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Neh 1:1-11

The average American adult sees almost 4000 advertisements per day. Companies spend
billions of dollars to stir up our dissatisfaction. Their goal is to maintain a steady diet of
consumption, and there seems to be no limit to our desire for stuff. Some economists estimate
that almost 70% of the entire US economy is fueled by consumer goods (as opposed to fuel,
housing, and transportation). We seem to be machines programmed to want more, and
advertisers are locked into this wiring of our brains.
Consider the following:

We possess Infinite Desire + We exist as Finite Humans = Which results in restlessness

  • Thomas Aquinas once asked himself what it would take to satisfy the soul. In his
    conclusion, one human would need to experience everything.
  • Song of Solomon put it this way- The eye is not satisfied with seeing
  • Mick Jagger- I can’t get any satisfaction.
  • Type of Desires
    • Power/Control/Influence/Notoriety
    • Money/Consumerism/Display of Wealth
    • Pleasure/Entertainment/Leisure/Sexual Experiences

How do we manage this churning surge of infinite desire when an entire ecosystem has been
Built to keep pumping out the waters of temptation?
Fasting is mentioned around 30 times in the Scriptures.

Why this infinite desire- because we were made for the infinite.
Desire is infinite partly because we were made by God, made for God, made to need God, and
made to run on God. We can be satisfied only by the one who is infinite, eternal, and able to
supply all our needs: we are only at home in God. When we fall away from God, the desire
for the infinite remains, but it is displaced by things that will certainly lead to destruction.
Dallas Willard
What Fasting is not:

  • Getting God’s attention through suffering
  • A weight loss program
  • A legalistic standard to gain holiness
  • Not always results-oriented

Fasting is God’s powerful reset button. Anytime a leader was at a critical juncture, we see that
fasting was involved as a preparatory step. Fasting helps us prepare our minds and bodies for
what is next.
Here are the Examples:

  • Jesus began his ministry with fasting (Luke 4:1-2)
  • Moses fasted before receiving and sharing the 10 Commandments (Ex 34:27-28)
  • Elijah returned to ministry after a season of fasting (1 Kings 19)
  • Antioch sends Paul on his first missionary journey after fasting (Acts 13:2)

Fasting interrupts our small world of pleasure and comfort, helping us see a bigger view of God’s
plan. Today we will examine how one man’s comfort was interrupted and how fasting prepared
him for a critical role in a nation.

  1. Nehemiah had a position of prestige and significance while living in relative comfort.
    • He lived in the citadel – this was the royal enclosure (1:1)
    • Nehemiah lived in the safest part of the safest city in the most powerful country in the world
    • God’s best plans will often invade our most cherished comforts.
  2. Nehemiah opened himself up to the plight of his fellow brothers and sisters.
    • Nehemiah initiates the question (1:2)
    • b. Nehemiah interrupted his normal routine to know about others suffering
    • He discovers that things are horrible.
  3. Encountering other people’s pain places us in a unique position. Do we go back to our normal citadel life, or do we dive in to help?
    • Here’s how Nehemiah handled this:
      • He paused
      • He prayed and fasted (He Interrupted his normal routine to know about others suffering.)
      • In his prayer:
        • God is still good (v. 5)
        • He recognized his position as a servant (v. 6)
        • He confessed sin (interrupting our cycle of pleasure and comfort can help us better see our imperfections) (vs. 6-7)
        • He based his prayer on Scripture (v. 8-9)
        • He made a clear request (vs. 10-11)

If your default decision is to always return back to the citadel of comfort, then you will not
experience the thrill of what God wants to build through you.

Impacts of Fasting

  • Helps us absorb the challenges of those in pain
  • Helps clarify how we can help (v. 1:11)
  • Gives us courage just at the right moment (2:4-6)

Table Talk Card – A Controlled Heart