So in yesterday’s introduction to this brief series on fasting we discovered that although I was born in a Christian background, with believers who knew about fasting, and although the denomination to which I belong had fasting as a regular practice it took me the best part of 20 years before I even managed to begin addressing fasting for myself. I started it in the old fashioned church sense thanks to knocking around with a friend when I was in London in the summer of 1997.
Now before I continue you could be asking that important question – why are you talking about fasting, now? What’s the big deal? Well as you’ve gathered I am fairly keen on following Jesus Christ. I believe He is Lord. I believe He died on the cross for the sins of the world and miraculously rose from the dead. I believe Him more than I’ve believed anyone or anything else even if my behaviour sometimes suggests otherwise. Now fasting played a significant part in the life of Christ and those of His followers. Thankfully better writers than I have covered just how significant fasting really is in the life of a believer.
For all that, though, I still get the impression that it is considered a useful option for the Christ-follower. In engaging people with faith in Christ, spiritual disciplines can tend to come across as rather onerous and difficult and with enough of those on the plate – bible study, prayer and the like – fasting is an occasional hazard that is avoided as often as possible or at least used as trivially and as ineffectively as possible. You should have gathered by now that this apathetic and indeed pathetic approach to fasting is something I am very familiar with – intimately familiar as it has been my experience.
Now I’ve not been converted into a zealous fast-evangelist who believes that if you do not fast you are no longer worthy of being called a Christian and grimaces at those who don’t do it three times a week. My journey is not one of a straight upwards tangent. The squiggles, ups and downs would resemble a work of art by my 4 year old daughter rather than the unreal good model of a Christian that just gets better. The bottom line for me remains; Jesus loved me so much that He died for a right relationship to be restored between me and the Father through Him.
He wants me to relate to Him by prayer. He wants me to be fruitful for Him by loving my church family and my enemies. In all this He wants me to value Him above everything and everyone else. He alone matters. Not my wife, not my siblings, not my parents, not my job, not the church, not my job, not my hobbies and interests and especially not me. These only have value in the light of the supreme value of Him. That’s not just rhetoric that has been my experience and most importantly that is the entire point of biblical narrative and relationship with God.
So a brilliant way that God helps us to keep this in mind is through fasting – it indeed can be used for medical/physical purposes, but spiritually speaking it is a powerful method of engaging with God with the depth of our being whilst subjecting our body to understand the number one priority of life.
This mapping of my journey into fasting is not a blame exercise it’s merely reflecting what happened to me so no indictment is meant to be implicit in what’s being said. Having said that one of the lessons I learn from the journey especially in the early days is how crucial it is to get help on even the basics of belief. It is not to force someone to fit your form of faith, but it is to help them establish disciplines with biblically based understanding of why they do what they do and how it is centred on Christ.
I think it was in 1998 or maybe 1999 when fasting took on a more serious bent towards specific activities. During this time, especially as 1999 rolled on and I finished university to settle in London, I got involved in activities where the praying and fasting were more focussed and a bit more information was given as to how to fast even if I had to be at work or whatsoever. I was also praying and fasting in preparation for things like the local evangelism initiative. This more purposeful approach to fasting would help considerably for the years that lay ahead. The real breakthrough in my appreciation for fasting took place at the end of 1999 …
And in the tradition of all good stories you’ll find out more about that in the next blog entry.
For His Name's Sake