Thursday, June 18, 2009

fasting part 2

as i promised a while back, i am planning on writing a series on fasting on here. if you haven't read fasting part 1, click here to read it first. maybe some of this will be included in my future book. who knows?! as i have said before, i am on a journey and have committed to share what i do have to give along the way, though i know that i will learn more and more as i continue to press into the Lord.

in fasting part 1, i shared some about my history with fasting, my own ups and downs, and personal motivations i have had in even attempting this journey of developing this area of my life with God. because of the many many times that i mess up in attempts at fasting, i find that i have to remind myself often of the why of fasting in secret. i am going to attempt to share with you some of the reasons i have found to helpful in keeping on in something i am not very naturally good at doing.

i have found fasting in secret to always sound like such a good idea the night before i start a fast day. i can feel my heart excited about pressing into the Lord. the excitement i feel in my spirit reminds me of the excitement that i feel on christmas eve anticipating the delight on the faces of my kids as they open up presents. there is something so rewarding in knowing that you are giving a gift that will bring delight to the recipient. it is worth all the sacrifice it may take to make the gift possible when you know what your loved one is desiring.

God is very clear over and over again in both the old and new testaments that He desires us to draw near to Him, even in the specific act of fasting. He is also very clear that He desires to draw near to those who are broken and contrite in spirit. i don't know of anything else that will produce more real brokenness inside of a person than denying oneself of the substance that gives energy, mental clarity, and delight.
the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. psalm 51:17

though God uses all brokenness in our life to draw us nearer to Him, there seems to be something unique about voluntary brokenness or weakness. there are so many things in life that make us weak, but when we chose weakness in the times that we could be strong, we are imitating the life of His Son. it is the definition of humility that i have described before - not weakness, but strength restrained for a purpose. when we willingly choose to make ourselves weak, i know may sound bizarre, it delights the Father's heart because it is a testimony of the sacrifice Jesus made not only in His death, but in the entirety of His life. philippians 2 is one of my favorite passages to meditate on when considering this man Jesus. He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself. He did not grasp; quite different than the first adam who ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that He may be like God.

and, because of His voluntary weakness, He is exalted by the Father forever. He pleased the heart of the Father and we have the opportunity only in this life to choose voluntary weakness like our Savior. you see, the day is coming when every knee will bow, every tongue in heaven, hell, and on the earth will recognize Jesus as Lord. but to choose to enter into drinking His cup with Him, the cup of humility, we have something we can only give Him in this life. in the chapter of our lives after death it will no longer be a struggle to choose loving the Lord with our whole hearts, but here we have so many things we have available to dull the struggle to give Him all of us. i don't think that not eating food makes us struggle. i think temporarily denying ourselves of food, which is not evil in itself at all but a blessing from the Lord, reveals the struggles in our heart that are always there which we just aren't always aware of when we can control the quality of the circumstances around us. in 2 corinthians 12:9 paul said:

and He has said to me, "my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
the life of voluntary weakness is not a life a God that is void of His power; on the contrary, it is the life in which He can most display the wonders of His glorious power because we are not going to grasp at it for our own gain or advancements.

fasting in secret does something different in our hearts than any other forms of fasting. i recently attended a bible study on the song of songs. in chapter 8, the beloved says of her lover:
oh that you were like a brother to me
who nursed at my mother's breasts.
if i found you outdoors,
i would kiss you;
no one would despise me, either.
i would lead you and bring you
into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me;
i would give you spiced wine to drink
from the juice of my pomegranates.
at the bible study we discussed how there is something so powerful to a secret life with the Lord. just as there are intimate aspects of marriage that are not shared with all, there are aspects of my life with God that are to be just between Him and me. it is special, sacred, and cultivates a deep deep love to have a secret place with the Lord that everyone else does not know about. the fasting in secret is something that i can give to Him alone. although it could win me esteem in the eyes of men and influence here on earth, i can choose to make myself weak and vulnerable in His eyes alone, move the heart of God, and gain more that i could have ever gained with man.

the interesting twist i have found about the pain of fasting in secret was a surprise to me. i expected to feel the pain of not getting the positive recognition for my efforts to pursue the Lord. what i did not expect was the pain i would feel when i struggled and gave into my flesh and kept that part secret before the Lord as well. how real is the pain of not being able to make it through one day of fasting and having no one to reassure me that i am okay! to share the awareness of one's own poverty of spirit with God alone is a dynamic that is so so powerful! the new levels of intimate dependency on the Lord and the love for His very near and real mercy toward me make this part of the secret life so priceless. it is like the beatitudes in matthew 5:
blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
when we are aware of our own spiritual poverty, we are able to receive His kingdom. when we share with Him alone our inability to love Him the way we desire to love Him, He is the One who draws so near to us to comfort us. when we chose humility and meekness just like He did, we will inherit the earth along with Him - co-heirs with Christ. this voluntary brokenness will stir in us a real hunger and thirst for righteousness. He promised that when we come to this place of deep spiritual hunger because of our own emptiness He will fill us with all we are desiring. The awareness of our inability to love Him without Him giving us that love to pour out on Him draws mercy out of us towards others who struggling in their walks with Him. the dynamic in giving mercy is amazing - the more we give, the more we will receive from Him; the more aware we are of our need for His mercy in our own lives, the more we will desire to give it to others. what an amazing journey Jesus laid out for us in growing in love with Him.

each step of the way there lies a reward waiting for us on the other side. in luke 18:29-30 when the disciples told Jesus all they had given up voluntarily in order to follow Him, He promised:
"i tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
i believe the same is true with fasting - we cannot out give God! over and over again in matthew 6 Jesus described the Father as the rewarder of what is done in secret! the amazing thing is the Father often gives us a choice of where we will receive our reward. we can receive the reward in full here on earth, which looks like the esteem and recognition of man, or we can voluntarily choose to cultivate the secret life with Him and store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (matthew 6:20) i know how hard it is to not give in to the desire for the reward here in the seen rather than wait for it in what is still unseen for us, but this is why i must encourage my own heart regularly! He is El Roi, the God who sees! if i can learn to value what is unseen to others, how much more will i gain from Him forever and ever and ever!

the last reason for fasting in secret that i wanted to share a bit about is how it causes us to grow in authority and humility in equal measures. there are very real promises of authority reserved for those who seek Him in fasting and prayer. in matthew 17 Jesus spoke of a type of authority that came in healing and deliverance only with much fasting and prayer. the humility it takes to choose growing in faith through fasting and praying in the secret place draw the favor of the Father. He can trust those who are not out to make themselves famous, but make famous the name of His Son and humble servant Jesus.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Charis; I'm doing a prayer journal right now, and tomorrow is fasting, not of food, but of something we can give up to rely on the Lord more instead of that thing. For me it's the whole email/social networking thing, so I'm going to forgo that for 24 hours and see what happens. Anyway, my point is that I think God was helping me prepare by leading me to your post today. Thanks so much.

charis said...

i am so glad it could be encouraging to you! yeah, i would like to continue my fasting series and describe the different ways to fast, including fasting the social outlets where we gain influence. i hope you have lots of grace tomorrow!

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