Fasting: Giving Up Something or Exchange

About once a year our community of Faith, Vineyard Community Church, Shoreline, WA has a specific three day prayer and fast. Today is the beginning of this period. So this morning Rose Swetman, the co-Pastor with her husband Rich, spoke on fasting. During her presentation she mentioned other things beside food that one might fast. I was struck with the thought that what she was talking about was exchanging one story for another story.

We all live in some story. Most followers of Jesus think the story they live in is God’s Story. Often, however, they discover that it really is another story which is often a pervasive cultural story. We need small respites of time to exchange the story we live in with a different story. Food is often thought of as a way of fasting, but is often a struggle because we think we are being asked to “give up” something.

What if we thought of fasting as an exchange of one thing for another? The story in John 4 is about Jesus chatting with the woman at the well. His disciples had gone off to the city to get some food and left him alone at the well. When they returned, they found Jesus chatting with a woman and when she leaves to share the good news with her neighbors, his disciples suggest that he should eat something. “But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about'” (John 4.32). The disciples thought someone may have given him food in their absence. Jesus tells them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4.34). Fascinating! He had not given up food for some unknown reason. He had simply exchanged eating for ministry and the result was he was nourished in a way far greater than the physical food may have provided for him.

Two areas that Rose mentioned were worry for non-worry and negative for positive. Again this is a story change. Jesus has something to say about worry.

25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 5.25-34).

Notice, the exchange is from worry to seeking the kingdom of God. If one comprehends the rule of God, the Creator of the universe, in one’s life, what’s to worry about? One story says worry. The other story says seek God’s rule.

Paul has something to say about the story of negative thinking and postivie thinking. In Philippians 4 he says:

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4.8-9).

What if we exchanged food for ministry on occasion to discover what the nourishment of God is? What if we exchanged worry for the rule of God? What if we exchanged our persistent negative with thoughts about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent, or praiseworthy?

How would exchanging one story for another for a short period of time entice us to change stories for longer periods of time until living in God’s story became a natural part of our life, not something that we just practiced once in a while, but as God’s new creation, it was the way in which we intentionally chose to live?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Odle November 14, 2006 at 9:19 pm

Very well written, I love your short, but powerful synopsis of truths.


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