One pastor once said that to truly give Jesus’ way, it takes spiritual discernment to know what the real underlying need is. So it is with what is happening in this season of Ramadan, currently being heavily observed in the unstable region of Northern Nigeria. This article, by the Premium Times, says that the Yobe State government has been giving out food to muslims observing Ramadan, a time of fasting, where one does not eat the whole entire day, but is able to eat after the sun goes down (source).
In a statement made by Ali Abubukar, the chair of the state’s committee on Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Boko Haram victims, Abubukar said that “The supply will bring succour and alleviate the dire need of the people, which is food” (source). While Abubukar is correct in that physical hunger is a real, dire need for those in Northern Nigeria, the truth is, those celebrating Ramadan have an even deeper, more dire, spiritual hunger: a hunger for the Truth– the Truth that is only found in Jesus Christ.
During the time of Ramadan (about a month), many muslims will fast from food and will fight against their own sins, such as swearing and lying. They do this to spend more time in intense prayer, commanded to attend five different prayer times per day. Many times, the Qur’an is read before their meal time in the evening. This time is meant to spur on more religious devotion for muslims, and while it may do just that, Ramadan (or anyone’s own works), apart from Christ, does not get anyone closer to the real, Living God.
In fact, it takes them farther away from Him– or from finding Him, rather.
Obedience, Not Sacrifice
This idea– of giving sacrifice, i.e., doing religious works instead of obeying Christ, the Living God, is found in the story of Samuel 15. In the story, King Samuel was commanded by God to kill ALL of the Amalekites, including women and children, as well as every animal belonging to them.
While this seems like a horrible, heartless order, it can be understood when one realizes how evil the Amalekites actually were. Since the time the Israelites had become a people group, liberated from Egypt, the Amalekites– known by many as “The Plunderers”– attacked those Israelites that were “lagging behind,” which were most likely the women and children (source). They attacked the Israelites many times, mercilessly causing much pain and anguish for many people. With this in mind, Christ commanding that the Amalekites be annihilated was for good reason.
But, sadly, King Saul did not completely obey Christ concerning some of His most important instructions– and disobeyed Christ completely, in Samuel 13:5-14, when he burnt sacrifices Samuel was meant to burn. In Samuel 15, Saul did not annihilate all of the Amalekites; instead, he only killed “everything that was despised and weak” (1 Samuel 15:9).
This major sin not only caused more years of pain for Israel, but it cost King Saul his kingdom. Full of pride, King Saul tried to justify his sin; but in the end, he knew he was wrong, and almost flippantly asked Samuel to forgive his sin, so that he could go back and worship the LORD (1 Samuel 15:25). But by then, it was too late. His kingdom was ripped away from him, all because he chose to disobey, justifying it with sacrifice.
Relationship, Not Regulation
But Ramadan is all about obedience, one might say. Sure, it is, but one of the main things that can be learned from this passage in Samuel 15 is that God is not some dead or distant Deity that can be appeased with some sacrifice. He is a relational God, a God who is indeed Living– and wants His children to obey Him. It was Jesus Himself who said,
“If you love me, keep my commands.”
(John 14:15, NIV)
The fact that Christ wants us to obey Him, as one obeys a Loving Father, shows His Followers that they are not just following a dead religion– one only of sacrifice and works– but are following a very Real and Living God; one of Love, desiring a Personal Relationship with all people, as evidenced by what John described Jesus doing in John 1:10-13).
Faith, Not Works
This is not to say that Christians fasting and praying are a bad practice– in fact, they are wonderful for drawing near to Christ (Matthew 6). But let one thing be clear: People are not saved by obedience to Christ; they are saved by Grace, through Faith, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). All one must do to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for their sin, receiving His gift of salvation, and entering into the personal relationship that He offers. This God is real: unfathomably more real than any god that demands mere obedience and a set of works-based self-righteousness to approach them with for salvation, or even a chance at salvation.
This Ramadan, one thing is true: God does not want mere obedience, or a set of rules and standards to be met, as is found in islam. He wants a real, personal relationship with those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. As believers in this amazing God, let us pray that those practicing Ramadan in Northern Nigeria, and all other religions, would find Christ, and that He would “succour and alleviate the dire need of the people,” which is truly the need of Him.
If you are a muslim– or are any sort of religion/belief system, but have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, the Only One who can save you from your sins– come to Him today. Let Him set you free, as you draw close to Him: not by your own works, but by His Work for you, on the cross.
It is Jesus whom we truly hunger and thirst after, even if we do not realize it. Let’s come to Him, as we are, today. 🔹
Do you know Jesus?
“Who is this Jesus?” one might ask. Some see Him as a revered Prophet; some see Him as a fool, the butt of all their jokes. But I encourage you, whether you know personally or not, to ask yourself that question.
Jesus asked His Disciples this question about Himself.
“‘But what about you?’ he (Jesus) asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’”
(Matthew 16:15-18, NIV, “(Jesus)” mine)
Peter replied that Jesus is the Messiah– The Leader or Savior of the Jews and Gentiles alike (Romans 10:12), and He was right. Read more about, and meet with, this promised Messiah, here.
Please pray for…
– Those currently practicing islam. Pray that even now, especially in the wake of the various islamic terrorist attacks happening all over the world, that muslims would come to know Jesus Christ.
– That Ramadan would be a time where many muslims become saved. It is a time of heightened spiritual awareness; please pray that Jesus would call to these people during Ramadan, and that they would come to Him. ❤
– That Christians would not be afraid of loving and telling others about the Gospel, worldwide, but especially in places with many muslims, such as Northern Nigeria and the Middle East.
– That those experiencing hunger and thirst in Northern Nigeria would be fed– and would come to know Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the process.
– There are still 113 Chibok girls left to be freed, as Ramadan has started. Please pray for these young women, that they would be de-brainwashed or de-radicalized, and would be freed physically– but also in every sense of the word.
Thank you so much for your prayers. To all Americans, have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend! 🙂