Sean Azzaro, my pastor of River City Community Church, upon delivering a message about the vision for 2010 at our church, challenged us to fast one day a week. The challenge was not the main point... in fact, it was more likely a side point, maybe even an after-thought. His message was to the point that perhaps we focus too much on the peripherals of faith, and forget that the most important aspect of Salvation is the Presence of God... Yes, we are saved from the punishment of Sin, and we are no longer slaves to sin... that's very, very good. Yes, God gave us the Church where we are called to fellowship, teach, reach, and grow spiritually. All these things are good, too. But the main point of the cross is the "tearing of the curtain", "the renting of the veil"... The Nearness of God.
God became man... He started it. He came near to us. And then Emmanuel paid the price so we could "approach the throne of grace in boldness." (Hebrews 4:16) As amazing as that is, we far too easily get distracted by the things of this world, and the peripherals of faith (my description of all things not directly relating to the nearness of God.).
Fast. As in, "don't eat"... Once a week. Stop for a second and think about how you reacted to that phrase as you read it. Was there this slight tinge of fear? I am (almost) ashamed to admit that I first thought, "How will I go one whole day without food?" When you think about it, it's not really a big deal at all, unless you literally have a physical disability that won't allow you to do so. (Diabetes, and other such diseases.) I am pretty much mocking myself when I describe my reaction -- I actually had a plan just in case I couldn't make it... an energy bar within reach, just in case. So I thought the whole thing through, and even though I really didn't understand what might happen if I were to fast, I simply accepted the challenge, as I am prone to do. (I am slightly competitive...challenges motivate me.)
So, as I work out at the gym six days a week, I determined that I needed to fast after Saturday morning workout (I do not work out on Sunday), starting after I have a protein shake.. which I have each morning. I then would not eat for 24 hours. I decided I would spend mealtimes praying. I also determined that every time I felt hungry, I would simply stop, and pray. I did not predetermine what to pray, just that I would stop what I was doing and give God my undivided attention. Okay? Ready.... Go!
The first Saturday, I was very busy with work, and I made it to lunch quite easily. Piece of cake... okay, not cake.. but easy, anyway. As the day rolled on, I felt the need to pray fairly often. As it got late, I was praying almost continually, but I was feeling this sense of satisfaction in the praying times. About 9:30 PM, I decided going to bed was my best bet. (Night time snacks are my weakness.) I got up early as I was leading worship and had to be at practice at 7 AM. I prayed all the way to church, and I really starting feeling this sense of God's presence. I then noticed that I wasn't hungry at all. I was excited about worship, and before I went into the auditorium, I sat in my car and worshipped intimately, just me and Father. Way cool. All three services, I felt an intensity of intimacy with Father... the Starfield song, Reign in us, caused my heart to nearly break. I felt full. Full of Father. Full of His presence. It was amazing. I didn't even think about food until I went home and had lunch.
Here are some thoughts I had that day: The urges we call hunger that we so often satisfy with some type of food product... maybe they are not food urges at all. Maybe over time, we have confused those urges... maybe, just maybe, those urges are actually a hunger for the nearness of God. Maybe we are overweight because we keep stuffing our faces when we really ought to fall on our knees. Maybe we don't sense the presence of God as much as we should because we are misdirecting our hungers. We might be confused about the things that truly satisfy. Stuffing food in our bodies is sort of an analogy for us: satisfying ourselves, fixing it ourselves, handling the problems ourselves. Perhaps if we would identify those urges as "hunger for God's presence" first, asked God to satisfy us as He would chose to, then we might find ourselves standing in His presence more often... and as a result, we find ourselves walking in His will more often, and eventually, continuously.
I am not advocating "not eating". I am not saying everyone who is overweight is not godly. I am very simply saying: Fasting for Father will rock your world. I am challenging you to fast once a week. Do not do it to shed pounds, but to shed some of the trappings of this world. I fasted for the second time a few days ago, and it was as awesome as the first time, and I am planning to keep this up until I find myself in the presence of God every moment of every day.
Let me know if you take this challenge and what your exeriences are, if you care to do so. I am still working through the things that Father is leading me through, but I'll do you a favor and stop here... The Nearness of God is our good. (Psalm 73:28)