The Dreaded Discipline

For Christmas I got a health club membership, and it’s a pretty fancy shmancy club.  To get you started they do a full assessment of your fitness.  My appointment is at 10am today.  Despite my ten-year-old’s insistence that I am neither skinny nor fat (click here if you missed that one), by noon today I’ll unfortunately know just how fat I am.  And I’m not being dramatic or fishing for compliments, I have issues with food.

I eat too much.  I love the social aspect of food.  Sitting down to eat with my family is one of life’s greatest joys.  A leisurely dinner out or at home with lots of conversation is just a gift to me.  Unfortunately, as Proverbs says, “food eaten in secret is [also] delicious” (9:17).  I love food, and spend not only too much time consuming it, but too much time thinking about it.

So it is with this background that this morning I read Foster’s chapter on fasting.  Oh my. The dreaded discipline.  I am happy to pray, happy to meditate, happy to study, happy to worship, even somewhat happy to confess.  But go without food?  It’s not a longing that I have that’s for sure.  But if you read this chapter, and I hope you will, I think the case is made that God intends for us to fast.  At least I am certain that fasting should be a discipline I practice.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others 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” (Matthew 6: 16-18).

Yet as Foster says, “Fasting must forever center on God.”  Fasting is not about losing a few pounds, or gaining discipline for discipline’s sake, but about actively and intentionally seeking God.  That’s it.

Many people know Jeremiah 29: 11, but look at it with the verses that follow as well.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ” (Jeremiah 29: 11-13)

Do you believe that fasting is one way to seek the Lord with all your heart?  I do.  And I will in 2012.

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