“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? [Isaiah 58:6-7]
As we head into the season of Lent once again, I am reminded of this passage of Isaiah which reminds us that, if we are following God’s commandments to help the poor and needy, to include the stranger, to visit the sick and imprisoned, then “your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” [58:10-11] And so much more Isaiah promises.
What will be our fast this Lenten season and to what purpose? Is it just a surface denial of desserts or certain drink or will it really help someone else? I am asking this question of myself as well. Is my choice just an easy denial, or will it really help another in need? Will it cost me virtually nothing to keep this fast, or will I really give up something that will really benefit someone else? At the beginning of Lenten season, let’s look to the Lord for what He is asking of us.
I know that there are some 2,000 verses throughout the Bible in which we are commanded to take care of the needy. From the Pentateuch in which God lays down all the laws that detail the Ten Commandments to Jesus in Matthew 25 in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, there are numerous verses that detail who we are to help. And Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. In essence He is saying that if you take care of those in need, you are taking care of Jesus. And if you don’t, you are turning your back on Jesus himself.
So, back to what is Jesus asking of me and you this Lenten season (and all year round), let’s get serious about walking this hard road with Jesus right up to His death on the cross by helping those He asks us to help: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, the stranger—whoever is in our midst who could use our help. Let us put Christ in the middle of our lives and of our choices and let Him guide our fast.
My prayer for us: May the Lord guide our way this Lenten season and everyday, so that we are always in His will, so that we are always of a mind to help the poor and needy, the sick and the prisoner, the young and the old, the lame and the blind, the lonely and oppressed, the ones who don’t know Jesus at all and those who do.
What can we offer besides food and drink? We can offer spiritual food and drink—the kind that satisfies forever. We can offer our interest in the other person and listen to his/her stories of the need in their lives. We can just accept the person before us as he or she has experienced their life. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give anyone is an affirmation of who they are—warts and all—as a human being, our understanding of the choices they have made and why they did what they did.
Finally, we can offer our knowledge of the Lord and all He has done in our lives and in the lives of those we know. One thing we know for sure is that the Lord is always with us—whether we’re aware of it or not– and, for the person before us, all he needs to do is to turn his eyes to the One who cares to realize that he or she is not alone, that Christ is always there just waiting to be acknowledged. That is the greatest gift we can offer another. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: What is the Lord calling me to fast this Lenten season? Am I willing to follow His lead in this? Will I fast, not just for myself, but to help others as well? What does fasting mean to me? Is this a spiritual practice I do often?
Blessing for the week: May we people of God fast as He directs us this Lenten season and throughout our year. May we keep in our hearts and minds that we are commanded to help the poor and needy.
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I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, but if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.