Fasting creates room for dependence.
Can I be honest? Self-discipline is not my strong suit. The Lord is still carving out His fruit in me, but it’s one of those places where I’m most prone to resist. Sure, some areas of my life may have the flavor of self-discipline. But I think in those areas, the Lord has shaped my belief to be in line with truth, and I live with greater conviction and desire for His way.
But in the areas where I’m prone to unfaithfulness, my hopes, my affections, and my beliefs are inconsistent with the Kingdom of God.
I am believing that the lesser things are better.
I am placing my hope in things which I can see.
I am treasuring sin and its temporary satisfying effects.
Sin, when exposed, is not pretty. I hate seeing my sin.
Now I am not saying these things change overnight. Just change what you believe and where you set your affections, and all will be well. No, our enemy is far too cunning and our flesh does not die so easily. This – believing, hoping, treasuring, fearing – is certainly a vital part of the task in overcoming, but it is not done without a battle.
In this battle, we must starve out our flesh, and cultivate/feed/nourish the life, strength and power of the Spirit in us.
This is where fasting comes in. By God’s grace, fasting can be used as a life-giving weapon against our propensity to love sin. Especially in the season of Lent, we have the opportunity to fast over a length of time and cultivate more of the nature of Jesus, who innately loves the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus affirms the discipline of fasting (see Matthew 6), He does so in a greater conversation:
Practicing a righteousness of our own before the eyes of others
Seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
Fasting, then, is not just about giving up something. It’s about our hearts and what we treasure. It’s about getting in line with the King and His Kingdom, desiring His righteousness above our own. It’s about becoming poor in spirit, lowly, and humbled, because that’s how the Kingdom operates and that’s how it advances.
The season of Lent provides an opportunity to draw near to Jesus in our battle against sin. Jesus, our Victor over sin, shows us how in His perfect life to withstand temptation. In Lent, we actively get on God's agenda of overcoming sin, denying ourselves something that we are prone or tempted to treasure, love, or value more than Christ.
The Lord is using the discipline of fasting in my own life to show me the ways I prefer my own kingdom. I cry out to the Lord in great neediness when I forgo a meal. But something holy happens in that crying out. It’s hard to explain, but my connection with the Lord is powerful and life-giving, and His Spirit grows stronger in me.
He opens my spiritual eyes more clearly and shows me where I’ve been finding nourishment, what appetites I’ve been feeding, and whose kingdom I’m aligning my heart with. My weaknesses are exposed all the while being met by the One who is my Strength.
So, as we get practical about the choosing a seasonal fasting for Lent, we do so believing that in giving up, we are gaining what is better. We do not sacrifice just to sacrifice. We do not wish to practice our righteousness before others (Matt. 6:1), and we do not wish to fast from something that does not ultimately touch our hearts. We guard against seeking the reward that comes from men (i.e. giving up a food item, hoping to lose an inch and be approved by self or others – been there!), and we desire only the reward that comes from our Father. Because we know that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.
Consider these prayerful guidelines about areas of fasting for Lent:
1. Examine our hearts by the Word of God.
2. Ask the Spirit to enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we might see the areas of greatest temptation - and fast from something in that area!
3. Consider these questions –
a. Where do I most often look for LIFE – hope, love, joy, peace, approval, comfort?
b. Where is that area you feel a pang in your stomach (or a prick on your conscience) when I say: “If I think of going without _______, life would be miserable”?
This is not easy! And it will not be easy. But we forgo our craving for ease, comfort, and pleasure, and we set our sights on holiness, steadfastness, and unspeakable joy.
Maybe for you it’s your outward appearance. From clothing to eating, you find yourself facing temptation often, fighting against the desires to live for others’ approval, for your own approval, comfort, etc. Maybe you could pray about selecting just 5-7 outfits for the season of Lent or even intentionally giving some of your clothes to the needy each week. This could make room in your heart and your thoughts for sin to be dealt with and Christ to become your greatest treasure.
Maybe it’s your propensity to get anxious. Maybe you pray about, in those times where anxiety is typically higher, adding in time with community, time singing/praising/worshiping the Lord, time serving, etc. thereby fasting from engaging in the activity of worrying and nourishing the life of the Spirit in you.
Maybe you’re aware of your lack of desire to do hard things. Maybe you’re tempted to fear, to despair, or maybe even to be lazy. This is where I am. Fasting itself tempts me to fear and to despair and makes me so aware of my preference for myself, my comforts, and my lack of Spirit-willed obedience. I am praying about fasting a couple of meals a week during the season of Lent.
Giving up to gain what is better.
There are many, many other areas of temptation worth considering as an area to fast. I would love to hear what you’re praying about!
But in any fast, we always do so to nourish the Spirit – so if you’re fasting from something, make sure to complement it with something to cultivate more of the Spirit’s LIFE in you. That could be anything from Bible reading, spending time in community, meditating, creating, praying alone or with friends, serving, singing, walking, etc.!
And in so doing, we become more joyful partakers and proclaimers of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus becomes our greatest Treasure.
grace & peace,
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