Besides tricking people into becoming Christians, one of the things we do at Echo is study books of the Bible chapter-by-chapter. This approach to teaching means that you deal with the text as it comes to you; there's no hand-picking certain topics while avoiding others. Case in point was this week as we worked through Zechariah and the subject of fasting presented itself. If I had it my way, I'd avoid the subject altogether because I'm not much for fasting. But I had to wrestle with it last week and came to the conclusion that I should really be doing it more. Actually, we all should do it more.
I suspect that we Americans tend not to fast because it's the most inconvenient spiritual discipline. We're bombarded with messages telling us to fulfill our bodies' every desires without holding back. In 1756 England called for a national day of fasting to prevent a war against the French. Can't really imagine a message like that going over that well today.
I pointed out last night that fasting isn't exclusive to Judeo-Christianity [Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus all fast]. That said, the Scriptures are clear [Zechariah 7] that fasting should be done in obedience to God above everything else. The text is testifying that when we observe spiritual disciplines that don't confirm to the Lord's guidance that they're actually meaningless. In fasting we're forced to examine what really controls us. I had someone remark to me last night that they don't like fasting because of that very fact: it causes them to come face-to-face with actual condition. But when we're exposed in such a way, we have to come to grips with our spiritual condition.
I encouraged our people to perhaps try some sort off fasting this week. I realize that some people are unable to for health reasons, but there are always opportunities for experimentation. You can observe a Lenten-like period where you abstain from a certain food or activity. And when you're without, and the urges begin to seize you, you remember why you're doing what you're doing and devote yourself to prayer. It sounds tougher than it is. Maybe you should give it a try as well.
The teaching [entitled, The Fast and The Furious: Babylonian Drift] will be up this week on iTunes for download if you're interested in more on the topic.