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Food Idolatry VS Living Water: Refreshing the Soul by Fasting

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Michael Eagle

MICHAEL EAGLE is Physician Assistant in Orthopedic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical School and previously at Mayo Clinic. He has run eighteen marathons, completed two Ironman events, and has an interest in nutrition, exercise, and fasting. Michael is an elder at Harpeth Christian Church and a graduate of TCM’s Discipleship Program.

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Ex. 32:1-4).

The ancient Israelites were known as “stiff-necked people,” but so are we. Think about it. If you are living in the United States and reading this, you are probably living in a house or an apartment. You most likely have central air-conditioning or heating and running water. You may even be reading this on a device like an iPad® or Kindle®. My point is that you are living in plenty. You have everything you need and most of what you want.

The problem with this is that wealth can create idols.

Often idolatry is ingrained into our psyche from an early age.

As a child, I was taught that I needed a minimum of three square meals a day and that breakfast was the most important. I grew up eating in a fast-food society. There were McDonalds french fries, takeout Chinese, neighborhood pizza and Carvel® Ice Cream.

If we were not eating out, then there was the quick microwavable Swanson’s® TV dinner to eat while watching TV shows. For in-between snacks, the grocery stores were packed with all sorts of my favorite chips: Doritos®, Fritos®, nacho chips, and pretzels, to name a few.

There were all my favorite cereal selections such as Captain Crunch®, Sugar Pops®, Cocoa Puffs®, and the “healthy stuff” like Raisin Bran® and Cheerios®. There was gallon-sized ice cream in any flavor…I think you get my point. It was ingrained in me from an early age to constantly feed my cravings.

Well, unfortunately this pattern continued into my adult life and then some.

Without knowing it, I had formed a metaphorical golden calf idol out of food. When I was feeling hungry, I ate. When I was feeling sad, I ate. When I was feeling lonely, I ate. When I was happy, I ate. I craved the serotonin neurotransmitter release from my brain saying, “Pleasure! Give me more!” The fundamental thing I was missing out on was the one thing that would fill all those holes perfectly: Jesus. There is a great book on food idolatry by Lysa TerKeurst titled Made to Crave, where she drives home the point that we all are ultimately made to crave our Creator!

1 John 2:15-16 states, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

TerKeurst brilliantly concludes that “the cravings of the sinful man are misplaced physical desires – issues with our food or sex outside of marriage. In other words, trying to get our physical needs met outside the will of God. The lust of the eyes is being enamored by material things. The New Living Translation actually equates the lust of the eyes as ‘a craving for everything we see.’ And lastly, the boasting of what one has or does describes the actions of someone chasing what she (or he) thinks will make her (or him) feel significant.”[1]

When we break this down, we soon realize that we humans are prone to make our own golden calves and then rely on them for our sustenance rather than the Word of God and a personal, intimate relationship with him.

When Jesus traveled to Samaria, he visited Jacob’s well and there he met a woman who was drawing out water. He asked her for a drink, and she replied in a puzzled and questioning way. This was because she was a Samaritan woman and Jews did not associate with them. Jesus answered her, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (Jn. 4:10, NLT).

Jesus gave us great metaphorical illustrations that speak to our hearts. Do you ever think of him as your living water or your bread of life or as your great shepherd? If not, I challenge you to rethink his great “I Am” statements found in the book of John.

Water is important for many things, but especially to sustain life. There is a difference between tainted water with impurities and fresh clean pure water. It is often obvious. The lake house I lived at in college had a shallow well that had no filter system in place. The water smelt of sulphur and came out of the faucet with an orange tint of iron. I certainly did not drink it, but it could only be used for washing. This reminds me of what the world often gives us in contrast with what Christ offers us. Our broken world is contaminated by sin, but Jesus offers us something pure and eternal.

When we fast, we begin to eliminate our reliance on the impurities of the world.

It cleanses not only the body but the soul. It allows the Spirit of God to settle in and begin the cleansing process.

Whenever I fast from food and drink by only taking in water, I try to focus on my fast and purpose to connect to Jesus–the one who offers us living water. Every time I take a sip during the day, the connection is easily made. Jesus goes on in the story to say,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

In the book of Revelation, the one seated on the throne said: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6).

When we fast, we begin to eliminate our reliance on the impurities of the world.

Think of fasting as a purifying process.

If we don’t work on purifying our minds, our bodies and our Spirits, we are left in conflict. Jesus said that we can’t serve two masters. He may have been talking of money (another idol), but I would challenge you to think of other idols such as food or anything else that has taken hold of your heart. Surrender it in humility during this time of fasting by submitting your will before the throne of God.

James asked if both fresh water and salt water could flow from the same spring (Jm. 3:11). I’ll let you chew on that question as we end this article.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23)

[1] Lysa TerKuerst, Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 21. 

This was excerpted from Michael Eagle, Prayer and Fasting: Group Discussion Guide (, 2020).