When God created the world and everything in it, He ended each day with an inspection of His work and a declaration, “It is good”! It is impossible to comprehend the number of choices God processed as He decided what everything would look like, how it would function, and how it all fit together. The creativity of all the universe is staggering. On a much smaller scale each one of us has his life to use up, his character to develop, his goals and dreams to accomplish. When I get to the end of a week like tonight, I think about all that I have done, what I have done that was good, wise, and blessed others, what I did that I should have replaced with something else. At end of some weeks I feel really good about the choices, activities, and results and I declare to myself, “Now, that was a good week”. It is sort of like an artist stepping back and looking at his painting, and thinking, “now that looks very good”. The key for me to get to the end of a week with a great sense of victory in my life and the work I have accomplished is to choose to do what matters most every day all day long. The number of choices available to us in this day and age is incredible and the result for many is a lot of wrong choices or decision paralysis. The decision making process creates great stress for many as they agonize over what should I do. The single most important grid for shorting through the options for me is the question, “does it contribute to the accomplishment of my goals”. If it doesn’t I chuck it even if it is a really good thing, because you can only do so much so decide ahead of time what that will be and express it in the form of a goal and stay focused on it. The result is a lot of really good weeks.
It is so fun to watch people who have obviously practiced for hundreds if not thousands of hours, perform. They have perfected their various skills to near perfection. The hours and hours of practice, strength training, and eating just the perfect foods takes immense amounts of self-control, what is the motivation behind it all? We all know the answer to that, to win the gold medal in front of the world. As I watched I thought I should put forth that much discipline, effort, hard work, and sacrifice to living the Christian life, to growing to be like Jesus in character, and to bearing much fruit for God. The Apostle Paul says they are motivated by the hope of winning a prize that won’t last, that is in a year no one will remember who who won what, but the awards we receive at the “judgment Seat of Christ” will last forever. Why don’t more believers put out that kind of effort and discipline? Why don’t I? I think the key is a fuller understanding of “The Judgment Seat of Christ”, and then a faith that it will happen, and that the rewards received are real and worth the sacrifice. Is the effort worth it?
Yesterday I wrote in my blog that choosing to fast was like choosing to run a marathon, you know it is going to be in the super hard category, but you choose to do it anyway, and then I went on to write that choosing to fast was much harder than choosing to run a marathon. I reread yesterday’s blog today and as I read that part about the marathons I thought, “really?, you haven’t done any running whatsoever for 5 years-what’s with that?” My defensive response to myself was, “with the onset of Parkinson’s running became painful and hard, so I quit!” The side of me that started this conversation, the weird, crazy and B-HAG side said, “You quit!! you wimp!! You are always telling everyone to do the hard thing, and then you quit!!” Then my sane, intelligent, reasonable, and wimpy side said, “OK, OK, get off my back, I will do it”. So I wrote a new goal to run the Portland Marathon on October 7th, and then I got on the tread mill after riding my bike for an hour and ran/walked for 20 minutes. It was pretty slow going averaging 4 mph or 15 minute miles. Most people can walk faster than that. Oh well, I gotta start somewhere, and I did start. I like my highly intelligent, wimpy side better than my weird and crazy side, for sure!
I ended my fast at the end of 8 days instead of 10. I will do 10 next time. There several reasons why I ended early including, “I am a wimp”, but the main one was I was doing good except when I walked very far, today I was getting dizzy whenever I walked. Tomorrow I am going to the Portland Sportsman’s show, which I haven’t missed since I was 15 years old. There is non-stop walking for about 4 hours in that, so I decided to eat a bowl of high fiber cereal and a little bit of rice tonight. Now as I sit in my recliner writing this I feel really good! The challenge of fasting was a good one for me, and I am planning on regular times of fasting in the days ahead. In the 8 days I lost 15 pounds and I will try to keep it off, and then lose some more next time which will be the middle of March before Easter. The fasting didn’t change anything about my Parkinson’s, but I tried to lower my medication starting the 3rd day of fasting, but I had lots of problems when I did so I went back to my normal. I do feel like the five days of,prayer was especially good for me this time, feeling a real sense of God’s presence most of the time, and I attribute that to my fasting. I am sure my self-control level went up, and it will go even higher the next time, that is a big plus for me. Fasting is like choosing to run a marathon, you do it because it is a challenge and because it is good for you. I have run 5 marathons and this 8 days of fasting took more effort, self-control, and determination not to quit than than any of the marathons came close to doing. On the next one I will let you know early so you can join me even for a day
I am fasting with water only and some coffee for ten days. I have never done a total fast for ten days so this was a new challenge. So far I feel good, no weakness, or bouts of nauseousness which is common. I rode my stationary bike for an hour tonight, and didn’t feel any more tired than normal. I have written about 5 reasons I chose to do this fast, and today I realized there was a 6th reason which is very significant for me. I hadn’t identified it as a motive because I had included it with the quest for greater self-control motive, but it really does stand alone as a growing motive in the choices I make.
