Perhaps you are still keeping your New Year’s Resolution, or you might have already begun to slip on the dedication that seemed so challenging and inviting last week, January 1. Or like me, you may have stopped making them years ago (see December 12, 2016).
But that does not mean we do not progress with changes to which we commit. Not a NYR, but simply a growing into the people The God Who Is There wants us to be. “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” (Muhammad Ali) Am I becoming who Father wants me to be? Is there an area of my life that can experience more obedience to commands of Jesus? Is there any way in which I can better represent my Master? Are there any relationships which I should nourish, refresh, or initiate? Any from which I should refrain, withdraw, or eliminate?
In consideration of these questions and in the hope that you and I are both on a path to develop spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally, the next few blogs will be based on disciplines of a Spirit-led life. Borrowing heavily from Richard Foster’s book, The Celebration of Discipline, his analysis of what constitutes a discipline that benefits us will be used as my framework, though my thoughts on each discipline will be from my life, and I may add a couple to his list of twelve. Further, the order applied to the disciplines will be quite different.
Most important in any effort to develop any discipline is to recognize that success or failure in this will not alter God’s love for us, nor earn His blessing or forgiveness. When one thinks of a son, what can a son do to earn his father’s love? What can a son do to destroy his father’s love? The answer to both of these questions should be “Nothing.” A parent’s love is given unconditionally, and is not affected by the good or bad behavior of the child. (Luke 15:11-32)
What is affected by the son’s behavior is the relationship. A loving parent can rejoice when a son or daughter does good things, is obedient and kind, and shows character development. A loving parent may have to call the police on a disobedient child in order to do what is best for him or her. But the love is consistent. It is constantly looking for what is the best for the child, hoping that the relationship can develop and deepen. In “For Love of Spock” Leonard Nimoy’s son tells of his and his father’s brokenness and how it soured their relationship for many years. But in the years before 2015, when his father died, Adam Nimoy found a friendship with his dad that contributed heavily to his choice to make a film honoring his dad and his career.
It is the same with our Heavenly Father, The God Who Is There, a transcendent and Other Being beyond our capacity to understand beyond what He has revealed of Himself to us. He loves us unconditionally, rapturously, jealously, passionately, and without reservation (1 John 3:1-3). And He is committed to helping us become more like Jesus, the One whose mindset we should imitate (Philippians 2:5-11).
So we begin to get to know Him by following in His steps. And one of His instructions is to fast (Matthew 6:16-18; Luke 5:33-35), that is, to go without food for a specified period of time. We call the first meal of the day, “break-fast,” because from that meal to lunch is usually about three hours, from lunch to supper about five or six hours, but from supper to the first meal of the morning is often 12 hours or more.
The concept of truly fasting is to select a time period and do without food for the duration of that period. Many in my circles growing up would fast for three days on special occasions or for special needs, drinking only water during that time. This “absolute fast” should not be pursued for any length of time without considering one’s medical condition. If you wish to fast for longer periods than a day, you may want to look up The Daniel Fast or review my previous blog on this subject (September 28, 2015).
Not a New Year’s Resolution, but I am making a commitment to fasting once a week from Friday at 6pm to Saturday 6pm. Not because I am so spiritual or advanced in my relationship to God, but because I want to be close to my Maker, closer to Him than I am. The hours are selected to recognize the Sabbath that He implemented when God set up the weekly schedule in Genesis 1. Since this is only a 24 hour period, I expect to do an absolute fast, and drink only water for this period. Also, I will not “tank up” at 5pm Friday with a huge meal of pasta, nor will I engorge on Saturday at 6:01pm. A fast should be a normal part of one’s life, and should not take special considerations, unless it is for a longer period of time. Do not expect me to be “super-spiritual” as a result of fasting. I will still have the same temperament and weaknesses, and still stumble along, trying to become more the man God created me to be. Just changing little by little, “precept upon precept, line upon line” (Isaiah 28:9-10).
There are no hard and firm rules on fasting, just as there are not many hard and firm rules about anything that builds our relationship to God. After all, it is the relationship in which we are interested, not a rule book. If I decide to skip the weekly fast because someone invites me to dinner Friday night, I suspect Father will understand. And if some Saturday I unconsciously pick up a favorite Three Musketeers candy bar without remembering I am fasting, He and I will work it out. And while fasting, I will give some extra time to prayer, the next discipline to be addressed in this blog.
But apart from the prayer that can be incorporated into fasting, there are physical benefits that I will not enumerate here, but simply encourage you to consider fasting also, as we go forward into 2017. Whether weekly, monthly, or just on special occasions of celebration or need, consider moving forward with a fast.
Next week, January 16, 2017 , we’ll look at prayer, another Discipline of a Spirit-led Life. But just to be safe, let me direct you to February 27, 2017, The Good News, Plain and Simple. I do not want anyone to think that by observing or practicing these Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life, one can earn Heaven.