Curses in Disguise
I caught a glimpse this morning of the truth about what we often think are blessings. Comforts and pleasures that we enjoy can often be the greatest hindrances in our lives to seeking intimacy with God. Pleasures and comforts many times fill in the emptiness that is supposed to be filled with God thereby preventing our hunger for God from motivating us to seek Him with an intensity enough to find Him. Lack of spiritual hunger and low levels of desire for God leave us satisfied with such tiny encounters with His glory that we never realize how dangerous our condition is until it may be too late.
Our very gratitude for what we consider to be blessings that are in fact the very things that are keeping us from seeking God seriously, may be a mistake. It may be discovered that we are praising God for curses in our lives rather than things that are truly beneficial to us.
The early Christians experienced such a deep level of intense fellowship with God under persecution that it was little problem for them to face torture and death rather than abandon their loyalty to God who was such a powerful source of life and joy to their souls. But when the emerging apostate church and the state switched tactics and suddenly offered them relief, comfort, ease, recognition and pleasure in place of threats and intimidation and torture, they saw far more clearly than we ever do the immense danger to their souls and their relationship with God in the temptations these things presented. They saw clearly that these things would dampen their passion for God, would dilute their pure faith and would be like an insidious infection that would quickly sap away their strength and would spread poison and death all through their ranks.
We have lived all of our life in this atmosphere of poison and malaise and spiritual weakness, so much so that we have no clue why comforts and pleasures might be considered dangerous. Our prayers are often filled with pleas and petitions begging God for the very things which the early Christians feared the most. We long for comfort and pleasure and status and financial prosperity more than we long for purity, for maturity and for noble character. Some of us with our heads may begin to grasp this truth and make attempts to discipline ourselves, but then Satan moves in to push our experience into legalistic and obnoxious practices so much so that others turn away in disgust from the bigotry and prejudice that too often becomes integrated into such an austere lifestyle.
It is a classic case of two extremes, both of which are equally selfish and full of darkness and misapprehensions about God. One focuses on our desires to feel good, to avoid pain at all costs and to remain in the status quo. The other lives in the opposite extreme out of stern reaction to these selfish motivations rather than living in harmony with the principles found in the Word of God. By living life reactively to the other extreme from either side rather than proactively by seeking to know and do the true will of God and live in love and harmony with Him, Satan manages to keep both extremes away from the real truth that would set them free from selfishness and error.
Recently the practice of fasting has come up several times in my discussions with others. I have been blessed to have learned some vitally important concepts about this that are little talked about. James Wilder in one of his Munchies teachings unpacks the mystery about this practice in such a way that makes total sense in relation to how our brains were designed. Now having learned the true reason and purpose for fasting I can see why many times this practice has not resulted in the desired results. Because most people fail to understand the dynamics involved and what needs to be present during such an exercise, they only end up making themselves miserable and induce a deeper resentment against fasting and maybe even against God rather than experiencing the joy of connecting much closer to the heart of God.
At this point I am sensing that God is turning the screws, amping up the pressure a little bit on my own heart and challenging me to practice what I am learning and sharing with others. He has been noting here and there how much certain things in my life are interfering with my own desire to know Him better, to be more consistent, to raise my priorities for Him much higher in my own internal list of what is important to me. He is exposing some of what is confusing and dulling my own heart from having my prayers answered to come into much closer fellowship with Him and to be used in His service.
Fasting of itself is nothing but a tool, a technique by which my mind and heart become more disciplined and strengthened to reorient my inverted priorities that keep me in slavery and dullness. Fasting has no virtue in itself; it earns no merits with God and does nothing to advance me in holiness. Unless I include into the experience a determined effort to focus my heart and mind on God, humble my heart and seek His face intentionally with increasing passion, it can turn out to just be another futile attempt to impress God or others around me. Fasting like the Pharisees ended up doing it, became an end in itself and Jesus pointed that out. Fasting has far more to do with many other things besides food which is another notion that has kept many people from experiencing good results from it.
True fasting is a deliberate, intentional period of time where I refuse myself or severely restrict something from which I receive pleasure or comfort in order to refocus my heart's awareness and reattach it to the better Source that can give me the only real satisfaction that I crave. It is not enough to just attempt to break attachments or addictions that block me from coming closer to God; I must also move past that and deliberately seek to form new and stronger attachments to the One who only can give me the abundant life that my heart truly craves but is seeking from other things in His place. The main purpose of fasting is to open up the vacancies in my heart, to lance open the wounds, to release the original pain and longings that have been suppressed, misunderstood, ignored or placated with other things for so long and to use those released motivations of pain and longings to redirect and reorient my heart's choices about where it chooses to get its satisfaction for those feelings.
There are actually many dangers in fasting in that I can mistakenly form attachments to other false sources if I am not cognizant of what is taking place or of the true nature of what my heart is seeking to attach to during that time. But at its core, choosing to fast from whatever has been distracting my heart and then purposefully choosing to direct those released, intense cravings into a new channel directed at linking up to God's heart directly is what fasting is supposed to be about and why it can be so effective. It is a powerful tool to strengthen moral muscles, to bond my affections at a far deeper level with another heart and to bring about a far deeper level of self-control and self-discipline that will produce more beneficial results in the life than many other spiritual practices.
Father, keep me aware of what You are leading me to and what You have in mind for me. Draw me closer to Your heart, to Your will for me and remind me constantly of my true identity in Christ. Help me to focus my gratitude to You more on who You are rather than comforts and 'blessings' that may in reality be acting as curses in my life keeping me from having the close bonds with You that I so desperately need. Train me to live for Your glory in everything I do, think and say. Cleanse me of selfishness and fill me with the passionate love that flows from Your heart eternally.