In the Old Testament the sin that God hated most was idolatry, worshiping something else besides the one true God. The first of the “Ten Commandments” is “Thou shall have no other God’s besides Me”. In the United States we are more sophisticated than to worship a wood carving covered in gold, or the sun. I believe that the number one idol in the U.S. is the god of comfort. We generally as a culture have been brainwashed into believing that life ought to be comfortable with few problems or trials if any, and if we do have trials we question God’s love for us and sometimes even His existence. The motto of our day is “It’s so hard”, and we even say it with a Country Music nasally twang!
According to the Bible God purposely made life hard, full of trials and problems so that we would grow in character, character that we will take with us into eternity, but the trials of life produce no growth in the person who grumbles and complains and says “It’s so hard”.
So I believe it is good to choose to do something that is hard periodically, just because it is hard, so that we learn to manage hard, to overcome hard, to learn that joy doesn’t come from comfort, it comes from hard, the only thing that comes from comfort and easy is boredom.
I am half way now on my 10 day fast and it is going pretty good. I am not feeling any ill affects, and I toad my stationary bike for an hour tonight.
The first reason I am doing this is to increase my prayer power with God. The second reason is to grow in self-control. The third reason is to possibly experience some health benefits. The fourth reason is to be a model and an encouragement to others who might want to try this for the same reasons.
The fifth reason is to lose some weight, and so far I have lost 16 lbs.
I am fasting with water only for 10 days, and I am just finishing day 4 and I am feeling fine, and I even rode my stationary bike for an hour while watching the Super Bowl, wow, what a game that was. I have 5 motives for choosing to do this fast.
The first reason is that our “Five Days of Prayer” at Jefferson Baptist Church, starts tomorrow, and I will be praying about 8 hours each day with people from our church. We are praying specifically for the mission works that we have started and the missionaries that we support around the world. Fasting in conjunction with prayer increases my prayer power with God, and I want to see many, many people around the world come to have a personal relationship with Jesus so they can live with Him forever. Fasting is one of my least favorite things to do in all of life, but if people are changed forever it seems a small price to pay.
My second motive is that I want to grow in character to become more and more like Jesus. Self-control is a major character trait that is a key to growing more mature every day. Self-control grows like our muscles grow stronger, exercising and adding a little more weight on the bar each time we do it. The resistance of the weights that our muscles push against makes us stronger, and in the same way if I do things periodically like fasting that requires a huge amount of self-control, and if I can make the 10 days without cheating when everyone has gone to bed, I will have grown in self-control. If I can grow even a little bit in controlling what I think, what I speak out of my mouth, and the impulsiveness of some of my choices this 10 days without food will be worth it.
The third reason is to promote better health of my physical body. I have read several books that have listed significant health benefits to an extended fast with no food. It is so much more enjoyable living life feeling good and strong as apposed to being tired and aching all day. This is an experiment to see what does improve, but if there is any noticeable improvement in my health I will be highly motivated to make this a regular part of my life.
Reason number 4 wasn’t a reason when I started but has become one as I have discussed my fast with people who are interested and concerned about this adventure of sorts that I am attempting. As a Pastor I want to model right living for people that I have influence with. I am far from perfect, but the journey and the attempt to grow faithfully as a person in godly character and maturity is a choice that we all make daily, and I want to be a motivation for many others to make the effort to become a better person every day that they live. A number of people are fasting with me and a much larger number are thinking about fasting for even one or two meals as they follow what I am doing. Who wouldn’t want more motivation to pray and more power when they do pray, who wouldn’t want more self-control, and who wouldn’t want better health.