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Fasting for Spiritual Formation
I recently heard a replacement term for “spiritual disciplines.” The new term is “soul training exercises.” There is concern that some might have lost sight of the point and made the “disciplines” ends in themselves. In order words, “get the disciplines down pat and you will instantly be spiritual.” The opposite of this would be viewing the disciplines as optional for ordinary Christians and necessary only for the super spiritual. Pursuing the disciplines as ends in themselves leads one to take pride in their accomplishments. Not having the disciplines in one’s life leads one to a flabby, out of shape Christianity that is a poor excuse for discipleship. My prayer is that neither will be considered the norm for us!
I don’t think I can overstate the importance of fasting for us today. It is more than intensified prayer; although it can serve that pupose. It is a direct attack on the addiction we all have to the culture of instant gratificaiton. The purpose of fasting is not to master the fast; it is simply one tool to use in our pursuit of God and the holy life that he has called us to live. The reason fasting is such an important tool is that I know of no other way to practice self-denial. One who has learned to deny self though periods of fasting will have a much easier time of denying self when called upon by God to serve. Fasting helps train one to be forgiving, loving, a servant, and a multitude of other attitudes and actions that spring from a transformed life.
Please join me this week in identifying one idol in your life that is competing with God and take steps to prevent that idol from having control over you. Decide what kind of a fast would be a useful way to deny yourself so that you can focus your attention more completely on God. Set a beginning time and an ending time. Partner up with a friend for the fast if you like. This can help with accountability as well as giving you a prayer partner. Let’s get serious about following Paul’s admonition to “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7).