SIMPLIFY: MAKING ROOM FOR GOD – GIVING UP A GOOD THING – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
Each of us has created a coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of our lives. For most of us our coping mechanism become distractions, crutches that we lean on as a way of making our way forward when things don’t go our way. They aren’t active, true choices that we make, but rather, they become unconscious habits that often prevent us from dealing directly what might be causes us pain, stress, or disappointment and pushes God to sidelines of our lives. All of us are leaning on something, and the thing we are leaning might not be able to support us, causing us and it, to collapse under the weight of our needs. We need a better tool to help us here. We a tool to allow us to create some space for inspect how we are doing.
There’s a long tradition of the people of God using prayer and fasting as a tool and means of enhancing their connection with God. The interesting thing to me is there is no biblical commandment or instructions on fasting, we just observe the people of God fasting. What God is effectively saying is, “When it seems that things aren’t going so well, take inventory, use this time to reflect on your faithfulness. How are you living? It’s possible that your sins are getting in the way of my blessings, so repent, turn from whatever is distracting you, and receive me and my healing presence, come to you.”
Our fasting is for us, not for God. Our fasting alerts us to what we might be leaning on instead of God. Our fasting invites us to create space for inspection. When we give up something, “good” like food, we don’t do it because God needs our food, in fact, we need it and our hunger during our fast is a reminder of our need of food and God. We don’t control God or manipulate him with our fasting. He doesn’t act in a different way through our fasting. We cannot twist God’s hand or will with our fasting. Fasting, if we let it, can be a way to acknowledge our gratefulness to God for the good things that we do have or experience. As a spiritual practice, fasting helps us to see how we use and look at the “good things” that we have been given and it invites us to see how God might see them too.
So, why fast? Jesus assumes we will and to become better conduits of God’s love to others. Our fasting increases our awareness of and ability to experience gratitude. Our fasting allows us to identify with those who do not have. This is voluntary act that we take that allows us to become aware of those around us who are living without. While there is nothing we can do to increase God’s love for ourselves or others, our fasting allows us to become better conduits of love. When fasting increases our gratefulness for the good things that God has given us, and has opened our hands to the idea that we all we have is the result of our hard work, we become better loves. We aren’t selfish. When our fasting increases our desire to see others share in the goodness of God’s provision; then this increases our ability to be a conduit for God’s love to reach others, whether it be in material, emotional, or spiritual ways.
GIVING UP A GOOD THING
Some practical tips when fasting:
Use your fasting to increase your awareness of God’s presence. Every time you feel drawn to whatever you are fasting from; like eating, or watching TV, take a moment to remind yourself of God’s presence with you, talk to God, share what is on your heart, and also be open to Him speaking back to you.
Try and ask yourself some questions: Have you been mindful of God for the past hour? Are you grateful for the good things in your life? Do you know anyone who is in need of a blessing or healing? You can do this while still going about your daily business; working, taking care of the kids, cooking, shopping, etc. Share anything else which comes to mind with him. When you feel attracted to what you have given up for instance, a craving for food initiated by hunger pangs, or a longing for a TV show, etc, remind yourself to turn to God first. This can be a way to developing a long-term habit of turning to God throughout the day when you feel the need to lean on your “crutch” for escape.
A more focused use of fasting is to examine how we respond to particular feelings throughout our day. Again, when you feel drawn to what you are giving up, look at the feeling, ask yourself why you are feeling this way and share this with God. Is the good thing that you are giving up the appropriate solution to the way you are feeling? Are you really hungry (it’s been 4-5 hours or more since you last ate)? Are you feeling something else and food (or something else) is your antidote, your medication?
Every time you are hungry, you can also remind yourself that tomorrow you will eat; that in general you have enough food and won’t starve. This can remind us to think about others who don’t have enough of something, pray for them and see if God is nudging us to do something about it.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.