PASTOR'S PEN: The 'fast' way to God

We’re coming upon an interesting time of the year: Lent. This is where many religious people give up something until Easter. The idea is that you sacrifice something you enjoy for that period of time in order to appreciate God and His gifts all the more. It is also so that the time you would normally spend on that or with that would then be dedicated to the Lord. As one from a Protestant background, this is not a normal practice in my upbringing. With the exception of Christmas, Easter, communion and baptism, we don’t really celebrate a lot of holy days, but there are some benefits to the idea of Lent and, more so, to the practice of fasting.

When we think of fasting we think about not eating anything while sitting around with our hands on our stomach watching the clock until we can finally grab a bowl of ice cream out of the freezer. That’s not really what fasting is all about. If you look in the Bible at those who fasted – Moses, Esther, Nehemiah, David, Ahab, Ezra, the Nations of Israel and Judah, Anna, Jesus, the church in Acts, Cornelius, Paul – you’ll notice that they were looking to draw closer to God. The city of Nineveh fasted, prayed and repented seeking out the mercy of God (Jonah 3). Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights as he listened to God and wrote down His commands (Exodus 34:28-29). In fact, two others fasted for 40 days: Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-9) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-2). It’s amazing how all three of those ended up greatly serving the Lord!

But what about you and me? Fasting for 40 days is a long time and some have diabetes or other health issues that would prevent fasting. What options are there? We must go back to the purpose of fasting. Our goal is to align our hearts with God, seek His wisdom and draw closer to Him. The goal isn’t to lose weight nor to show ourselves more spiritual than others. Christ has something to say about the latter in Matthew 6:16-18. Here is my suggestion:

1. Find something that distracts you from paying attention to God. For me that would probably be tech devices like TV, the Internet and my phone.

2. Choose a time period for setting that aside. It doesn’t need to be 40 days. In 1 Corinthians 7:5-6, some were told that they may even ‘fast’ sex with one another, but only for a short time so they wouldn’t be tempted. I would suggest to start with as little as 15 minutes up to an hour for your first time. Try it even twice a week until Easter as a way to focus on God.

3. Decide ahead what you will do. Choose a book of the Bible to read or download a Bible app that reads it while you follow along. Pick out a worship CD to listen to. But most of all, spend time in prayer. Make a list of praises to God and what you want to bring before His throne.

The value of fasting isn’t that it shows God how must He needs us, but “expresses our dependence on our Creator”.

* Some ideas from compellingtruth.org/Christian-fasting.html