The Fasted Life…
As we all well know, fasting isn’t one of the more popular spiritual disciplines. I would venture to say its not something brought up in many churches across the US.. not something Bible studies or Sunday school classes are often encouraged to do.. not something we often think about.
My Pastor is one to call periods of fasting. I think in the last year our church has probably done 10 or so fasts, usually a couple of days at a time. And I admit, at first, it was weird for me to have someone call a fast for a group of people. When I have participated (because there have been times I didn’t) I have been reminded what a powerful experience fasting can be. There is something about subduing your own appetite by the strength of your will that is as empowering as it is challenging.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said this,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.“
You see, fasting just for the sake of fasting or fasting is….well, torture. Right? Abstaining from food or TV or (insert your own vice) just to do it is to “run like a man running aimlessly”. But spiritual fasting is a way of unlocking power for obedience…
For one, when we fast in a spiritual sense, we don’t just remove food or sugar or media…. we replace them. So that the time spent catering to our natural desires or needs is now time allocated for our spiritual desires and needs. Instead of taking out a half hour to shoot the breeze with our coworkers over Subway sandwiches, we dedicate 30 minutes to prayer or listening or reading the Word. So in a sense, we are making our natural man take his rightful place underneath our inner spiritual man… we are given preference to our spirit over our bodies. We are setting our life back into the proper order for a Believer.
Secondly, we are – as Paul said- “beating my body to make it my slave”… of course that sounds very unpleasant and to a degree gaining the upper hand over our appetites requires an unpleasant trek through the valley of dying to our selves. But it is necessary. I personally have never struggled with drugs or partying… even if I had never known the Lord, that wouldn’t have been my thing. So I might think that I could not minister to or journey with someone who was working to overcome that type of an addiction. But you know what? If I can master my own appetite for food and learn to tell myself know when my stomach is growling and I have a headache from missing my morning coffee, won’t I then have an understanding of what the person is going through? We may not all have identical struggles, but the Believer who has learned the spiritual discipline of fasting by implementing it into his or her life, will be able to speak to the process of Overcoming now matter what needs to be overcome… do you follow?
So for months now (longer than I care to admit, quite frankly) I have felt the Lord calling me into a Season of Fasting. Not just a little one or two day stint of giving up coffee, but a Season. I’ve reflected on the importance of fasting, taken a day or two here or there, but ultimately I have not bent my will to this powerful draw I have been feeling.
Because fasting, for all of its benefits, is really hard and requires a measure of discipline I feel I’ve lost somewhere in my journeys.
And yet, I feel my heart crying out for change and restoration and new focus and healing. And with every cry, I feel the Lord taking my hand and leading me back to the narrow way in the wilderness… a way marked with a large sign engraved with two words:
“Fast” and “Forty”
And when faced with that engraved sign, I keep walking around the wilderness wondering if there is any other path to Restoration.
Last night as I was reading, I felt the Lord beckoning me again. Forty days, Lord? Really? Forty?*** I picked up my Bible and began fingering through it…
While Noah and his family were in the Ark, it rained 40 days and 40 nights
The Israelites ate manna for 40 years, waiting to enter the Promised Land
Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments for 40 days and 40 nights
The Israelites suffered in the land 40 years after disobeying God
The Israelites were handed over to the Philistines for 40 years
For 40 days Goliath came and took his stand to intimidate and taunt the Israelites
David was King for 40 years
Elijah, scared for his life, traveled 40 days and 40 nights to go to the mountain to meet with God
Ezekiel prophesied that Egypt would lie desolate for 40 years
Jonah, fresh from the belly of the whale gave Ninevah 40 days to be overturned
Jesus, tested in the desert, fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.