One of my shortcomings is that I am not very good at communicating with people. I have often made the mistake of not letting people know what is going on, or what the plan is; I just assume that they are on the same page – but often they aren’t… So, I realized that I need to work on communicating better with people – including the church, and these meetings are one of the ways I've started doing that.
Since we started this, the results have been very fruitful. People appreciate being brought up to speed on what’s going on, it makes them feel more involved in the church community, like they really are a valuable participant and not just a butt in a chair. It also results in us working together, as one unit, rather than everybody just going different directions and doing their own thing.
At this last vision meeting we talked about a lot of outreaches we would like to do this year, as well as some bigger, long term plans. One of the guys in our church, Peti, had it on his heart that we would pray and fast as a church, and he organized a prayer and fasting chain. I was glad to see his initiative and the church working organically - something I have been seeing more and more, and which I consider a good sign of maturity and a healthy church.
This week 13 people in the church have been taking part in the fast. This has been a really good thing for our church, and it is something I hope will become a regular practice for us.
There are many reasons why fasting is a good and helpful practice for believers. Here are a few:
- When you fast, you are teaching yourself to withstand temptation. You are essentially placing a temptation before yourself by denying yourself something, and by doing so you are strengthening yourself. You are teaching yourself to say no to temptation by placing a temptation before yourself, so that you when you are faced with an actual temptation, you will know how to withstand it, because you have trained yourself in saying no to your flesh.
The point is that we would become master over our flesh, rather than allowing the demands of our flesh to dominate our lives. Fasting can help to break the hold that your flesh's demands have on your life.
- Fasting makes you better appreciate what you have. You realize how much you take God's grace for granted and how blessed you really are, when you go without something. We can take for granted the fact that we always have food to eat and a roof over our heads; choosing to fast from something makes you more thankful for what you have.
John Piper, in his book "A Hunger for God" talks about fasting for the purpose of having greater compassion for the poor and hungry.
- Fasting adds a dynamic to prayer. Fasting which isn't done together with focused prayer is nothing more than a diet! The point of fasting is that it would add a dynamic to your prayer life. You give up something physical to spend time with the spiritual. You deny your flesh to nourish your spirit, and your outer, fleshly man becomes weak as your inner, spiritual man gets stronger, and you do spiritual work in your now strengthened inner man.
In Mark 9, Jesus alluded to the idea that fasting should be a regular part of our lifestyle, and that there are something which will not change if we don't spend time in dedicated prayer and fasting. It is a bit of a mystery how exactly this dynamic of fasting works, but I'm willing to take Jesus at his word on it, and do it even if I don't completely understand the mechanics of it.