This week marks the beginning of my favorite time of year—Lent. I know, I may be in the minority, as Christmas tends to take the lead in most people’s minds. Yet, as important as it was for Christ to be born, it was in His death that we have been forgiven and set free. We have been given more power than we ever thought possible. But how do we harness it?
One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado has several books that he has written to help us “feel” what it must have been like to experience the weekend where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. One of my favorites is “He Chose the Nails.”
Jesus lived for 33 years on this earth. He was never concerned about what other people thought of Him, He was too busy doing the work of His heavenly father as well as His earthly father to be caught up in worldly issues. I often wonder if He knew that He only had 33 years to enjoy His family and friends, but whether He did or didn’t know, He certainly made excellent use of the time He was living on earth.
In this time of Spring, where we often focus on “New Beginnings,” and of course, we are still in the precept of a “New Year,” isn’t this the perfect time to explore your relationship with Jesus Christ? There are 40 days in the period known as Lent. This is the perfect time of the year to explore your faith and renew your relationship with our Creator, God.
What is the best way to do that? It isn’t going to church every day. It isn’t necessarily “giving up” something near and dear to your heart, although it could be. It isn’t tithing more.
We talk about how to nourish our bodies nearly every week. But, today we must discuss the importance of nourishing your soul. The most spiritually nourishing activity for you is to learn the value of “fasting.”
There are 77 biblical references to fasting. While it isn’t often discussed in pulpits, Christian magazines or even in Christian conversations, there are many reasons and benefits for fasting.
This week, I would like to discuss only the spiritual blessings and benefits of fasting. In a later blog, I will discuss the numerous physical blessings of fasting.
For me, I want to place myself in the position of understanding what Jesus endured during those 40 days that led up to His crucifixion and resurrection. I want to bear witness to all of the anger, the torment, the physical abuse that this one man had to endure on His own. No one really ever stood up for Him or defended Him during that time. His disciples went from a parade the week before, thinking their future was bright, to even denying His existence less than a week later.
Imagine the burden He had on His mind while He was with the 12 disciples washing their feet and eating the meal with them. Even during that time, He was still trying to teach them. If we can spend more time reflecting on His brief life and why He went through those horrific times, then we will find more purpose and direction in our own lives all the while letting Jesus lead and guide our path.
I have been told that instead of focusing on Him so greatly during Easter, we should be thinking about His death all year long. Well, I may be the only one to admit this, but life gets so crazy, that I am guilty of forgetting what He did most of the other days of the year with a few exceptions.
So, I urge you to take 40 days with me and learn the true art of fasting and reap the spiritual benefits of closer bonding with the One who has forgiven you and I of all of our sins, of renewing your relationship with other loved ones who need more of you and learning that your body and your mind has more self-control and discipline than you ever imagined.
Should Christians fast today?
The lack of teaching on the subject has led to a number of misunderstandings among believers about the discipline of fasting. One is that the practice is relegated only to biblical times or religious eccentrics. But Jesus, when asked why His disciples never fasted, replied, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15). Until our bridegroom returns for us (the church), we must practice this spiritual discipline. This was the understanding of Christians in the book of Acts who are reported fasting in 13:2 and 14:23. Church history reveals that since the days of the New Testament the followers of Jesus have engaged in fasting.
Some people choose to fast for a particular reason. Whether it is to restore a relationship, or for a missionary group, before making an important decision, whatever the reason, the focus should not be on how well you are doing in this fast, the focus should be on the work of Jesus. Your fasting is merely fulfilling a biblical purpose so Jesus can continue His healing work.
Most people fast from food. When they become hungry, they begin to be tempted to break the fast. But, if your true reason for fasting is to witness the healing power of Christ, you will find more self-discipline than you ever realized you had.
Fasting is a God-ordained expression of our belief that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) – so good that there are times we’re satisfied to feast on him instead of food that the Lord made to sustain us. Fasting is a temporary, physical demonstration that you believe the eternal, spiritual reality of the gospel, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4).
While fasting from food has many physical benefits that will be discussed in a later blog, there are other forms of fasting that may be even more difficult than food. In today’s digital age, imagine trying to free yourself for 40 days from Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or even the television? I believe that could induce just as much of a detox as trying to remove sugar from the diet.
Instead of “giving something up”, perhaps it would be best for you to make a commitment to “do” something kind for someone each day during lent. Or, you can determine to read a chapter of the bible each day during lent and don’t let anything or anyone prevent you from spending that time in God’s word.
The idea is to choose something that you know will be challenging, but also choose a reason for the fast. Recognize that there will be moments in these 40 days that will be difficult to get through, but keep your focus on Jesus and what He endured in his last days and weeks of His life.
Let me know how you are doing. I am truly praying for all who have chosen to take these 40 days seriously and give them to the Lord. Don’t focus on what you have given up or have to do extra, rather, see this time as a blessing that you are experiencing with the reward being an improvement in your relationship with the only One who really matters. Happy Fasting!