07 January, 2013

The Neglected Discipline

In my sermon yesterday I spoke about Fasting and Prayer. It sure is funny how quiet it gets in church when you start talking about Fasting!  We all know that Fasting is certainly not a popular subject matter. Richard Foster, in his classic book, "Celebration of Discipline"  said, "In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times. Let's face it, we are a culture that loves our food, and we, as a people find it much easier to talk about Fasting than we are apt to actually put it into practice. (I certainly include myself in this indictment.) I believe we (as a whole) need to look again at the subject of Fasting as a discipline that can open up a whole new world of spiritual growth for us.

In Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered: "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." When we practice Fasting, it redirects a hunger for bread to a hunger for God. It leaves space for a hunger, even craving for more of the presence of Jesus in our lives. Jesus declared it inappropriate for His followers to fast while He was with them, however he spoke of a day coming when it would be time for such a yearning for His presence. After His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, that day arrived... and the day is still upon us when we should long for, and yes even crave His presence. Fasting redirects physical hunger into spiritual hunger, which I believe gives power to our prayers.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:18-19, "For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things."  
When we Fast,  we are confronting the ungodly appetites that consume our lives.  The stomach can be a principle source for those appetites. People tend to eat "comfort foods" in an attempt to fill the empty places in our lives. Rather than deal with spiritual issues, we attempt to fill the void through worldly means. When we fast and pray, we draw attention away from those empty holes of lust and greed, comfort and security, happiness and pleasure of this earth, and we draw our focus toward God.

In the book of Acts we read that while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2, 3)

Fasting sharpens our discernment and releases God’s power in and through us. It draws us and attaches us to spiritual realities and gives us sensitivity to the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit. Fasting draws our focus away from worldly matters and causes us to sharpen our focus us to the direction God's Word. I've said it many times as Pastor... "You are not a physical being that happens to have a spirit, but you are a spiritual being living temporarily in this physical body. As such, we need to focus much more on the spirit than we do the physical.

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