Faith and Unbelief. Day seven-two...
When I'm trying to carry on a conversation with someone while a TV is running in the background, I tend to give the person about half of my attention—if that much. There's just something about the audio‐visual stimulus that sucks away my attention.
No one, of course, likes to spend time with someone who has one leg on another planet. And if Sherrel is the victim, she calls me back with a comment like, “Earth to Mike! Hello!”
But it's not just the television that can siphon off my attention from another person. Just about anything that moves and makes noise can distract me. So what's the solution?
Shut off, or at least tune out, the distractions.
I am convinced that at its “heart” the fast is meant to help us learn how to shut off, or at least tune out, all the distractions siphoning our attention away from God.
Those critical of Jesus asked Him why His disciples didn't fast like the disciples of John the Baptist or the disciples of the Pharisees.
Then they said to Him, “John's disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” Jesus said to them, “You can't make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them—then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:33–35 HCSB)
Jesus implies that fasting isn't necessary in His presence. It's in His absence that fasting becomes necessary. I believe He also confirms, in the parable immediately following (see Luke 5:36–39), the idea of a totally different manifestation of the law (which would include the fast) under a new covenant. And we risk a mess if we try to mix the old and the new together.
When I put all this together in my mind, it appears to me that the fast is a way to shut off, or at least tune out, all the distractions that siphon my attention away from God.
I don't think it even matters what kind of fast I choose. The key, as far as I'm concerned, is to say a great big, “No!” to the distractions. Let me illustrate.
If you decide to do a twenty‐four‐hour water‐only fast, certain things are predictable. If the last food you are going to eat for twenty‐four hours is your evening meal on, say, a Friday night, I can guarantee you that after the meal—no matter how much you eat—you will be hungry again within the hour. It's as if your body knows it's not going to eat again for a while and insists on letting you know that it is hungry.
What becomes important is how you handle the resistance your human nature throws up against you—no matter what kind of fast you choose.
The worst thing you can do is to allow yourself to suffer from the resistance.
- “I've got a headache.”
- “I'm hungry.”
- “I'm so dizzy, my head's spinning.”
- “I feel like cracking someone's head open.”
- “My stomach is churning.”
If you mope around and agree with your human nature's complaints, you will kill the effectiveness of your fast. Don't agree with the complaints, but deal with your human nature like David did.
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:1–5 KJV)
Give yourself a little talking to, “Self, you do not have a problem. You will bless the Lord!”
Whatever you are fasting, if you mope around and feel sorry for your deprivation then you have lost the significance of the fast.
Your focus, in that case, will be on the circumstances and not on Jesus.
If, however, you do not allow whatever you fast to affect you then you have effectively shut off, or at least tuned out, the distractions that are siphoning your attention away from the Lord.
Take these thoughts and try some kind of a fast—remembering that the goal is becoming increasingly aware of the presence of God through shutting off, or at least ignoring, all the distractions.
“What should I fast, and how often should I fast?” That is a question for the Lord—and no one else. He knows what you need to learn to control. And He will tell you exactly how to handle it, if you will listen.
Have a good day,