Four Benefits of Fasting

Why should we fast? In our hectic, minute-to-minute world, why would anyone voluntarily choose to forgo the essential nourishment of daily meals? Some would say we fast in order to refocus our hearts and minds on what’s really important, in order to serve God better, but when your stomach is angrily protesting the lack of food, how can you focus on God?  What are the benefits of fasting, both spiritual and otherwise?

These are some of the questions that can nag at the mind and make one wonder if this particular spiritual discipline is very profitable or even relevant today. Richard Foster, the author of “Celebration of Discipline” gives some insight into what fasting is for: “Fasting reminds us that we are sustained by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.”

Fasting is First of All Spiritual

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:5-6)

For the Christian, fasting is first and foremost a spiritual exercise. It’s about refocusing our minds on who God is, on what he provides for us (both spiritually and physically) and on knowing him better. As the prophet Isaiah wrote above, true fasting involves following the example of Christ and serving the needy.

So let me give you four benefits of fasting to help motivate you to take advantage of this chance for spiritual nourishment.

Four Benefits of Fasting

1.) Fasting reminds us that our physical hunger is a mere shadow of our spiritual need

Christ said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

So often, we were are angry, frustrated, or otherwise in need, we think the solution consists entirely in a physical remedy. If I’m hungry, I eat. If my bank account is low, I take on another job and cut back on expenses.

While these are all necessary responses to real world situations, we miss the larger picture if these are the only ways we respond. Trials in our life are an opportunity to come before God and ask Him for help, like David did. “I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). God promises to meet us in those times when we are weakest (2 Cor. 12:9).

2.) Fasting frees up additional time to spend in prayer and fellowship with God.

It’s an oft-repeated lament in our culture today that we are too busy, too preoccupied, and don’t have time for the important things in life.  Fasting frees up meal times for prayer and reflection. While we contemplate the food we are missing, we can take time to meet those spiritual needs that often get forgotten.

3.) Fasting reveals the things that control us.

What are the idols in our lives that control us? For many, food is something we pursue with greater vigor than Christ, making it an idol. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.”  (I Cor. 6:12)  “No, 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.”  (I Cor. 9:27)

Too often, I find myself making excuses for not doing what I should be, because of my physical wants. “I’m too tired this morning, I think I’ll sleep in instead of going to church” or “exercising is too painful because of my knee injury, I think I’ll watch a movie instead.” As pathetic as this sounds, we’ve all been there.  Fasting is just one more way we can remind our bodies that they serve us, to be used for God’s glory.

4.) Fasting frees up resources that can be used to help others.

Finally, fasting frees up resources that can be used to help others.  The chief accusation against the fasters in Isaiah 58 was that they denied themselves without serving others.  Their fast was contrary to the will of God because it had nothing to do with living out God’s heart for the poor.  When we fast food, television, movies, coffee, etc., we have an opportunity to take that money or time and invest it in the lives of those around us. Here at 58:, our goal is to help people incorporate that kind of sacrificial living into a way of life.  We believe that this is nothing less than what the bible requires of us, and that if enough Christians join together in this way, we can end extreme global poverty.  Will you see the power of fasting in your own life and the world around you? Will you join us?

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Oh Christmas Lights, Keep Shining On.

“Christmas night, another fight
Tears we cried a flood
Got all kinds of poison in
Poison in my blood
I took my feet
To Oxford Street
Trying to right a wrong
Just walk away
Those windows say
But I can’t believe she’s gone
When you’re still waiting for the snow to fall
Doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all
Up above candles on air flicker
Oh they flicker and they float
But I’m up here holding on
To all those chandeliers of hope
Like some drunken Elvis singing
I go singing out of tune
Saying how I always loved you darling

And I always will

Those Christmas lights, light up the street.
Down where the sea and city meet.
May all your troubles soon be gone,
Oh, Christmas lights, keep shining on.

Those Christmas lights, light up the street.
Maybe they’ll bring her back to me.
Then all my troubles will be gone,
Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on.”

-“Christmas Lights” by Coldplay

   Ah, to write again. It’s been so long, but it is very cathartic.  I’ve missed getting to put words together for fun, instead of solving problem sets or writing papers.  I never really considered myself a writer, but I find more and more that the only way for me to wrest some thoughts from my restless consciousness is to nail them to a page.
    Christmas is a good time for reflection, for taking in the previous year and looking ahead to the next.  In less than a week, 2010 and a whole decade of memories will be behind me and it’s worthwhile to sift through them and try to learn some lessons.
    I have a pernicious habit of always wishing to relieve the past, especially when there have been painful lessons contained therein. So often, I’ve said to myself “if I’d only known that at the beginning of the semester, oh how different my life would be now!”  Yet, it’s encouraging to look back at God’s gentle, yet firm hand in my life over the last 6 years, constantly guiding me and lifting me out of the hardest struggles, just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore.  If I was the man today, that I was three years ago, I never would have survived the crises placed in front of me. Nor are we alone, God gives us friends and family to walk with us, to counsel us and console us through these times of growth.
      When we hurt the most or when human love has failed us, it’s common to ask “What is love and is it even worth it?” God’s response: In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). This is what Christmas is all about.  Jesus entered into this world, became broken, despised and undignified because God loved us!
    I daresay I’ve struggled with unrequited love more than once in my life, and who hasn’t?  The burden placed on a Christian man who seeks to live out traditional norms of courtship can seem overwhelming and anachronistic in this modern age.  As Christian men, we’re called to pray about pursuing a girl beforehand, to initiate a relationship with her at the proper time, to submit to accountability with the responsible men in her life, and after all this, to give the girl the necessary time and space to evaluate our lives, character and suitability as a potential husband.  And what if she says “No, I’m sorry, but you’re not sufficient?” As Heath Ledger’s opponent in “A Knight’s Tale” says, “You have been weighed, you have been measured, you have been counted and you have been found wanting.” What then?  Have we built our whole identity as men around our prowess with women, around successfully capturing the affections of that one woman in a million who will make us happy? Are we so preoccupied with getting the love of “the one,” that we’ve forgotten the everlasting love of “The One” who died for us? Have we fallen for the “Summer Finn” effect?
    I never really realized how Jesus stands as the perfect example of manly courage and love until I experienced rejection.  We cry to God, saying “Lord, how could you let this happen to me?  How am I supposed to handle the fact that the person I love doesn’t love me?”  To men, it often seems unfair that we should have to lead things in a relationship, that we should be the first ones to make our intentions known. “Couldn’t she just leave you hanging and throw your feeble attempts at honor and chivalry over her calloused, “liberated,” feminist, shoulder?”  But then Jesus stands as a reminder that God loved us even when we didn’t love Him, that he stepped out and took a risk on us for love, even though he knew that we would reject him initially, that we would spit on him and curse him, and yet, he took the risk anyway.  God knows more about unrequited love than you and I could ever comprehend, so when she doesn’t call or tells you things just aren’t going to work out, just remember, she was never the one meant to love you unconditionally in the first place.  Take courage and follow your Master, there are still risks worth taking.