As Christians, that journey began in baptism, but is lived out daily. We are called to grow from one degree of glory to another by drawing near to Jesus Christ and thereby being formed into His character and likeness. Doing so is our decision, which requires discipline and focus. Yet among the competing schedules, desires, and values, the choice is not always easy. It does not always come down to a decision to choose good over evil, but often comes in the form of choosing between something that is good for the highest Good (placing God first). It may come in the crossroads of having to choose between carving out time for worship over the time spent for sports practice, or in turning off the TV for 45 minutes of quiet.
There are many decisions we can make this season to facilitate growth in Christ. One of the most difficult for our culture is fasting. We live in an age of immediate gratification, with everything available at the end of our fingertips with the click of a button. We can have most everything we want, whenever we desire it. Yet, it often feeds our insatiable desire for things that will never fill us. Certainly not in the way the Spirit of Jesus does in our lives.
When we think of fasting, we often think of giving up food. And that is at the heart of the fast, as one forgoes a meal or eats a very simple meal to create time and space for something else. In this case, that something else, is time to be with God. I would encourage you to try a simple fast on Wednesdays or Fridays in Lent. One way to do so is to either forgo lunch, or eat a small lunch. It frees the remaining portion of one’s lunch hour to spend time in a lenten devotional (which you may find in the church), in prayer, or in the study of God’s Word (you could begin by previewing our gospel lesson for Sundays and asking a few simple questions of it as seen on our Facebook page on Tuesdays).
Fasting, however, may not always be in the form of giving up food. I recall a page from the Forty Days for Life booklets found street side at each location on the subject. It highlighted other ways to fast, which I’d like to pass along for your edification.
- Fasting from judging others and to feast on Christ dwelling in them. We can choose to see others through God’s eyes, asking Him for that first and foremost and putting it into practice in how we interact with others.
- Fasting from pessimism and feasting on optimism. A decision to lift up our praises to God as we count our blessings and have our attitudes and hearts transformed.
- Fasting from complaining and feasting on appreciation. A willful choice to focus upon what God is doing and the good in our lives, not what we lack.
- Fasting from bitterness and feasting on forgiveness. A choice to ask God for a desire to forgive those in our lives, even if we are not quite able to do so at present.
- Fasting from self-concern and feasting on concern and compassion. Perhaps a decision to clean out a closet of our many clothes that we may give to the needy, instead of shopping for the newest fashions to further fill our closets.
- Fasting from discontent and feasting on gratitude.
These forty days we are invited to further the transformative process we call the Christian life. Doing so requires intentionality, focus, and discipline. Yet as we die to sin and self, we are raised to new heights of life in Jesus Christ. I pray that as we walk these days together we will emerge on Easter ever more identifiably Christlike as a result.