I've spent the last two weeks asking us as a church to consider participating in a 40 day fast based on Chris Seay's book entitled "A Place at the Table". This is not a "water only" for 40 days fast, but rather it's a "consider your portion size and eat a diet similar to those who are less fortunate" fast. I know this seems a bit ambiguous and I really meant for it to be that way. My hope is not to create a list of legalistic rules for you to follow, but rather for you and/or your family to evaluate and discuss the best way for you all to participate in a way that glorifies God and serves others. Over the last couple of weeks, I've thought of a few things for you to consider that might make you and/or your family prepare to get the most benefit out of the fast. In no particular order, here they are:
- For the "rule followers" this is probably particularly difficult because it isn't spelled out exactly. The fast isn't designed to put a weight around your neck and drag you down, but to free you to honor Christ in your effort to sacrifice as you serve others. My encouragement for you would be to talk as a family and develop a plan and aim to stick to it. Perhaps, if you have kids, you don't make them fast at breakfast or lunch while they're at school, but they participate in the fast by eating healthy snacks, not drinking super sugary drinks and eat whatever the rest of the family has for dinner.
- For those who might be thinking "I'm free because of God's grace, I don't need any rules", you're right, but practicing spiritual disciplines is a great way to worship God. Perhaps for you this process might help you sacrifice some of your freedom for the glory of God and for others good. As you do this, perhaps you'll be able to better understand that Jesus was willing to put on flesh, be under the law, walk in perfection and still be crucified for other people's sin. His death was for the glory of the Father and the redemption of others. That's the greatest sacrifice ever. Use this time to enjoy some time with your family encouraging them to consider what Christ has done to make your freedom possible.
- The only "rules" that exist are really the dates. The fast begins October 14 and ends on November 22, which is Thanksgiving. One of the unique aspects of this fast is that Sundays (including Oct. 14) and Nov. 22 are feast days. On those days, you're free to enjoy whatever you want.
- Ok, maybe another "rule" would be that we're providing you with a copy of "A Place at the Table" at some point each day, you should read the day's reading together.
- You might be wondering how "forceful" you should be with your children who are very young and don't yet understand the gospel or with children who are unbelievers. For young children, go at a pace that works for you. You can probably make some healthy snack choices and if they eat what you eat for meals that might work, but don't feel like your life has to be miserable for the next 40 days because your child doesn't like refried beans. For the child that may be old enough to really understand the gospel but isn't yet following Christ, I'd encourage to give grace. Encourage them to participate with you, pray for them, tell them you're praying for them, be humble, use the fast to teach them the gospel. If they refuse to do the fast, model sacrificial behavior as best you can by maybe providing an alternative meal option, and invite them again each week to join you. Above all, try not to get frustrated with them, love them, pray for them, ask God to help you model the gospel by serving them and pointing them toward Christ.
- I've asked you to consider the amount of money you usually spend on groceries. If you're eating smaller portions, only what you need, not what you want, then you'll probably save some money. You might be wondering what to do with that. Remember, I want you to consider doing an Operation Christmas Child shoe box (which will be brought to the church in early November) and adopt an angel through the Angel Tree program (which we'll partner with Westwood Elementary). You won't give the money to the church or anything like that, just invest in these areas.
My prayer is that if you're still on the fence about what to do or if you aren't sure if you want to participate you'll consider Christ and his love for you and that it would stir your affection for him and give you a desire to serve others. We're a blessed people and I pray through this fast we'll begin to understand just how true that is and we'll more effectively use our resources for His glory as we worship him. My desire for this time together is "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) May we exalt Christ and more fully understand the reality of his sacrifice for us.
Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions or how I can pray for you or your family through this time together. I'd love to know what your thoughts are leading up to the fast.
In my life, Lord, Be Glorified...