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.
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!