Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Fast God Desires

In the evangelical churches I had attended, fasting was seldom, if ever mentioned, and all I knew about Lent was that it was somehow connected to Mardi Gras.  I had no idea what a powerful instrument of spiritual growth this discipline could be. 

Several years ago, however, I had a friend who was completely serious about her Lenten fast.  She prayed for weeks about what to give up, and her time of sacrifice became an opportunity to draw closer to her Lord.  One year she invited me to join her, and the experience radically changed my heart.  Over the years, I fasted everything from shopping to meat to everything except liquids.  

The year God called me to fast from sin was the most life changing of all.  I was studying Isaiah 58, and felt led to do “the fast He chose.”  God’s fast, Isaiah explained, involved loosening the bonds of wickedness, undoing the bands of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free.  It was dividing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the naked.  

“How do I do this fast, Lord?” I prayed.  Ever so gently, that still, small Voice explained that pride and selfishness were bonds of wickedness in my life that needed to be loosened.  It hurt to hear that, because I was so busy and focused on the needs of my family, I often overlooked the needs of those around me.  I had plenty of “good deeds” others could see, but few things only God could see.  
Isaiah 58:8-12 explains the benefit of such a fast.  God promises light in the darkness, guidance, contentment, and productivity.  Best of all, He promises intimacy beyond your wildest dreams.  “Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.”  

Just as He promised, God worked in me during that Lenten season, and became as intimately personal as my next breath.  When I cried out to Him, He answered, “I’m right here, dear one.”  At the end of those forty days, Easter was a glorious celebration of my life in Christ and the renewal my spirit had experienced.  

This Lenten season, why not ask God to reveal and remove your “bonds of wickedness”?   Your life, and your faith, will never be the same again.