This past Sunday, Shannon spoke on the spiritual discipline of fasting. When I started working on this post that is supposed to reflect back on Shannon’s sermon, I was sitting at a McDonald’s with 2 quarter-pounders glaring at me. It was like they were double-dog daring me to eat them, and you don’t back down from a double-dog dare. I reasoned that it was good stewardship: it was a “buy-one-get-one-free” special and I couldn’t save one for later as I had no way to refrigerate it. My parents taught me to be responsible and eat what was on my plate. They would remind me of the children in [whatever country it was during my formative years] who were starving.
Never mind that I just like quarter-pounders and I wanted them.
Flesh – 2, Spirit – 0.
I like quarter-pounders; there’s nothing wrong with that. But quarter-pounders do not help me in the spiritual battle that constantly rages inside me (James 4:1). Only Jesus can do that—the “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV) As Shannon has said several times in this series, “Spiritual disciplines are not about our getting God’s attention.” We pray, give, and fast so that God can get our attention; so that we can become the people we so want to be.
Jentezen Franklin, in his book called Fasting: opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God, suggests three building stones for a meaningful fast.
- Fast for the right reason. What are my motives? Am I exercising a power play with God? As Shannon said, am I seeking the hand of God (“Give me more.”) or the face of God (“Give me more of you.”)? Using fasting as a bargaining chip to get what I want doesn’t work.
- Determine the specific need(s) for which I am fasting. People in the Bible sometimes fasted for their children. Sometimes they fasted because they were in trouble, or they needed help, or they were looking for direction. You may want to fast just because you want a deeper relationship with the God who built the universe on the table in His back yard. I guarantee, that will do far more for you than a quarter-pounder.
- Make fasting a time of worship. Acts 13:2 says that the prophets and teachers at the church in Antioch worshiped the Lord while they fasted. Fasting is not only a time for receiving the ministry of the Holy Spirit; it is also a time we set aside for worshiping the Lord.
There is nothing magical about fasting; it is not a spiritual hocus-pocus. But giving up food for the specific purpose of focusing on the issues that are most important brings about a lasting satisfaction and true peace that quarter-pounders will never bring.
If your health allows, will you try it with me sometime soon—even if it’s just for one meal?
If Jesus needed to fast so that He could carry out His ministry (Matthew 4:1-2), then what makes me think I don’t need to do the same?