The Role of Fasting

Well, it is officially the lenten season on the Christian Calendar.  Traditionally, lent is the 40 days prior to Easter (not including Sundays) and begins on Ash Wednesday.  It was set apart for a time of purification of oneself to gain a deeper relationship and appreciation for Jesus Christ.

Within the Lenten tradition, the practice of fasting is often employed as a means of purification.  So we hear of people giving up meat for Lent, or a particular TV show, or even wearing a particular thing.  Interestingly, the means became the end.  To many, the goal of lent was to deprive yourself of something to demonstrate your commitment.  While there is practical use in the discipline of learning to "do without", it is an exercise in "missing the point" when we focus exclusively on ourselves and our own will power.

The purpose of fasting is not to focus on giving things up, but to focus on spending time with God and strengthening our relationship and appreciation of him.  For most people, giving up steak for 40 days, does nothing for one's relationship with God.  Your colon may thank you, but most likely, you are in the same position spiritually eating poultry and fish as you would be eating red meat.

I learned this several years ago, when my son, Matthew, was playing his first tackle football game.  I was working in my medical practice late that evening, but I knew that I desparately wanted to be at the game to encourage him. That day was a 12 hour day that began at 8am and was to go to 8PM.  It was his first game and he was one of the smallest kids on the field, so I knew he was a little nervous.  I skipped lunch that day so that I could leave early. I worked hard that evening to avoid socializing so that when the last patient came, I could fly out of the door.  My last patient finished at 7:20PM and I have 10 minutes to get to the game that was 25 minutes away.  I nearly flew to the game and got there in time to see him play.  That game (actually a scrimmage) lasted until a little after 9PM, and after the coaches talked with the players, I got to talk with Matthew about 9:20 PM.  I was so happy to talk with him and just be with him as he experienced the challenge and excitement of the game.  As I got into the car to go home, I realized that I had not eaten since 7:30 AM.  I thought about the fact that I didn't even think about eating all day (despite the fact that I love eating).  The goal that day was not to give up food, but to be with my son.  The reason that we consider giving up food, TV, or anything during fasting, is not just to give it up, but to spend more time with God.

So, do you want to get closer to God during this lenten season?  If so, consider developing a discipline over the next 6 weeks that actually allows you to get closer to God.  If you choose to avoid an activity, will avoiding this activity allow you to spend more time reading the word of God or in prayer?  Is the focus of your Lenten ritual the pusuit of God?

Before I end, I also want to encourage you to develop a specific plan for your lenten season.  I highly recommend using the time that is set aside for the next 40 days to focus on Jesus through reading through an entire gospel.  Feel free to use the following devotional during this lenten season if you are seeking a reading program. This one focuses on the gospel of Luke and requires a commitment of 20-30 minutes per day.  That is about the time one would use in preparing and eating a meal.

http://www.newhopefree.org/images/File/Lenten%20Devotional%202011.pdf

I pray that this lenten season would be a fantastic time of spiritual renewal and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

God bless,

Pastor M Traylor