When we think about our spirit, hopefully we are drawn to consider that part of our being that connects with God, longs for God, and yearns to transcend self and attach with One Who is beyond the world of time, space, and matter.
God has a way of making things in the material world beautiful; God also has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). While the world is beautiful and has many things within it to be desired, a longing exists in every heart to connect to something bigger than the beauty the eye can see. Sometimes people make the material thing they can see bigger than the One they cannot see; the Bible calls this idolatry. Idolatry is to covet what I can see above the One I can't see (Colossians 3:5).
If sports, possessions, or even one's job takes on an exclusive center in the heart, then it has become an idol. An idol is something substituted for God Almighty, making of our souls untidy haunts for all sorts of evil.
We can make gods of substances, of people, of attractions and amusements, and the list goes on and on. We are capable of giving god-like status to anything by desiring those things more than we do God.
One of the benefits of fasting is that it can be used by the Holy Spirit to starve false gods out of our hearts, while at the same time reorienting our spirits toward feasting relationally on the true God, Who is above all gods. Part of starving the false gods out of our inner lives is to allow Jesus to take the place in our hearts that He deserves— exclusive, central, and ultimate.
I once had a friend who would leave cat food out on his back patio at night so his cat could eat. I'm no cat guy, but I do know this: if you leave cat food outside, you will have every raccoon and possum in the neighborhood fighting for the scraps. As it turned out, he unwittingly had a family of possums move into his unfinished garage. It took a while but he finally figured out that his cat was starving and the possums where secretly breeding like rabbits. Not only did he need to quit feeding the possums, but he also needed to evict them from their new home in his garage.
Demons' Favorite Food
How do you stop attracting the possum idols of the spirit? Easy— quit feeding them. If a person wants evil, turmoil, and restlessness around, all they need to do is feed the devil his favorite food. Do so and demons will also breed like rabbits. The devil's favorite food is grumbling, complaining, griping, and a critical spirit. He loves the negative tone of complaint in all things. When the mouth grumbles, the spirit begins to worship evil. Jude teaches us that grumblers actually are those who are discontent and live for their desires (Jude 16). Their very grumbling is proof that they live life grasping for material things instead of longing for the transcendent. Paul taught that grumbling was a sure path to destruction (1 Corinthians 10:10).
When I grumble, I reveal to my own heart that I am world-obsessed and my life is attracting possums, or demons. The very act that breaks a grumbling spirit is thanksgiving. Giving thanks is the foundational act of transcendent living. Giving thanks is where we break away from wanting more and move to contemplating Jesus and what great blessings we have in Him.
Giving thanks transitions our hearts from focusing on the gift we do or don't have to the present Gift, Jesus.
Refocus the Spirit
When we give thanks to God “for everything,” we refocus our hearts, even our lusts, from the gift to the One Who gave the Ultimate Gift. If thanks can refocus our affection, then thanks can reshape our lives to reflect Christ.
To come to God with some request without thanks is to make a request for good with corruption throughout the heart. The request made of God from an unthankful heart is to make a request of God from a heart of lust and desire.
It is to shake the fist arrogantly in God's face and say, “You owe me," or "I can't be satisfied with Your presence; I need my petition filled." Mostly it says, "I want this more than You, more than what You want to provide.”
Thanks consecrates the person doing the asking. Thanks says, "I want Christ and His presence more than a fulfilled petition." Thanks says, “My life is full already, too good to be true, but You told me when I get a touch anxious I can bring to You my request, so I am doing just that with thanksgiving— but You must know that all I want is You" (Philippians 4:5-6).
We Become What We Worship
Whatever we focus upon we become like; if we focus on alcohol, we will become unstable. If we focus on riches, we will become greedy. If we focus on pleasure, we will become lustful. If we focus on fishing, we will become hooked. If we focus on sports, we will become a fantasy. If we focus on religion, we will become critical. If we focus on sex, we will become uncontrolled. The list is endless. Whatever we focus upon, or to say it another way, whatever we worship, we will become like.
If we focus on some "thing" and then try to worship God, we will discover that we are actually not worshiping at all; we are trying to coerce God into giving us what we really want— something besides Him. Any kind of prayer or worship from a non-thankful heart is actually a coercion of God for something we want.
Thanksgiving kills our coercive nature. Thanksgiving becomes the first and ultimate act of loving worship. When we thank God, we are declaring Him to be the Lord of our lives, the Lord of the gifts necessary for us to thrive and grow. When we give thanks to God, we are letting Jesus make us the best versions of ourselves.
Today we want to consider fasting our complaints and grumbles and let Jesus make us "thanks-beings."
Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!
Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God. He made us, and we are His,—His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name. For the LORD is good, and His faithful love endures forever; His faithfulness, through all generations. Psalm 100 CSB
This is the only Psalm called a Psalm of Thanksgiving. In the Psalm, the whole earth is called upon to shout triumphantly to God, obviously because He has won some great victory for the residents of the earth. His amazing victory has put a smile on the faces of those who received the honor of serving Him. This triumphant shout can be difficult for us to understand; we don't always feel triumphant. The Psalmist realizes that the battle God is fighting and the victories God is winning are not for Himself. The Psalmist shouts victoriously because Yahweh is winning victory after victory for His people. The very fact that we are able to resist and overcome evil and have the image of God restored to our inner hearts is confirmation that God has won some victories for us and has triumphed for us over rampant, unrestrained lust and evil.
The Psalm then takes a sharp turn and calls us to thanksgiving. Yahweh tells us how to come before Him, singing our hearts out in joy, acknowledging Yahweh as the only God, the Maker of the world, the Creator of every living thing, but especially the Creator of people.
Then the Psalm rings out for us to clearly picture: we do not enter His presence because those ancient people held up dead animals to offer God, but we enter His presence with a burst of thanksgiving and praise.
We don't come before God saying, "I have been so good; You owe me." We come before God saying, "I have been so self focused; I don't deserve all the compassion, mercy, and love You are pouring down upon me. I am entering into relationship with You, Yahweh, not because I am worthy, but because You are faithful to keep loving me— no expiration date. You are faithful through all generations.”
If anyone wants to get close to God and enter deeper and deeper into relationship with Him, then one must begin with a thankful heart.
The entire goal of this day is to learn to fast or abstain from complaining. This day offers a simple commitment with powerful results. To break the negative words in our lives and quit feeding the possums, all we need to do is begin feeding our relationship with Christ by offering thanks. The rest of this part of your devotional experience will be to offer thanks.
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date. Next, write out your commitment to daily give thanks to Yahweh as you seek to enter His presence for relationship. Your commitment might read something like this: “Jesus, I seek by Your grace to commit the next eighteen days of this fast to beginning my devotional time with thanksgiving.” Again, never underestimate the importance of prayer and depending upon God's grace to help in even the smallest changes.
Go now to the "Daily Journal" and write the date at the top of the page. Begin by writing down three things you are thankful to God for doing. It doesn't matter how small these things are; you have eighteen days left, and by the end you will have claimed God as the author of fifty awesome works in your life. Each day you will be beating back criticism and focusing on God's wonderful works in your life.