This past Sunday at church the heat was out. It was pretty cold and I found myself struggling to get into the worship and the message. I began to wonder that if I were required to worship in the cold every week would I still be interested in following Jesus. I know all the good Christians out there are clamoring of course they would still be able to worship, but this thought has really challenged me. How is my devotion to Christ when I am hungry, or cold, or overly hot, or without shelter, or whatever the scenario may be. Do I really seek Him first no matter what? Honestly, I was thinking more about the cold Sunday morning than Jesus, and it saddens me.
As I thought about it the last couple days I was reminded of Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who in 1943 theorized that there is a hierarchy of needs that all individuals have that determines how they process life. The basic premise is that until individuals are satisfied on certain levels of need they will never transcend to explore the next level of need. Maslow proposed that things like food, shelter, and security exist at lower levels in the hierarchy and are considered first before things like concepts of morality and community. So in a way, it kind of made sense that I was unable to focus on Jesus in the midst of being cold. Right?
I wish I could let myself off that easy, but I can’t help but think there is something deeper at play here. Am I just walking around here wearing my Christian button or do I truly believe in the Risen Christ? Do I really feel that my sin has separated me from a holy and just God whose only holy and just response to my sin would be to punish it? Is there an invisible Kingdom of God that is forcefully advancing against the power of sin and death or am I just playing church? Is Jesus the basis of my need hierarchy or am I just to cold to care?
The one big take away for me over the last few days of thinking about this is a new perspective on the spiritual discipline of fasting. I have traditionally not been very purposeful or consistent when it comes to this discipline. I am confident that there is a good biblical mandate for fasting. Jesus fasted for 40 days at the beginning of His earthly ministry. Additionally in Matthew 6:16, Jesus uses the terminology “When you fast…” opposed to “if you fast” indicating that He saw fasting as a discipline that should be practiced.
I think what we ultimately find in the discipline of fasting is a willful denial of our basic needs such as food and replacing it with an intentional reliance on the sustaining presence and power of God through Jesus. Fasting allows us to reorder Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with Jesus as the first and foremost need for all individuals. I think this is the challenge for me. If my need for food or heat can throw off my devotion to Jesus, then how will I respond when I am tested by persecution or sacrifice? I need to be purposeful in my reliance on Jesus.
How about you guys? Do you struggle to worship when it cold or when it’s close to lunch time or when the big game is coming on?
Grace and peace.