Monday, December 26, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

Fasting must be everyone's favorite spiritual discipline. We're all about denial of self, aren't we?

Actually, I think that's what makes this discipline so difficult. It's denial of self in a way we're just not used to. Food is the last thing that many of us allow ourselves to indulge in completely, without restriction. Complete hedonism. It's tough to reverse that.

I did some calculations, and after going to church for 40 years, I figure I've heard somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand sermons. I haven't heard a single sermon on fasting. Maybe it's the particular religious tradition I grew up in. But what makes it weirder is that we have examples of the early disciples in doing it (Acts 13:1-3, 14:23), Jesus did (Matthew 4:1-2), He expects us to do it (Matthew 6:16-18, 9:15), and it's described as a form of worship (Acts 13:2, Luke 2:36-38) . If there's something that people would suggest is required of us, you'd think it'd be fasting. But I don't remember it listed among the "5 acts of worship" in the many sermons I heard on that topic as a kid.

Richard Foster suggests that fasting can reveal some of the things in life that control us, citing Psalm 69:10 ("I humbled my sould with fasting"). - and mentions that fasting can reveal the things in life that control us. This takes on even more meaning when I read 1 Cor 6:12 ("All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything"). We all have things in our life that control us. For a lot of us, food falls into that category.

This brings us full circle back to denial of self. Jesus says annoying stuff like, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24) and "any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple"(Luke 14:33).

That's what this life is all about, isn't? Dying to self? I think that's why we don't commit. Ironically, we don't want to give up what little control we think we have over this life. It must look silly to God.