your repentance. Isn’t it amazing how much better His food is for us than what we get out of the dumpster?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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