Tuesday, March 03, 2009

All I Need: Fasting Part 1

I learned a lot about myself and about God during the month of February. I'd like to share that with you, my readers. I'll also be teaching this lesson tomorrow at Westover if you would like to come hear it there.

All I Need: Fasting
Sarah Schopp
March 4, 2009


Play "All I Need" by Sara Groves

Most of us I'm sure have heard of fasting and some of us have fasted in the past. I want to share with you today some things I have learned recently about fasting. Jesus tells us to keep our fasting private and so I won't be sharing many details and won't ask you to, if you are uncomfortable with it. I will, however, be asking you to brainstorm and discuss in general terms. I will be giving you a handout later on that will have all the Scripture references.

First let's discuss why one should fast. Jesus tells us in Matthew "when you fast". Please read Matthew 6:16-18. Matthew 6:16-18(New International Version)
Fasting
16
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces
to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
17
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be
obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your
Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

He says "when you fast," so I'm taking that as an assumption that we all fast. What are some specific reasons why people fast? What occasions merit fasting? I'd like to emphasize that we're not fasting the same way a two year old holds its breath. We're not trying to prove our seriousness, but rather we are recognizing God's seriousness. Spend a few minutes in your group brainstorming reasons to fast.

Wait.

Please share the reasons your group came up with. Here's some additional reasons I found in the Bible: public calamity, afflictions, public afflictions, approaching danger, ordination of minister, confession of sin, humiliation, 40 days, habitual, bereavement. Write all on board.

Next we'll discuss preparing our hearts and minds for fasting. You need to inquire from God what to fast from. Search your heart. Psalm 35:13 says when we fast we are humbling ourselves. Psalm 35:13(New International Version)
13
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
A prayer you could pray at this point would be this: "Show me the truth. Examine my heart and show me truth. And then show me what to do with that truth."

When you are pinpointing what to fast from, a good way to think about it is anything you feel you can't live without; anything that makes you anxious to think about not having it. If you start to hyperventilate about not having email, that might be something to consider. In your groups brainstorm things to fast from.

Wait.

Please share what you came up with. Here's my list: food, drink, choice meat, wine, chocolate, starbucks, media, TV, computer, books, shopping for fun.

A really important note is that when you fast you have to turn those desires and thoughts to God, or you will be sweeping your house clean just for more evil spirits. Please read Matthew 12:43-45 and Zechariah 7:4-6.
Zechariah 7:4-6(New International Version)
4
Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me:5"Ask all the people of the land and
the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past
seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?6And when you were eating and
drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?
Matthew 12:43-45(New International Version)
43
"When an evil[a]spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest
and does not find it.44Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it
finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45Then it goes and takes with
it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final
condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked
generation."

When I look at these things to fast from, I notice that they are indulgences; they are things my mind and body enjoy. It's going to be really hard because they are more than things that make our body function. I like these things. I really want them. And if I don't turn to God when I fast I'm going to be just like the Old Testament Jews- blindly following rules. Please read Colossians 2:16-23.
Colossians 2:16-23(New International Version)
16
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a
religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the
things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18Do not let anyone
who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such
a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs
him up with idle notions. 19He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole
body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it
to grow.
20
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you
still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not
touch!"?22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human
commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom,
with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the
body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Finally I will touch on some things I learned from fasting and that you might learn from fasting when you do it yourself.

I realized how much time I wasted daily. It was embarrassing to see how clean my house was and how much time I had for the Bible.

I realized what my priorities really are versus what I thought they were. The people say that your true priorities are reflected in how much time and energy you spend on them.

I realized some hidden bad habits I had. Turns out when I eat I eat in front of things: a computer screen, a book, the TV. When I took those things out of my life I realized that when I serve a bowl of food I look for something to do while I eat. That's not healthy.

I realized how Satan distracts me. It's hard to have a mind consumed by God when my thoughts are focused elsewhere.

I learned that the Bible can be just as interesting to read as a novel. And in better ways.

I learned that a different focus changed my attitude and outlook on my day.

I found that reading early in the morning or late at night really doesn't work for me, and that's ok. I was able to find lots of time during the day, even when the kids were around, to do Bible study.

Pass out handouts.

As we close, please discuss two to three instances of fasting from the Bible. They can be found in your handout.

What do we really need? Moses and Jesus went for 40 days and nights without food or drink. If God can sustain us through even that most basic of needs, I would contend that all we REALLY need is God and His Word.
Play "The Word" by Sara Groves.

1 comment:

Angela O. said...

Wow! Very impressive, Sarah.