Monday, March 29, 2010

FASTING - Part 1

As Americans, what is one thing that we like to do and we do it well and often? EAT! And when your part of Grace Church here in Lititz, PA, eating is even more loved. It is like the teacher that asked her class to each bring in a show a tell object that applied to their religion. One boy walked to the front of the class and said, “My family goes to the Catholic Church, this is a crucifix.” The next student walked up and said, “My family goes to the Jewish Temple, this is a Star of David.” The last boy walked to the front of the class and said, “My family goes to Grace Church in Lititz, PA, this is a casserole!”

As part of our Year of Prayer and as our Monthly Prayer Challenge for April, this week we are challenging everyone who attends Grace Church and who is medically able to participate in a church-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting. We want you to begin Wednesday evening, March 31st, and go through Thursday evening, April 1st. This is a 24 hour fast but it really includes missing only two meals. If you ate dinner on Wednesday, March 31st by 6pm, you could then eat dinner again on Thursday, April 1st, at 6pm. You would have fasted for 24 hours but you really would have only missed two meals, breakfast and lunch on April 1st.

In preparation for this let me share with you some very important information about what I believe has become a lost art of spiritual devotion – fasting. What is the purpose of fasting? The Biblical purpose of fasting is always spiritual. Fasting is an act of self-denial (see Ezra 8:21) involving dedication of our bodies to God (see Romans 12:1-2) and preparation for God’s empowerment (see Ephesians 3:20). There are many examples in Scripture of those who fasted such as Moses; Hannah; David; Daniel; Nehemiah; Ezra; Esther; the nation of Israel; John the Baptist; Anna; Paul; as well as the church at Antioch.

Many great church leaders have seen the importance of fasting in their lives and ministries. My spiritual hero, Dr. Jerry Falwell, called fasting, “one of the great spiritual secrets of the Christian life!” Bill Hybels, another pastor I greatly respect, once wrote, “Recently I’ve sensed God working in and through me in ways I hadn’t previously experienced. I attribute the excitement and productivity in my ministry to this simple discipline of fasting.”

But what does fasting include? Is it simply refraining from food? Not at all. Fasting alone, without any spiritual activity, is simply radical dieting. Fasting should include three very important elements. It should involve prayer (Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:3; 14:23. It should involve repentance (Nehemiah 9:1-2; I Samuel 7:6; Daniel 3:5-9). And it should involve soul-searching (2 Chronicles 20:3).

But is fasting a spiritual discipline for us today? Consider this – Fasting is mentioned 30 times in the New Testament and always in a positive light. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said “when” you fast not “if” you fast. In Matthew 4:2, Jesus gave us the example of fasting. In Matthew 17:21, Jesus taught the need for fasting in ministry. In Matthew 9:14-15, Jesus said fasting would be needed after his ascension. So would you pray and prepare your heart to join us this week from Wednesday evening until Thursday evening in a Day of Prayer and Fasting! More tomorrow.


mallory kristjanson said...
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Pastor Scott said...
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