Jesus and Moses began their earthly ministries by spending 40 days alone in the wilderness with God. These wilderness moments of fasting and prayer were moments of silence and moments of solitude. For me, these moments have been sacred stepping stones in my journey with God. I imagine they must have reminded Jesus of his first moments of solitude with man, alone in the wilderness of an unfinished garden. (Genesis 2:4-7)
I’ve sensed God whispering to me about 40 days of fasting and prayer since last summer. I’ve been resisting it for months for obvious reasons.
Namely, hot wings. But 2017 began with me surrendering to his voice.
Both times I’ve done 40-day fasts in previous years, it was something I was called to, and served a very strategic and specific purpose in my journey. During my last long-term fast, I was seeking direction on the person I was trying to marry. This fast was no different in importance. It’s served a very specific purpose to return to God’s heart and His will over my life.
Fasting is for returning.
As I’ve delved deep into my relationship with God, I’m reminded over and over again of the words of God in Jeremiah 2:2.
“I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me, and followed me through a land not sown.”
It’s interesting that in the history of Israel, God doesn’t remember their arrival in the promised land or the golden age of David and Solomon as his favorite season. No, God remembered their first season—alone and completely dependent on him in the wilderness.
That is the season that God longs to return to with us from time to time.
Many of us feel similarly about our first season with Christ. It was painful, intimate and messy, but everything was new and real and beautiful.
When I think back to my early days with Christ, I think of the raw and honest prayers I prayed. I think of how I dug deep into the Scripture, not to pass some religious test, but because I desperately needed the sort of truth that could set me free. I can’t escape the feeling that the wilderness of first love was his favorite season with me, nor can I escape my own ache to return.
I’ve been praying to return to that place, to heed the admonition of Christ in Revelation 3, “Repent, and do the things you did at first.” This is something that I’ve prayed for 10 years, and last year I sensed that this was what God was telling me this fast was the path to that place.
Fasting is for pruning.
The second day of my fast I heard one word: Consecration. The Hebrew word for consecration—qadash—means, “to be set apart, to make something holy.”
It spoke of all the things in the Old Testament, that God set aside for Himself or for His use. Like the consecration of the firstborn male, the tithe or the articles of gold and silver for the temple. Essentially God was saying, these things are set aside for me and I’m going to use them for a specific and holy purpose.
We talk about holiness in the Church, but we don’t talk about the fact that there’s a reason God wants us to be holy. He has a specific purpose for us in mind, and in order to make a difference, we must first be different.
God began to highlight areas of compromise in the shows I allow myself to watch, consume or get complacent in.
When we remove compromise from our lives, we are rewarded with closeness. Isaiah told us that “your iniquities have separated you from your God.” Jesus taught that it was the pure in heart who would see him. God is making me holy, not just for a purpose, but for proximity. God doesn’t hate sin because he’s vindictive, God hates sin because it’s the only thing that stands in the way of him and his kids.
The wilderness is for preparation. Both Moses and Jesus emerged from the wilderness into their destiny on the earth.
This time has been a critical moment of transition and momentum for me: as I look to publish a book this year that God spoke to me about eight years ago, as the church we serve in begins to feel momentum and grace for a new season, as my wife and I close out our seventh year of marriage, and enter what I believe will be our most fruitful season yet.
As I’ve sensed these winds of change, the wilderness has produced in me a dependence on Him that was previously unknown. When we look to fulfill our dreams or accomplish a goal, it’s easy to forget that Jesus told us in John 15 that apart from Him we can do nothing. When we take away a basic need like food, a union with Christ is forged. We are saying, I need You more than my most basic human needs. This posture of humility creates a lean in our hearts. Where we no longer lean into our own understanding or ingenuity to produce, but rather lean unto His heart.