Friday, February 17, 2012

Fasting As Obedience

Jesus fasted (Lk 4:2) and said that His followers would also fast after He left this earth (Mt 9:15), which they in fact did (Acts 13:2-3). I won't be going into an in-depth study of fasting this Lent, but if you'd like to read more about why Christians should fast then I recommend the book The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting by Mahesh Chavda. For a quick review I came across this page while searching for some other material and thought it gives a lot of good citations for someone who wants to read more about fasting in the Bible.
Since this Lent I want my meditations to be applicable to all ages including young children, I will be giving a few reasons for fasting next week but they won't include the very simple reason that Jesus said His disciples should fast. It's good to have more reasons available than basic obedience, especially when teaching someone who is young or not yet fully converted to Christianity, but for those who call ourselves Christians we shouldn't ignore the fact that fasting is a part of what it means to be a Christian. We come up with numerous excuses to avoid it, but when I am truly praying well and listening to God then I have to admit that He is telling me to fast on a regular basis.
"We shouldn't fast just to fast." "I'm too grumpy and impatient while fasting." "I need to love others better so I avoid anything that makes it more difficult to do so." "I can't because I'm pregnant/nursing/sick."
These are all just excuses. The reality is that fasting can be done in nearly any situation. The Bible mentions several different kinds of fasts and we can add to them fasting from any particular activity or indulgence. Yes, fasting can mean no food for a particular length of time. But it can also mean continuing to eat but avoiding a particular kind of food (e.g. meat or sugar or chocolate) and the length of time can be anywhere from a few hours to several days at a stretch. I do look ahead at my schedule and adjust the type of fast accordingly: on a particularly busy day I will either switch my day of fast for another less busy day, shorten the length of fast (maybe fast until lunchtime rather than until dinnertime), or fast from a specific food category rather than from all food. But I also have found that fasting more regularly increases my self-control so that I am capable, through Christ, of being more patient and pleasant than I was when I first started fasting. Practice makes perfect and my excuse was not a reason, just an excuse.
Do you fast regularly? Are you planning to fast during Lent? If not, what are your excuses and what does God have to say about it?

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