Skip to main content

A powerful, seldom-used weapon in our arsenal

Our church's current sermon series is designed to steer members towards those practices which will help us focus on devotion to God. The topic of the most recent sermon is fasting, a rarely-discussed  practice for many American Christians.

For the first 40 years of my life, I regarded fasting as strange, practiced only by people we read about from thousands of years ago but not in the 21st century. It was something you'd read that people did back then, like churning butter, or taking sacrifices to the temple.  But around a decade ago, I heard a teacher make a point that stuck with me:

In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says "when you fast."

Not "if you fast."

Trust me; I checked all the translations. They all say "when", not "if". And because this verse is part of a teaching which includes currently-accepted verses such as the Lord's prayer, the importance of giving to the poor, and not serving two masters, we can't chalk up His words about fasting to some cultural thing that applied to a certain group of people at a certain time.  That opening phrase, "when you fast" carries an implication  that this is expected behavior and part of our spiritual development. 

Since coming to this realization, I have fasted a few times, but not regularly. Allow me to share my most meaningful experiences with fasting:

1. In 2001, my wife and I found out that we were expecting twins. The doctor sat down, and with a serious look on her face, said "Look, I know that the idea of twins is a bit of a shock. And as you tell others, you're going to hear comments which begin with 'awww, how precious!', and talk about matching outfits and rhyming names. But the truth is, having multiples carries serious risks. One twin could rob the other of a significant amount of nutrition. Cords could get tangled. And there's a high risk of prematurity. In fact, full-term pregnancies almost never happen with multiples. So be ready for preemies and the NICU."

To this day, I'm thankful for that doctor's frankness, because my response was to fast one day per week for the rest of the pregnancy. And in case you're curious about the results, Jacob and Abby were born healthy and full term. At birth, Abby's cord was in a loose knot, but a doctor's decision, made prior to knowing that, ended up saving her. My decision to fast worked, and I have two healthy 16-year-olds to show for it. 

2. Several months later, our church, which was smaller back then, had a kind of open-mike community time one Sunday morning. I felt I was supposed to give a public testimony about my fasting experience from during the pregnancy. But I didn't get up there to grab the microphone that morning. The next week, there was another call for testimonies, and I felt I should go up there, but there wasn't time for all of us who wanted to speak. The following week, something similar happened. 

Finally, for the 4th week in a row, I felt the urge to go up there, and I did. I told the story you just read in bullet point #1 above. I ended it with this: "I'm sharing this story because I feel someone in this room needs to hear this. You've been praying for something, and not seeing an answer, and you need to consider engaging in a fast to get the answer you're looking for."

After service was over, I was chatting with someone, and a woman I didn't know came up to me. She said that she was a visitor to our church, had never been there before. She had, in fact, been asking for God to do a particular thing, and it wasn't happening, but as soon as she heard what I said, she knew it was for her. 

Wow!

3. A couple of months ago, I decided to go on a 3 day fast, and when it was over, I felt God had spoken two things to me. In fact, both had to do with me letting go of something that had a hold on me. The fast not only alerted me to these strongholds, but also strengthened me to break free. Neither of those issues  has been a problem since then.

4. I recently lost my job, and I chose to fast for a couple of days, just to hear what He has to say to me about where to go forward. Since then, I've been more in tune with God and His word than I have in a long time. I'm more spiritually aware. And, as with my previous 3-day fast, there are certain strongholds, temptations, that are much easier to resist now.  

Of course, Scripture tells us that fasting can be useful for more than what I have described here. Jesus said in Matthew 17:21 that a particular demon only comes out by prayer and fasting. I haven't experienced anything like that, and I hope I never need to. But that story tells us a truth we can all use: fasting is a very powerful weapon that we have in our arsenal. There's no good reason not to use it.

Disclaimer: anyone reading this who decides to enter into a fast shouldn't do so if they have any health issues, so if that's you, please consult a doctor first. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beyond the door greeter: The most important contribution of Tim Wright

My sons Jacob and Zachary have baseball cards. Hundreds of them. They like to spend time with them, because the cards feed two of their passions: baseball and numbers. They organize and re-organize the cards. They play fictional baseball games, complete with playoffs, with them. Most important, they show the cards off to their friends. Even adults who come over to the house are likely to be introduced to the baseball cards collection by my sons.
I have a friend named Frank. He's retired, and is an expert woodworker. Visitors to his house will be treated to the tour: he loves to show you the gorgeous cherrywood rocking horse, the grandfather clock, and countless other items he has made out of wood. They're all quite beautiful; very impressive. It's Frank's passion, and he loves to share what he has done with others.


For the last 15 years, I have had a friend named Tim Wright. His title was Pastor of Small Groups and Assimilation. We all know what a small group is, but &…

Them Dents is Valuable

I guess I am spoiled, but for a Pixar film, "Cars 2" falls a little short, if only because the bar has been set insanely high by the quality of recent masterpieces such as "Toy Story 3" and "Up".  Any comparison of "Cars 2" with other recent Pixar output just isn't fair.

Quality aside, "Cars 2" hardly seemed like a sequel. The tone, the look, and the feel are very different from "Cars". Additionally, the plot was hard to follow and a little convoluted.

Despite the flaws, this film had one shining moment; one profound line in a decidedly non-profound movie, and it was delivered by Tow Mater.

Mater, you may recall, is a tow truck who's in dire need of mechanical attention. He has a missing hood, several dents, and rust issues. He's also a lovable doofus, lacking anything that resembles sophistication.

At one point in the movie, British secret agents decide to bring Mater into their plans to catch the bad guys and sa…

Book Review--"Love Does" by Bob Goff

Readers of Donald Miller's excellent book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" were introduced to Bob Goff, a man who I'd swear is a fictional hero if Miller didn't insist he was a real person. Goff sounds like he's too good to be true.

The Good
The stories in Miller's book are pretty amazing: his kids invited themselves to meet with the leader of every nation in the world, and 29 presidents, kings,  and princes took them up on it. Goff started a New Year's day parade in which several blocks of neighbors participate. He managed to push through several judicial reforms in Uganda which resulted in kids being freed and witch doctors being put out of business. And that's just the start.

Bob Goff is a real person, and he's the real deal; he loves Jesus and has a desire to use what he has to show the love of Jesus in tangible, life-changing ways to as many people as he can. One cannot help but be inspired by reading these stories, and the life les…