Are You Missing Out?
Are you growing the way you should as
a Christian-in character, love and service to
others? If not, it may be because you're
not using a powerful spiritual tool!
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By George M. Kackos
Feeling the afternoon sun on His shoulder, He moved farther down
behind the massive boulder that had been His refuge
for several days.
Jesus Christ felt physically drained. His throat ached from dryness. He looked forward to nightfall, when the temperature of the desert air would drop.
But He knew the cold of the night would not take away the knotting, twisting pain in His stomach.
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus Christ fasted for more than a month-40 days and 40 nights. That's difficult to imagine.
For most of us, it's not only difficult to imagine, fasting is not something we want to think about much at all, whether we are talking about for one or for 40 days. Let's face it. Who wants to feel bad? Who wants a headache or a stomach ache, or to watch his or her energy and strength evaporate as the hours pass?
All these things can happen when you fast!
So why fast? Why deny yourself food and water and make yourself miserable physically?
Without convincing answers, your desire to fast will also evaporate! You'll want to avoid using the very tool that can open up the way to life's greatest blessings.
What do you want most in life? To grow in righteous character and learn spiritual truth? To receive God's help with problems? To do God's Work and serve others?
These are life's greatest blessings-far more important than mere physical satisfaction!
But, sad to say, we often fail to live by God's values. The temporary, self-centered values of this world destroy our desire to live by God's will. The weaknesses of the flesh overwhelm us and make us prisoners of lusts and wrong habits (Matthew 26:41).
At times we feel helpless to change our ways. Like a powerful magnet, Satan draws us to his false values (Ephesians 6:11).
We need God's help.
Through fasting, you will receive the help to resist Satan's values and live by God's values. Fasting illuminates your weaknesses and reveals God's greatness. No longer will you be as easily victimized by the fleshly pulls that strangle your spiritual growth.
How do we know? Read these inspiring words:
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6).
Fasting develops in you love and respect for others:
"Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?" (verse 7).
As a result of fasting, you will reap a bumper crop of blessings: Your understanding of God's Word will increase and your prayers will receive answers. "Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you.... Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, `Here I am' (verses 8-9).
Just think of what this means! Your agonizing problems could be resolved. You could rid yourself of negative attitudes. Your selfishness could be replaced with God's love.Your relationship with others could improve. You could obtain divine guidance in decisions you need to make. God could be moved to perform mighty miracles for his Work, for others or for you. But how do you use this powerful tool?
Set Aside Time
Effective fasting requires time-time away from your everyday
responsibilities. You need time to get close to God.
Failure to set apart this time can defeat the purpose of fasting. Ideally, you should use time away from your regular job. Of course, some duties have to be performed. But the point is, don't fill the time with unnecessary work projects or entertainment.
One day without food or water is an acceptable fast; two or three days may be appropriate on occasion (Leviticus 23:28, 32. Esther 4:16). Fasting longer than two or three days should be done only after seeking competent health advice.
If you have a medical problem, a limited amount of food or water may be taken-check with a health professional for guidance.
Since fasting should be done in response to a need in your life, someone else's life or God's Work, the duration and frequency may van-. But realize this vital point: Fasting should not be reserved for emergencies only; it should be done as often as is necessary to stay close to God.
Fasting is not penance. Neither is it a "hunger strike" to force your will on God or other people. Those who fast this way will fail (Luke 18:9-14).
The purpose of fasting is to humble yourself before God, to gain a deeper insight into God's will and to utilize His power to fulfill His will. By growing in these areas, you will experience more answers to your prayers.
But how do you humble yourself? How do you gain insight into God's will? How do you tap the power of God?
You begin by seeing your physical weaknesses, through the discomfort of fasting. You realize that your existence is totally dependent on physical nourishment.
You then transfer these thoughts to your spiritual condition, and think about the weaknesses and flaws in your character. Realize how essential God's power is for spiritual success.
Try to determine what God wants you to see about yourself. Don't assume you already know. Our minds are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and will go to great lengths to prevent us from seeing ourselves as we really are.
Ask God to give you this insight, but don't stop there. Ask yourself penetrating questions that will reveal your real values.
What are your problems?
Are you putting God first in your life? Is this reflected in your prayer life, Bible study and support of God's Work?
What about your relationship with others? What is needed to improve your marriage, solve your child-rearing problems or resolve a dispute with someone?
Where do you need to grow in the fruits of God's spirit? What bad habits or sins have you been justifying? Could it be you've subtly developed a negative, fearful or prideful attitude that you're not aware of?
Don't be satisfied with general, vague answers to these questions. Be thorough in your self-examination. Be specific. Be brutally honest. See yourself as you really are (II Corinthians 13:5).
Use God's Word as a guide in seeing yourself. Study subjects that are relevant to your situation. Select articles and booklets from our publications that will help you see God's will.
Don't overlook prayer
Prayer is a vital dimension in fasting. Throughout the Bible, prayer and fasting are mentioned together.
The ancient prophet Daniel humbled himself before God and prayed for the sins of Israel: "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him to give him understanding of a pivotal vision the 70-weeks prophecy (verses 20-27).
Daniel confessed his people's sins (verses 5-19). He was honest and straightforward about the long list of wrongs against God.
You, too, should confess your sins to God. Don't cover them up or pretend they're not there. Ask for strength and deliverance from your difficulties. God says He has mercy on those who own up to their sins (Proverbs 28:13).
By properly combining the tools of meditation, fasting, Bible study and prayer, you can gain humility, knowledge of God's will and strength to overcome sins and weaknesses.
When you have gotten close to God, ask Him for the blessings that you or others need. In doing so, remember to thank God for the many blessings you already have. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
So what about it? Are you convinced that fasting is worth the effort? Do you see the tremendous value-the wonderful blessings-that could be yours?
Think about it: Is there anything more important than being close to God? Is there any greater purpose than doing God's will now, in this life, and entering God's Kingdom at the return of Jesus Christ?
Ask yourself: What is holding you back from drawing closer to God? Are you having problems proving where the true Church of God is? Are you unwilling to act on the truth that you already know because you fear the opinions of others?
What about the Sabbath? Is your fear of losing your job keeping you from obeying God's test commandment?
Do you lack faith in God's promises to help you? Are you having problems praying, overcoming smoking or controlling your emotions?
No matter what the problems, fasting can help you overcome them and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promises.