Let’s go fast! Almost every child has uttered these words in a seemingly insatiable desire to enjoy the ride, or to arrive quickly. My memories include merry-go-rounds and bike races…swing sets and sleds. Let’s go fast!! A weightless disregard for anything but the present propelled us forward. The destination was not as important as the sheer joy of the experience.
Somewhere along the path of life, that childish delight is dampened by the gathering darkness of living life. Our desire to soar to the heights is hampered by growing headwinds. For many of us, there is an awakening to the fact that we are “in Adam.” We begin to understand that “all [of us] have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We learn, as our lives are touched by shades of sorrow, sickness and even the passing of friends and loved ones, that, “the wages of sin is death.” With new found clarity we hear the words of God, “From dust you were made and to dust you will return.” Immortality is shaken by the realization of mortality. The innocence of our childhood desire to go fast dissolves into the desperate need to slow down and experience another kind of fast.
Read Joel 2:12-18 – God Calls His People to a Fast
In this passage, God, through the prophet Joel, calls His people to gather for a collective fast and a sacred assembly. They are to come with fasting, mourning and weeping. These actions are directly related to the sinfulness of the people and the sorrow incumbent upon them because of their unfaithfulness. God desires for their hearts to be changed and for them to return to Him. But look what He prescribes: three actions involving the body. Fasting, for example, creates a physical longing within us. We desire food. But, by abstaining from physical sustenance, we are reminded of our need for God. Relieved of the need to concern ourselves with feeding the body, we turn to the need for feeding the soul. From that inner ache of hunger, we refocus on the pain of our sinfulness, which should result in mourning and weeping. This public fast is a shared experience intended for all of God’s people – even the honeymooning couple is expected to participate!
Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 – The Apostle Paul Says that “Now is the Time”
Keeping with the theme of repentance and reconciliation, the Apostle Paul calls us to recognize that now is the acceptable time to repent and return to the Lord. Christians all over the world have been called, like the people in Joel’s day, to a solemn assembly and to participate in a fast. Is this appropriate for New Testament followers of Jesus? Does the Lord want us to do this? Read on…
Read Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 – Jesus Calls us to Alms Giving, Prayer and Fasting
Matthew 6 is in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. In this amazing teaching, Jesus offers the New Covenant Law. He lays out how we are to live as His covenant family. Jesus says to His followers, not if, but, “When you give to the needy,” and “When you pray,” and, “When you fast,” revealing that these activities are not an accessory to the Christian life, but should be a normative practice.
Why, then, do we put a special emphasis on fasting, praying and alms giving during this season? Simply put, Jesus calls us to follow Him. After His baptism, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to fast and pray. There, He was tempted by the devil. As we will see in a few days, what Jesus did in the wilderness in defeating the devil has everything to do with reversing the devil’s defeat of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Like Jesus, we now go into the desert for a season. We are 40 days (not including Sundays) from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. While the world is saying, “Let’s go as fast as we can to Easter so we can enjoy some chocolate bunnies and eggs,” instead, we are called to a solemn assembly. Christians slow down to fast! We dedicate ourselves to prayer and to giving to meet the needs of others. This is a penitent season that calls us to repent for our sins and to return to the Lord. We should not be in a hurry, rather, follow Jesus’ instructions. He said, “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Read Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13 and 17 – David Needed to Repent and So Do We
Some may say, “I don’t need a season to repent. Everything is fine between me and God.” If anyone could say that it was King David. After all, he was a “man after God’s own heart.” Yet, if the truth be told, he was an adulterer and murderer. Even the best of us needs to confess and repent. My prayer is that we will join Christians all over the world in this solemn assembly and penitential season of introspection, fasting, prayer and alms giving.
Ironically, they say, as we get older our lives go by faster and faster. As I watch my children grow to adulthood – with my oldest getting married in October, that axiom seems to be true. I desperately need a time to slow down – and fast! I suspect you do as well. I need to reflect more on my spiritual health, my earthly mission to be an ambassador of Christ, and my eternal destiny in Christ. I suspect you might as well. If we will, when we finally arrive at Resurrection Sunday, our hearts will be prepared. Mourning will turn to dancing and ashes will turn to New Life!
I pray that you will join me as we move through this sacred season following the Pathway to the Passion. Each day the Scriptures will be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. I hope to see you on the journey.