Life.  Some see it as a randomly assigned smattering of days with no purpose.  Others believe in divine appointments they rarely keep.  For most, everyday...is ordinary.  But it doesn't have to be.   What if we dared to go the narrow way? Join me in taking THE FAITH DARE.

Caution: Participating in this challenge might force you to give up some of the things (people?) dearest to you. This challenge could change your life.  Join at your own risk.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

FAITHdare #3: Hungering for Him

Fasting: Say WHAT?
In a culture of supersized gluttony, we hardly know what "hungry" means.  We have learned to satisfy ourselves with the next "quick fix" before we ever feel pangs of longing.  And I would venture to say we have carried this philosophy into our spiritual lives.  

Listen to these words of David:
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).

Do you long for God?  Do you wake up parched, running to the One who alone can satisfy?  I must admit that I am not sure what that feels like, to physically long for Jesus.  Maybe I've never felt it because I am constantly self-satisfying with [fill in the blank].  

Friends, we are starving to death and reaching for the sugared donuts of the world, rather than the satisfying nutrition offered by the God of the universe.  I feel a deep soul longing and I consume myself with THINGS, with DOING, rather than turning to the One whose LOVE is consuming.  Isn't it time we allow ourselves to FEEL what David so poignantly described: My entire being ACHES to be near you; I am tired of trying to fill my spirit with STUFF, and ACTIVITIES, when all I really need is YOU (my paraphrase).  

I have only fasted once in my life, and to be honest, I think it was more to see if I could do it than anything.  But TRUE fasting is not a diet technique.  It is not a spiritual trophy to wave around for all to see.  It is a deep soul examination, ripping the curtain clothing our carnality to expose sin hidden by night.  It is the experience of physical hunger that becomes a constant reminder of our spiritual starvation and depravity.  

I was fascinated by Richard Foster's words on fasting in his book Celebration of Discipline:

"Fasting must forever center on God.  It must be God-initiated and God-ordained.  Like the prophetess Anna, we need to be 'worshipping with fasting' (Luke 2:37).  Every other purpose must be subservient to God...More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.  This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.  We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface...Fasting reminds us that we are sustained 'by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' (Matt. 4:4).  Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.  Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God...Fasting helps us keep our balance in life.  How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives.  How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them.  Paul writes, 'All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything' (1 Cor. 6:12).  Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels...Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way."

Here is my preface to this dare:  Like every other FAITHdare I put before you, this must come from you, or it will only be an exercise in legalism.  Please do the work of bringing this challenge before God and examining your motives.  This is not meant to be a dieting technique, or another thing to do (we are not even using this challenge to focus on the plight of the world--yet), but a tool to bring you closer to the intimate relationship Jesus longs to have with you.  Relationship produces action.

FAITHdare #3:
Fast from one meal every day this week (or two, or whatever God leads you to), using that time instead to tune your physical/spiritual radar to the soul-deep hunger that can only be satisfied by the Bread of Life.  

As much as possible, we should restrain from calling attention to what we are doing.  Foster says, "If you call attention to your fasting, people will be impressed and, as Jesus said, that will be your reward.  You, however, are fasting for far greater and deeper rewards."  Use the time you would normally use eating to instead draw near to God, feasting on the wholly satisfying Bread of Life.  A few suggestions?  Memorizing Mt. 10, listening to scripture on tape, praying with other brothers or sisters in Christ, reflecting on what God has convicted you of thus far in the FAITHdare year, etc.  

Please continue sharing what God is teaching you!  It is an encouragement to those who are in the journey with you!

6 comments:

  1. A faithdare on fasting!! Way to go. I think this is a much overlooked and underpracticed discipline. My experience in this area was very limited until our new pastor of two years ago preached his very first sermon on ... you guessed it - prayer and fasting. He and his wife have had a lot of experience in this area, which includes a 40 day fast they undertake every year leading up to Easter.

    I have experimented with fasts between 1 and 3 days and have usually found them difficult but extremely beneficial. I have also found that fasting in between meals is a helpful discipline as well (harder than it sounds.)

    So yeah, I agree with you 100%. There is much to be gained from substituting a meal of food for a meal on God's word. I find it a little more difficult when you are part of a family where the evening meal is the focal point of out day, but it can be done.

    Let's keep seeking God with reckless abandon - focussed prayer and fasting is a great way to do this!

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  2. I have not yet been a "successful" fast-er. But I really believe God works through prayer and fasting. I met a girl this past week who was on day 3 of a 3-day fast. It was more of a divine appt than just "meeting". We didn't know each other and "just happened" to sit on the same bench on a nearby mountain. And she "just happened" to strike up a conversation with me. And as it turns out, she and her family are considering going to Mozambique to spend 3 months in Heidi Baker's ministry. She shared things with me that God had done for her that day, the last day of her fast...it was amazing. And it made me want to fast.

