Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fast Food

Matthew 6:16-18
They say confession is good for the soul. Why wouldn’t I want my soul to feel good? So I am gonna do some confessing right now. Ready? Okay here it is: I absolutely LOVE food. There, I said it. I don’t “appreciate” food. I don’t “enjoy” it. No...I seriously LOVE food. While I would not say I am a food addict, I definitely have a weird romance thing going on. I mean how can I not? Is there anything better than stuffing your face with a delicious food? And there is so much of it to choose from, so many different categories. No reason for you to ever get in food rut. One day it might be barbecue that hits the spot (I love some ribs, baked beans, fried okra and of course Texas toast). The next day you can travel to Italy via your taste buds. Fettucini Alfredo anyone? Lasagna? Maybe a brick oven pizza? And how could I not mention Mexican food? You can’t live in Texas and not eat Mexican food. The best thing about going to a Mexican restaurant is they give you a meal before the meal—hello chips and salsa! Even as I am sitting here typing this, in my mind I am hearing the sizzle of the fajitas as the server brings them out. Anyone reading this love seafood? Maybe some fish, fried shrimp, or oysters on the half shell? I myself will take the Chargrilled Salmon with Yvette sauce from Pappadeaux (if you go make sure to get some ‘gator for an appetizer). Seafood not your thing? Hop in the car. Let’s hit up PF Chang off the tollway. Incredible place!
Can you tell I love food? I love food so much it has caused my wife Christie some concern. She thinks it odd that I go to nice restaurants all by myself. She will say things like, “Wouldn’t you rather go with someone, you know, and have some company? It’s weird that you just sit at the table all alone.” Her logic is obviously flawed. When you have a 10 oz New York strip seared to a perfect medium on your plate, you are never alone. I don’t know how to explain it. Food just gives me a tangible satisfaction that never gets old to me. I love it. Probably too much.
So as you can imagine, fasting is quite difficult for someone like me. What is “fasting” exactly? Simply put, to fast is to cease to eat for a period of time. Maybe you have had a doctor tell you to fast for a few hours before having blood work done. Consuming no food (and sometimes no liquid). That’s fasting. So while I do not necessarily enjoy the physical act of fasting itself, I have learned that there is incredible benefit to this lost art of the faith. Did you know that fasting, in conjunction with holy prayer, will release an incredible amount of God’s power and favor into your life? Fasting is like prayer on steroids! It’s breaking out the big guns! Prayer by itself is good, obviously. But if you want to take your prayer life to an even higher level, then pray and fast.
So how does it work exactly? Thankfully, it’s really simple. In the times when you would normally eat, pray instead. Rather than woofing down a cheeseburger from Five Guys or a burrito from Chipotle, get alone and seek God in prayer. You forego your most primitive desire—eating—for one purpose and one purpose only: to draw closer to God. Fasting is telling your human nature to be quiet. It’s commanding your “flesh” to take a backseat. It’s being so desperate for God to reveal Himself in a situation of your life that you would push everything else out of the way, even food.
Maybe you are facing big decisions and don’t know what to do. You should fast and pray. Maybe there is an urgent situation in your life that looks hopeless. You should fast and pray. Maybe you need God’s favor in a difficulty that you are experiencing. You should fast and pray. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women who needed God to show up in a big way. Simply praying was not enough. They prayed while also fasting:
Moses Fasted Before Receiving the Commandments – Deuteronomy 9:9-18.
David Fasted While Mourning His Child’s Illness – 2 Samuel 12:1-23

Elijah Fasted While Escaping Jezebel – 1 Kings 19:4-8

Ezra Fasted While Mourning Over Sin – Ezra 10:6-17
Esther Fasted for the Safety of the Jews – Esther 4:15-17 
Darius Fasted For the Safety of Daniel – Daniel 6:18-23

Daniel Fasted for an Answer to Prayer – Daniel 10:1-3

Jesus Fasted Before His Temptation by Satan – Matthew 4:1-2 
Paul Fasted After His Conversion – Acts 9:1-9
The Church Elders in Antioch Fasted Before Sending out Missionaries – Acts 13:1-3
So do you think you are up for the challenge? Maybe you have never fasted. Maybe you haven’t fasted in a long period of time. I want to invite you to reclaim this precious gift the Lord has given us. Fasting is not punishment as some would suggest. To the contrary, it’s freedom. It’s releasing yourself from the limitations that are currently keeping you where you are. It’s removing the ceiling that is holding you down. Fasting is not punishment, it’s privilege. You will experience more of God than you ever could by simply just praying. So let me offer some simple and “real life” suggestions on getting started.
1) START SMALL. I have seen some Christians, well-intentioned no doubt, who make over-the-top fasting commitments. I once worked with a guy named Tim who loved food even more than me. Our senior pastor challenged all the pastors on staff to fast. Tim said he was gonna fast forty days! Bold? Very. Ambitious? Very. Did he succeed? No! I don’t know if he even made it forty hours. It’s better to commit to something small and achieve it than to over-commit and not succeed. So start small with one meal or maybe commit to one 24 hour period.
2) PLAN AHEAD. Don’t be impulsive on your fasting. Plan ahead. Tell yourself, “I am going to fast this meal on this day.” So on Friday at lunch, when all my co-workers are at Chili’s, I am gonna sit in my car and spend some time in prayer. By planning ahead you will be able to have a more focused and intentional time of prayer. You will enter into your fast with a clear head and a purposed heart.
3) BE SPECIFIC. So why are you fasting? What is it that is driving you to pursue God so boldly? I would encourage you to have a specific “target” in your prayers. Aim your fast at the need you have. As you see in the examples above from those who fasted, there was a specific reason why they fasted. Go to the Lord with boldness and make your personal needs known to Him (see Hebrews 4:14-16).
4) FAST THINGS OTHER THAN FOOD. Some of you may be saying, “Hadley, there is NO WAY I can not eat. I am just not there yet.” Okay. So what can you fast? Television? Facebook? Video games? What are some things that are consuming too much of your time that you could lay down for the purpose of seeking God? Start with those things for now. God will honor your sacrifice to draw close to Him.
5) BE PRIVATE. Fasting is not something you should do publicly. No need to get on Facebook or Twitter and blast it to the whole world, “Hey everyone, I am fasting!” In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus taught us to be private in our prayer and fasting. He assured us that God sees us and will reward what we do in secret. With that being said, I think it is absolutely appropriate to let those closest to you know that you are fasting. They can be in prayer agreement with you (see Matthew 18:19) as well as offer you encouragement and accountability.
I hope these practical applications have given you the encouragement and inspiration to begin your fast. Here is what I know to be true—God honors BOLD faith. When you seek Him in prayer and fasting, He will respond beyond anything you could hope or imagine.

Hadley Baker

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