Monday, February 26, 2007

Practical Options for Fasting

May the Lord bless and keep you this day, may he make his face shine upon you and give you peace! May he help you to prize and praise the glory of his name above all other things!

Well, brothers & sisters, the time has nearly come. We are now only one day away from the beginning of our Season of Consecration. Today I want to share some ideas with you about how you might work fasting into this season. Technically speaking, fasting has to do with abstaining from food, but it is certainly allowable to extend that principle to other things. So here are four possibilities that are designed to get you praying and thinking about what the Lord might have you do:

(1) You can commit to fasting from a particular kind of food. This option is particularly helpful for those with medical issues that cannot, without risk to their health or life, completely abstain from food. My wife Kim is in this category. Because of the medications she’s on to manage her Multiple Sclerosis, she is unable to fast in the traditional sense of the word. So, what she’ll do over these 40 days is fast from some particular kind of food and trust that the Lord is more interested in the state of her heart than the mode of her fasting.

(2) You can commit to fasting one day per week, one or more meals, from now until Easter. This is a great option for many people because it’s very doable. Going without food for one day is enough to get your attention, but it’s not so overwhelming, especially for those who have not engaged in fasting before.

(3) You can commit to fasting for an extended period of time, like 3 or 7 or 20 or 40 days. If you decide that God is calling you to this kind of fast, I strongly suggest that you consult a believing physician or a veteran of fasting or read some of Bill Bright’s material on fasting. A great place to start is his little booklet, Seven Basic Steps to Successful Fasting and Prayer, which can be obtained for free at www.billbright.com/7steps. From there, it would be good to read some of his other resources which are obtainable at the same site.

If you do decide that God is calling you to a longer fast, please consider “juice fasting” rather than “water fasting.” It is possible to go without food for extended periods of time and only to drink water, but it is VERY difficult and absolutely should not be done without the counsel of a believing physician. You can contract scurvy or otherwise do irreparable damage to your body if you’re not careful. So, it may be wiser to engage in a longer fast with juice instead of water. I would recommend using the following juices:

(a) Diluted apple juice, or your favorite juice. This will give you vitamin C and protect you from the majority of issues that can arise from going without food for an extended period of time, and it will give you some energy to do what you must during the day. The reason I suggest that you dilute it is that the acids can build up in your stomach and cause some unnecessary discomfort. (b) Vegetable juice, like V-8 or your favorite vegetable juice. I would use this sparingly, however, because the acidic nature of vegetables like tomatoes can also cause some unnecessary discomfort. (c) Bill Bright’s favorite fasting drink: mix water with fresh lemon juice, a little cayenne pepper, and either honey or pure maple syrup. The lemon gives you the vitamin C you need, the cayenne pepper purifies your system, and the honey or pure maple syrup gives you some energy.

(4) You can commit to fasting from a particular activity. It’s important to note here again that we cannot fast from bad things, we have to repent from bad things. We cannot fast from watching excessive amounts of television, we have to “come out from the world” and repent of that, by the grace of God. It may be that the Lord will use these 40 days to remove from you some harmful habit, so be aware of that and be open to his leading. “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline nor be weary when reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:5-8).

But not all television watching is excessive or sinful. So, you may, as a friend of mine did some years ago, commit to abstaining from television for these 40 days and giving that time to prayer and meditation on the Word of God. Or you may commit to abstaining from some other activity, that is not at all sinful, for the sake of prayer and meditation on the Word of God.

Brothers & sisters, in the end my passion for each of us is that we seek our gracious heavenly Father and ask him how he would like each of us to pursue him in these days. And let us ever keep our eyes on the prize: we are not glorifying fasting or any other particular practice, we are seeking the grace and power and will and ways of our Father who is in heaven as regards the work he has called us to do in Rogers-Elk River and around the world. God himself is our aim, and without him we can do nothing.

Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:16-18 not to fast in order to be seen by others. We should heed this advice and be careful that we are not doing what we’re doing for the praise of men and women. But this does not mean that we cannot fast publicly together, any more than his teaching to pray in secret means that we cannot pray publicly together. Again, the key is doing what we’re doing, in the depths of our hearts, for the glory of God and not the praise of others.

With this in mind, Kevin and I want to share with you what we feel called to do in these 40 days, at least with regard to fasting. We want to share this with you so that you’ll know how to pray for us, and so that you’ll see how we have worked out the options spelled out above. We are not seeking your praise or adoration, we are seeking your partnership and prayers. Lord willing, we are going to begin by fasting for 3 days together, and then we are going to fast each Monday from now until Easter. If the Lord leads us to fast for a longer period of time, we are open to that, but for now this is our commitment. Each of us will be seeking the Father in other ways as well, but this is our specific commitment to fasting.

Brothers & sisters, thank you so much for taking the time to read these many long notes. The notes that will follow for the next 40 days will be much shorter, and they will be expositions of John 15:1-11 with prayer points for each day. Please continue praying with me that the Lord will have his way in us during this season.

For the glory of Christ alone,
Pastor Charlie

1 comment:

  1. I found this through a link @ Desiring God.com Is there any other resources I could check out on fasting? I grew up pentecostal and it was the grand slam of spiritual disciplines. I still fast because from what I understand now, it is more of a way of fasting from something and hungering after God and the coming of His Kingdom. But I'm a young man in college who has much to learn. Any sound and biblical direction given would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, grace and peace.

    Dave Geroux

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