May 2, 2016
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
For most of my Christian life I have not fasted. I just haven’t done it. Why?
Because—and it hurts to say it—I have permitted my spirit to grow lazy. Oh, I have a good reason. I’ll set out on a 24 hour fast and about six or eight hours in I get a splitting headache. Enlarging prayer, which is supposed to be one of the purposes of fasting, goes right out the window. And I’m left asking the question, “So why was I doing this?” And that usually leads straight to the nearest can of Pringles I can inhale.” The next time fasting comes to mind, the traumatic memory comes to mind and I head to Sonic for the obligatory Route 44 Diet Coke with a side of happy hour mozzarella sticks.
It reminds me of the last time I tried to kick off a new fitness campaign with a 5K. For the first hundred yards I was all Usain Bolt. About half a mile in I’m clutching my side. At the mile mark I’m officially shuffling and then I took a side street back to the house, inquiring of myself as to the purpose of all that. The next day, when the thought of taking a run comes to mind, the PTSD kicks in and I’m back on the couch.
So what if the next time the fitness bug hits me, I walk a mile every day for a week and walk two the week after, and three the week following, and what if in week four I jogged that second mile? I might actually get in shape for the first time in my mid-life.
Let’s apply this approach to fasting. What if I identified one lunch hour a week for the next three weeks to do 6:6 time instead of feeding my face? And what if on the fourth week I passed up breakfast in addition to lunch (ok- you can do morning coffee)? And as a reward, set your alarm for a 3pm Sonic run. You get the point.
Spiritual laziness, like physical laziness, is not typically overcome by a P90-X approach. Sure, people do it, but in six months they are usually back where they started.
Sustained discipline, especially as relates to the human spirit, requires a gentle approach. Take the long view. With spiritual conditioning, we aren’t training for a marathon. The training is the marathon.
John Wesley devotes an entire sermon to fasting in his thirteen part series. It is a brilliant biblical treatment as well as a practical gift to those who struggle with the practice.
He says below with a great economy of speech what I have tried to make clear with my many words above.
It is possible either to fast or pray in such a manner as to make you much worse than before; more unhappy, and more unholy. Yet the fault does not lie in the means itself, but in the manner of using it. Use it still, but use it in a different manner.” (THIRTEEN DISCOURSES ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT) p.150
One of the things I appreciate about Wesley’s approach to the life hid with God in Christ is his willingness to shake off the shackles of religiosity and experiment with grace. It’s refreshing.
I’m now on a “baby-stepping” pathway into fasting. Want to join me? I started about a year ago. In fact, over 500 of you reading the Daily Text started with me. We take a simple, gentle approach. We fast from Tuesday night until Wednesday evening; missing two meals (and in my case a lot of worthless snacks). It has changed my life and the testimony coming in from many of you indicates immense blessing in your lives.
We are beginning year two of the Daily Text 40 Day Fasting Challenge* now. Of course, you can start anytime, but the official launch is tomorrow (Tuesday, May 3, 2016).
*We fast once per week for 40 weeks over a 52 week period of time (12 grace days). ;0)
1. So how about you? Do you have any history or experience with fasting as a means of receiving and appropriating the grace of God?
2. Have you tended to see fasting as an optional practice for a follower of Jesus? How so? Go back and review the first three words of today’s scripture text.
3. If we could walk together in fasting in a non-legalistic grace-filled way, would you be willing to try it? If so, CLICK HERE. I promise you it will be a blessing.
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.