Week 4 – Celebration of Discipline: Fasting

Fasting.  What a preposterous idea, right?  In the United States, most of us have everything we need, and likely have most of what we want. Maybe we don’t have a $40,000 SUV or an 8 bedroom mansion, but we can most likely eat whenever we’d like, and purchase gadgets and trinkets galore.  Many of us have unlimited and unchecked access to the internet, where we can find a myriad of ways to occupy our time. We glut ourselves (I’m pointing the finger at myself here) on social media, movies, video games, fast food, and anything else to take our minds off of the deeper questions our souls are eternally asking. Maybe it’s because we’re just doing what our culture has taught us to do, but maybe it’s deeper.  Maybe it’s because we’re scared to be alone with our own thoughts.  I know I’ve been there.  Entertainment has a time and a place (entertaining is part of what I do!), but it’s not the end-all be-all of our fulfillment.
What I love about fasting is that when we remove certain distractions from our lives, we are better able to focus on what’s important.  When we feel the pangs of a usually-satisfied appetite creeping in, we are reminded of our true need. When Jesus is fasting, Satan tempts him to turn stones into bread, and he reminds him that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
The scriptures record many people fasting from food, but there are so many other things we can experiment with.  How about these 5, which Foster mentions in his study guide?
– People (not so we can be antisocial, but so we can be filled up and then be at our best when we are with people)
– The Media (perhaps we should think for ourselves once in a while?)
– The Telephone (a little dated, but we could just as easily say “iPhone”)
– Billboards and Ads (getting away from the 4 letter word of “more, more, more!” and relishing the much more satisfying “less, less, less!”)
– Our Consumer Culture (Foster says we need to take ourselves to the least of these.  He says, “For our souls sake, we need times when we go among Christ’s favorites – the broken, the bruised, the dispossessed – not to preach to them, but to learn from them.”)
If you try fasting from something this week, I’d love to hear about it. Write it in the comments below and let’s discuss. Thanks again for being a part of this reading group. I’m really enjoying exploring these disciplines with all of you!
Study Questions
1) How does Christian fasting differ from the hunger strike and health fasting?
2) Define a “normal fast,” a “partial fast,” and “an absolute fast.”
3) What is the primary purpose of fasting?
4) Fast for two meals (twenty-four hours) and give the time saved to God.  Record anything you learn from the experience.
5) Try fasting from the media for one week and see what you learn about yourself during that time.
Daily Scripture Readings
Sunday: The example of Christ / Luke 4:1-13
Monday: God’s chosen fast / Isaiah 58:1-7
Tuesday: A partial fast / Daniel 10:1-14
Wednesday: A normal fast / Nehemiah 1:4-11
Thursday: An absolute fast / Esther 4:12-17
Friday: The inauguration of the gentile mission / Acts 13:1-3
Saturday: The appointment of elders in the churches / Acts 14:19-23