Monday, September 6, 2010

Sacrifice Is a Good Thing

My pastor has called our church to a week of prayer and fasting.

I have tried to fast on many occasions, but rarely ever made it past dinner time. I can honestly say I have experienced one fast of my own decision. It was a 72 hour fast (3 days for those of you not quick on the math.)

It was in the midst of the hardest part of the battle during the complications of Ethan's adoption. The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to fast for 3 days. So I did. And I have to be honest, it was the only time I ever fasted successfully, and I know it was because the Lord sustained me to do it.

This time I haven't felt like the Lord spoke it directly to me, but I I know if the Lord has placed it on my pastor's heart, then I should respond in obedience to his leadership.

There are lots of ways to fast. Our church has given us some direction and guidelines, and have given us options. There is a total fast where you only drink water. There is a modified fast which allows for juices, there is the fasting of a meal, fasting particular foods, or you can fast things too, like media, or a hobby. The point is to give something up in order to make a more concerted effort to seek God and focus on Him.

One thing I do believe, is whatever we fast, it is supposed to feel like a sacrifice. I was having a conversation with someone and they told me, "Well, I might fast a meal, but I won't fast Facebook." I told him, "So what you're really saying is, 'I'll fast something easy, but I won't fast anything I'll really miss.'"

I was teasing him, mostly, but there is a thread of truth to it for us all. My pastor spoke Sunday morning and said he knew some people would be willing to fast "between breakfast and lunch," but he hoped we were willing to give a little more.

I want to be willing to give a little more, but as the Bible says, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." And so tonight I ponder the fast over the next four days, and my spirit is very willing, but I know tomorrow when I rise, the flesh will be very weak.

It's interesting, when I look up the word sacrifice in the dictionary, the first two definitions refer to offerings to God. When I think of the word "sacrifice" my first inclination is about what I might be losing, rather than what I might be giving. It gives it a different perspective when I think of it as something to give, rather than something I am missing out on.

Looking up the word fast, it talks about spiritual discipline. If the flesh is weak, then what could be better to correct that, or at least improve that, than to bring it into subjection to the spiritual discipline of fasting. I know this, if the fast is separated from the prayer, there is almost no chance it will be successful. I think if I'm going to give up feeding my body for any length of time, whether it be a day or all four, I had better be feeding my spirit. The best way to do that is obviously through prayer and reading the Word.

I didn't prepare very well for these next few days. Today was a day of laziness and gluttony for me, so I have probably made the mountain more steep to overcome.

My pastor said he believes this time of fasting and prayer that the Lord has led him to call may be a time to bring breakthrough. Breakthrough is something that really appeals to me in the midst of he season I am in. So I am looking forward to seeking God these next few days.

As a family Neal and I have decided to limit our media intake to an hour a day. We won't be watching TV or playing on the internet except for an hour in the evening. I have to be on the computer at work, but whereas I usually keep Facebook up in the background, this week I won't. And I won't check it on my phone - boy that one's going to be a serious challenge! But it's not about what I am giving up! It's about giving that (large amount of) time to focus on the Lord and the Lord's business instead. Sacrifice is a good thing.

For me personally, I also hope to maintain a water and juice fast. I don't know if I can manage the whole four days, but I plan to try. I really long to hear from the Lord. I will take each day one at a time, and I will do it remembering that it's about giving to the Lord, not just denying myself.

I'm pretty sure that's what the Lord was thinking anyway, when He hung up on the cross and sacrificed His life. I think He was far more focused on what He was giving than what He was losing. And I am, or at least should be, thankful for that every day.

When I think about that, the thought of skipping a few meals doesn't seem like such a big loss. It kind of seems like the least I could do, all things considered.

So tomorrow it begins, a concentrated effort to give a small pittance to the One who has given me everything.