Why Do I Fast? Going for gold
It was a disconcerting pleasure being drawn into the body-thon that was the 2012 Olympics. In fact, cynicism in the run-up was transformed into celebration during. Millions of us watched these other-worldly beings persuade their minds and bodies into extra-ordinary feats of skill, strength and endurance. And that is before we have seen what the disabled athletes can do! We, the British, have just about allowed ourselves to revel in competitive success for a few weeks – with a little more gloating than our culture usually permits.
But it is not real life; it’s the icing on the cake. And these athletes have been baking the cake for a long time. They have lived with extreme deprivation for months and years. In striving for gold they have controlled what they eat, how they spend their time, how much they sleep. They have put themselves through excruciatingly painful physical training. They have battled mind games to suppress the desire to give way and give up on the ultimate goal.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul uses this analogy to show us how to live for Jesus, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (English Standard Version)
When I fast I am foregoing a pleasure in order to discipline my mind and body so that when the pain comes I can run the race, see it through. The gold of the Kingdom is tarnished when we don’t hear or see or run well – so fasting prepares us to do the Kingdom stuff and go for gold.
|Why Do I Fast? Remembering a broken world|
|Jesus was sometimes criticised for not fasting - or at least his disciples were. Why did he fast sometimes and not at other times? Because there are situations where justice has still to be done.
|Why Do I Fast? False comforts|
|The bible encourages us to fast but is not prescriptive about how we should do it nor indeed what it is. People fast in different ways and for different reasons. Here is one of the reasons I fast.
So this is another reason why I fast; to discipline my body and mind. To prove to myself that the goal for which I live my life is more important than the fleeting pleasures of the present. Indeed, although my salvation depends not on what I do to control my body but on what Jesus did in dying for me, I do want to show Him that in living for Him I will fast and discipline myself in order to run for the imperishable prize.
And as I “discipline my body and keep it under control” I become better able to run, to run fast, to last the pace, to lift the weight, to maintain focus under pressure.
This is about our lifestyles - but fasting is the doorway into a disciplined lifestyle. By denying ourselves something for a period we step across the threshold into a way of making decisions that is not just about comfort and ease and the pleasure of the present. I fast in order to learn how to live the whole of my life in a disciplined and controlled way.