Well 8 days to go and Jude, I and the family fly off to Zambia. Yet again it’s a true pioneering situation. We’ve got to find a new base, expand the work and we believe set many new people in motion in this great adventure that God has for us. Your prayer would be much appreciated.
However, I want this post to consider the value of the discipline of fasting. Whenever I really need to hear God I have always fasted, sometimes I like what I hear, sometimes not. I’ve even been known to disobey what I hear God telling me, I’m not particularly proud of that. However, at least I have heard and had something to disobey 🙂 I find it’s much better to go with the Lord’s leadings rather than go against them. EVERY time I have fasted I have heard something of God and usually received a peace within myself that I didn’t necessarily have before.
What then is the purpose in fasting, why do it? Sometimes it is not easy to understand but Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians Chapter 9
“25Everyone 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. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, 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.”
Paul was writing about the Isthmian Games (that’s from memory, I hope I’ve spelt it correctly) and in particular about the athletes that compete in the games. They entered strict training to attain a wreath around their heads if they were to win. Paul’s use of this analogy leads him to say that he beats his body to make it his slave. He does this to prevent himself from fighting or beating the air and to ensure that his effort is directed to attain an eternal prize from doing God’s work.
I think fasting has something to do with this discipline of ‘beating the body’, and I think it has a lot of relevance in our world today. The demands of our life are sometimes like a static that gets in the way of us perceiving, understanding and hearing God in everyday life. I do believe that we underestimate, the influence and power of wrong heart desires and direction in our efforts to hear God. I’ve lost count of the people I have heard say something like, “God doesn’t speak to me”. I would like to suggest that either you are going in the wrong direction or that you are simply too full of static to hear what he is saying.
To hear God, we must empty ourselves of this static by denying ourselves. The area of food and drink is one area that is common to all people and that is why I think the Bible talks about it. All of us get hungry and in mastering this desire for a period of time, we are beating our ‘existence’ to run to a different tune. We are in effect saying in a very practical way, listening to God is more important than our everyday needs. It is a form of worship and adoration at its’ very core.
I must admit I’m a fasting traditionalist. I don’t believe that fasting television or chocolate etc. is proper fasting. Hey! I’m entitled to my opinion. The reason being is that those things are not essential to our very being, they are not life needs. By forgoing them, we can quite happily continue to live our lives. We are not stating by our actions that God is more important that our very own life. This thought has inspired people to fast for as much as 40 days just like Jesus did. This is an important consideration. After Jesus fasted in the desert, the Devil came to Him and on every level tempted him to put himself above God. Firstly the Devil did this by appealing to Jesus’ very need to survive. Jesus replied that God’s word was more important. Secondly, the Devil appeared to our need for recognition. This is a powerful motivator for many in ministry, but ultimately a false one. Thirdly, he appealed to the temptation of Power. On every level, to supplant God as the ultimate provider and sustainer of life.
Fasting is a way of stating that God is our provider. Discipline is not much in fashion in the Church these days, but spiritual disciplines are essential in knowing God more. So when Paul talked about beating the body he was dead right.
To this end Jude and I have been fasting about all of the challenges ahead of us as we go to Africa again. Our own ability to provide is not the key, it is God’s ability to provide that is. Maybe by being willing to go when all is unknown is in itself a measure of worship and adoration to our God, who is alive, active and more than willing to lead us as we take a step of faith.
I certainly don’t want to be beating the air, i want to be a very effective person in the Lord’s kindgom. Maybe I’d better fast some more….?