Friday, March 23
In the 2018 40-day Lenten Challenge, we seek to find as many ways as possible to honor God by learning to say, “Yes” and “No”. Each day will contain a different challenge, posted on FaithSpring’s Website and FaceBook page. In addition, on each Sunday during Lent, a weekly challenge will be revealed, challenging us to maintain a certain “Yes” and “No” for the entire week. (Please see the previous post from Sunday to learn about the weekly challenge.)
Today we say “Yes” to Fast and “No” to Feast. The rules? No food for 24 hours, beginning at your last meal. All drinks of any kind are welcome. The goal is to make it through today without food. (But use common sense! Those with health, dietary, and physical needs are always exempt. Those who are participating in special meals and activities with friends and family should enjoy your fellowship with feasting and praise…you can always try a Fast later.)
Now that the rules are set, one might ask why Christians practice Fasting as a spiritual discipline. The answer lies in Jewish tradition. For the earliest Jewish communities, prohibiting certain foods became an important way of demonstrating faithfulness to God. Both individuals and communities often practiced fasting as a response to sin, tragedy, famine, drought, etc. in the hope that God would restore them. Simply put: It was a way to reconnect with God. For instance, consider the words that God speaks through the Prophet Joel, “Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful…” (Joel 2:12-13a).
By the time Jesus Christ arrived on the scene, Fasting was an important cultural tradition. In fact, you might recall a parable Jesus told (Luke 18:9-14) about a Jewish leader who was prideful about his faithfulness, which included Fasting twice per week. And of course, Jesus supported the practice when he Fasted for 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
In the early Christian Church, fasting became somewhat controversial. Most people recognized it as a positive way to demonstrate faithfulness, but not everyone could agree upon the methods, timing, and rules that should be followed. Some Christians even rejected Fasting because they didn’t want to be associated with Jewish traditions. But despite the resistance, many curious blessings emerged out of Christian Fasting traditions, including Sylvester Graham’s crackers, TB and Charles Welch’s grape juice, John Kellogg’s corn flakes, and even the practices of vegetable and herb gardening.
Today, most Christian Churches do not require a fast. This is probably a good thing, since spiritual disciplines should be practiced out of a desire to become united with God rather than the desires to achieve position within the Church or to invent a new, healthy snack. Fasting should be practiced with much prayer and humility for the specific purpose of growing closer to God.
Today, consider trying a Fast and avoiding a Feast. The 24-hour clock is already ticking so you’re already ahead!