Friday, December 9, 2011

To Fast, or not to Fast - That is the Question.


I’ve recently started attending a house church mid-week; it’s low-key with some worship (we have a guitar, violin, handheld drum and tambourine – depending on who attends that night) and then a discussion. We’re doing a series on the spiritual disciplines. 

I’ve grown up in churches where some of the disciplines were encouraged and engaged but apparently there are 12 disciplines; I could only name 5 or 6, after that I forget or didn’t know. It’s kind of like an 8-course meal – I’m clueless after soup, salad, entree and dessert.

So far we’ve discussed meditation, prayer and this week is fasting. Coincidently, I’ve recently finished a 21-day fast. It was the first time I’ve fasted (aside from observing Lent). As I contemplate fasting on the other side of it, I have to admit it was different than I had anticipated. I described some of what I felt and learned in this post.

As I contemplate fasting again this week my Man and I were talking about the reason and need for fasting. He said it was to sacrifice something (give it up) to identify with Christ’s sacrifice for us. I don’t think it’s wrong to associate fasting with sacrifice but fasting is more than that. Jesus fasted, and the apostles and early church continued to fast after Jesus died and was resurrected. It is a discipline but not a formula. I can’t begin to adequately describe the discipline of fasting, nor does one completed fast make me an expert but it is a discipline I’ve discovered has merit and relevance for a modern-day Christian.

It’s important to know fasting is not a way to turn God’s face towards you – his face is already turned to us in love. Fasting is not a way to manipulate God to earn his favour but it is an exercise to turn our face towards God; to focus on God, and him alone and to hunger for him.

During my recent 21-day fast, I struggled with my spirit’s desire and what my body desired. My body wanted food and it wanted to sleep, but each time I thought a nap would be so refreshing, I heard the Lord say to my spirit, “How bad do you want it?” What he was asking is am I willing to deny what my body was telling it was wanted, in favour of a deeper Bible study.

When I was hungry I reached for a piece of bread and then I heard in my spirit, “What do you hunger for?” Doh. It was not condemnation (that would have been the enemy) but I was asked to live for what I desired. And I desire Christ above anything else.

Do you fast? Why or why not?

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