When a Church Family Fasts
Our Bible Methodist Connection shares the call to an extended fast as the new year begins. I think it is a wonderful benchmark for every body of believers.
God, who wants to be known, is inviting us into closer intimacy with Him and the passion of His heart. As such, the days of an extended fast should be celebrated by church leadership as a privilege. Although it will call for persistence and focus, these are not 21 days to be endured. This is an opportunity given by God to re-orient ourselves to what really matters and embrace afresh the God of all grace. However, it has to be approached with grace and wisdom.
If a family with children responds to this call, we would naturally expect parents to shape the plan to fit the children and adults differently. The plan may enlist very small children to give up candy for a day, while older children and parents take much different routes.
With an understanding of similar variety, we will call our church family to the grace and discipline of fasting. As a pastor, I know that not everyone will participate. For some it seems very forced and frightening. For others, it will look more like a time of self denial than a period of fasting food. Clearly, the Bible affirms self denial as supportive of fasting. And for sure, these times of media restrictions, social limitations, or whatever seems fit, need to be commended and celebrated. Perhaps most of the participants will engage in a partial fast that cuts out certain foods or preferred beverages for the allotted days.
It does seem that fasting in the scripture is always associated with food. Finally, fasting a meal a day, or more, will be embraced by a few. However, you will probably not hear about their sacrifice.
In a healthy church family there will be participation at all sorts of levels. Faithful endurance and persistence need to be encouraged and supported. We are not very adept at embracing hard things. Somehow modern Christianity has been separated from holy discipline and rugged warfare. But the church that embraces the fight will enjoy the results of spiritual growth and victory through the year.
While we are calling for rugged participation, we should be pointing our people to greater intimacy with Christ. Fasting is not cold and cruel punishment. It is moving away from common things that consume us and entering into Christ, into His intercession, into His passion for others. It is to be our intended purpose to redirect the cravings to a hunger for God and His will.
So, church family, let’s embrace the call to fasting with anticipation. Whether new to this discipline or seasoned in intercession, may God enable us to seek Him with diligence and with delight.
Comments on Fasting by Lisa Janofsk
This past year, our usual January 21 Day Fast had an even greater impact on our lives. As a family, we chose to do a media/technology fast. We usually choose this as we appreciate the reset that it gives our day-to-day lives, but this year it sparked something so much bigger. Instead of ending after 21 days, we found ourselves embarking on a journey that we didn’t anticipate. We discovered that when we aren’t so distracted by the virtual world, we are much more focused on the realities of this world. We have more time for prayer and to read our Bibles and we spend more time together as a family.
Instead of being relieved that our fast was over at the end of the 21 days and ready to dive right back into our feasting on social media, movies, and video games (for the kids), we found ourselves somewhat reluctant – did it really have to end?
Did we have to go back to our old ways – or could we make this type of fasting a lifestyle in today’s media crazed world? After only a week of going back to the virtual world, we decided to return to our fast. It has now been almost a year since we made that decision.
Our current media reduced life style isn’t quite as strict as our initial fast, but the Xbox is gone. Phones for the kids are gone as well, and other forms of screen time are greatly reduced for all members of the family.
There have been some surprising results. We take it day by day. We are intentional. We lean closer toward God as we make decisions that affect our children and what they view. We also do more together as a family. Our four children have fewer discipline problems, are less bored, less whiny, and are more active, more creative and have happier dispositions. Our teenager is less moody and has rejoined the family.
There has been a distinct change in our children that many have commented on – most not even knowing our decision. Our 21 Day Fast has extended far beyond just 21 days as our entire year has been spent drawing closer to God and closer as a family – AND we don’t plan to stop.
Comments on Fasting by Amber Jones…
Every year as we approach January, I know what is coming. There’s going to be a call at our church for everyone to join in a time of fasting. I always have to try to prep myself for this… figuring out how to participate, without actually participating.
I have a history with fasting. In High School I tried everything I had ever heard to get God to hear me. I sang the hymns, I spent the time alone in a prayer closet, and of course, I fasted. So many lunches… So many hours alone in the chapel of the school I attended. Kneeling before a “god” I was scared of, but desperate for him to hear me. I would beg him to change the circumstances I was in. I would try so hard to do the right thing so that he would hear me and see me. Instead, what I “learned” was that no matter how many of the right things I did, he chose not to see me or hear me. That perception stuck with me into adulthood.
I would pray for other people, but knew somehow I wasn’t good enough to be heard for my own needs. So now – 20 years later – I find myself in a church that asks for us to fast and pray at the start of a year…to seek God’s face. But I still carried the lie that God didn’t want to show me His favor or His face.
In the last couple of years, I have done some deep trauma work around those lies and the circumstances that I was begging God to take away. I have asked the tough questions about where He was and why He didn’t see me. I have been angry, and I have learned that He can handle that. In fact, He has wooed me with the trueness of His character. As the “do-er” within me struggled to be enough,
He showed me that all He asks of me is to BE, and to rest in His goodness, and to let His love for me be the Touchstone where I find my value and calling.
When I am serving a God I’m scared of, it makes my inner, strong-willed child act out in defense when asked to do something, like fast, because all the other Christians are doing it. But, oh, the difference, when we ask that same “scary god” to show us His true self.
When we walk a journey towards wholeness and healing and discover He’s walking it with us. That path of discovery looks different for everyone. For me, I found that the God of the universe was, indeed, sitting in that prestigious, cold chapel with me, holding me as I begged for Him. That, as I beat my little hands against his proverbial chest screaming for him to answer, He was weeping with me.
As I have grown in my relationship with Him, it’s really been about learning to trust, in those times I cannot see or feel Him. To trust His goodness when things aren’t good. How does fasting play into that? Fasting isn’t merely about the “giving up”. It’s not simply a time to start a new healthy habit, or do a reset on technology, or suffer the grumpiness of coffee-less days.
Fasting is – at its core – about taking a season of time to specifically connect with our Father and get filled up for servant-living… to worship in a way that is out of the routine! And when we break up our routines, amazing things can happen. When it’s no longer about the giving up, but about the “taking in”… we grow! And when we grow, we spillover to those around us as we live out the hands and feet of Jesus.
A New Adventure:
This year, fasting will be a little new to me. I’m still not sure what I will fast. But that’s not really the point. It’s more about finding something that helps point my focus back to Him, then pursuing it wholeheartedly, single-mindedly, for a chosen season. If fasting is new to you, too, maybe you could join me with baby steps.
Maybe start by asking God to simply reveal Himself to you in a new way as you choose to break routine and focus on Him. I believe that it could be the start of something full of hope and eternal beauty!