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  3. Okay Abby - time to be honest. I have been under tremendous spiritual warfare lately. David and I agreed to do this together and boy have I been struggling. When I read about the fasting, my very first thought was "but it's my birthday week - how can I fast over my birthday?" I then began a long process of seeing how legalistic this whole "faith dare" was and felt very discouraged. I even started composing in my mind how I would talk to you this week about adding external measures of holiness is nothing more than turning us all into modern pharisees. Then - on fasting day #1 - David and I talked for over 3 hours. We both saw the spiritual warfare taking place in our lives. We both saw just surface efforts instead of true conviction. We both saw our "religiosity" instead of passion for Him. And in those hours talking with David, I also heard HIM. I heard Jesus speaking to us, through our conversation, pointing out the pieces missing in our hearts. I heard HIM saying, come to Me and I will give you rest. Rest from all the trying...rest from all the battles...rest from your own crazy mind that just won't quit. I was very jealous of your youth, Abby. I mean - how easy it is for a 21 year old with no mortgage, no kids, no full time job - to say "live radical". I really wish I could drop everything and move to Africa and feed the hungry. But who would feed my kids? Living radical just felt like something I couldn't do. We watched the sermon again after our long talk and I realized something. Living radically is total obedience to God. When He called His early church, they didn't all live as nomads. They didn't all carry literal crosses. As Paul went front city to city, he helped establish churches and ministries that stayed there, long after he moved on. That's what a majority of the New Testament is - Paul writing to those who stayed. Living radically is obey God's very personal call to each of us. And to an American - that is radical. To base your decisions about your time, your family, your career, your money - all on the call of Jesus - that is so counter-cultural. But God may be calling David and I right now to obey here in Lafayette - with our normal jobs and comfortable house. Tomorrow - He may call us to Tanzania. And we would go. But we don't need to drum up outward expressions to prove to everyone else that we are obeying. We just need to obey. I am fasting through breakfast all this week and instead spending that time in prayer and in the Word. I pray that my physical hunger is just a small picture of a hunger for Him, that He is faithfully creating in me. May God's blessing be upon you Abby - as you obey him - even through this blog- and you lead others to Him. May we all have a heart like yours - loving the Lord with all that is in us.

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  4. Susan,
    thanks for being honest! I pray everyone doing FAITHdare will feel the freedom to be honest with their experience as well.

    Legalism couldn't be further away from my goal in FAITHdare, so I just want to come right out and say this to EVERYONE reading:
    If anyone is doing FAITHdare because he thinks it will produce in him more faith, stop right now. Just quit. I don't want anyone to stray from the foundation of Jesus' ministry and our Christian faith: Salvation is by GRACE alone through FAITH alone. There is NO WAY you can manufacture a relationship with Christ, or more faith. If you try...it will be legalism, religiosity, at its best. So if you are feeling the press of legalism in FAITHdare, you need to STOP and do one of two things:
    1) Have a good talk with Jesus and figure out why legalism is crowding your view.
    2) X out of this site and never return.

    The goal of FAITHdare is to CHALLENGE you to look at your relationship with Jesus in a new light, to encourage you to take steps toward building a deeper RELATIONSHIP with Him. Look, obedience to Christ without relationship with Him will be useless and wearying. It's like Susan described with her fasting experience. If you are fasting just because someone tells you you should, you will be hungry AND frustrated. But if you instead fast out of a deep desire to know God more intimately and because hunger will be a constant reminder of your need for the Living Bread, you can be drawn closer in relationship to Jesus.

    I started FAITHdare because of the epidemic of complacency that I see in the church today. Men and women "pray the prayer," then continue living the way they were before they supposedly met Jesus. THAT is not Biblical Christianity. Jesus called us to DIE to self and LIVE for Him. RELATIONSHIP produces CHANGE. But the RELATIONSHIP part is foundational to the CHANGE part.

    Susan, you are right...living radically is obedience to God, no matter what that obedience requires. When I think about a radical life lived for God, I do not first think about the brave martyrs or saints who have gone before us (although they certainly lived in radical obedience to God). I think of my dad. And he never even went to Africa = ] My dad lived a simple life, but it was a life of complete obedience and surrender to Jesus...right in the middle of Indiana's cornfields! I think I might even have to do a post about him = ]

    Susan, thank you for your honesty, and thank you for reminding us all that radical living is obedience to Jesus--right where He has you--without the production of religiosity for the sake of others. As my mom always told me when I was little, "Just say 'yes!' and obey!"

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  5. I think it's a lot easier to be enthusiastic about fasting after you've just had a big meal. I can feel my patience wearing thin, my drive decreasing after I've gone a while without food. It makes me think of how weak I am to struggle with forgoing one meal a day, when many live on so much less their whole lives. And yet, this exposure of my weakness feels so healthy, because I can't pretend that I am any more than I am. Seems like a good place for God to work.

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  6. It is amazing, isn't it? I complain about skipping one meal, when for many people that is all they get in an entire week! I like what you said, though: "this exposure of my weakness feels so healthy, because I can't pretend that I am any more than I am. Seems like a good place for God to work." Indeed! I think God is eager to work in us when we are aware of our weaknesses and genuinely want Him to change us.

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