Gospel Reassurance

Joe Hwang has an established pattern of fasting in his life as a spiritual discipline so I asked if he had any thoughts or encouragement as we come to the close of this week of fasting. May his words below strengthen your souls as we head into the end of this fast and the Lord's Day together tomorrow... Thanks Joe.

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
— Hebrews 12:11

Fasting, prayer, scripture memory – different spiritual disciplines. Just like exercise, music, or any new skill for that matter, it takes time and discipline to learn. Some will naturally be better than others and pick certain things up more readily. Others will feel wholly inadequate and give it up because it seems too overwhelming. Perhaps this was your first attempt at a fast, and it didn’t quite go like you wanted it to. Or you’ve fasted before, and this things still didn’t go as planned. Maybe you not only felt more prone to sin but actually realized that you seemed to give in to temptation more than usual this past week. Maybe you set certain goals for the fast and caved in a few times. Or you gave up a few days in. Maybe you felt like you made it through the whole week meeting all the fast “requirements” but just didn’t seem to be as spiritually productive as you had hoped. Like the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, sleep was so much easier than prayer.

I know how it feels. The first time I tried to fast, I lasted 2 hours because we were having pizza for dinner. Like any spiritual discipline, no matter how much preparation or teaching goes into it beforehand, it takes time, and discipline, to grow. And growth in the Christian life is not linear. Don’t forget: Gospel. Safety. Time.

Your identity in Christ is not based on your performance. You don’t have to prove yourself to God or earn your standing. Success with spiritual disciplines is not the goal. Knowing Him, being transformed into his likeness, and bringing him glory is the goal. Spiritual disciplines are important in that process, and they can definitely be life-giving and joyful, but they are not the end-all-be-all. Thanks to the gospel, in Christ, the righteous requirements of the law have been fully met. As for safety – find someone to confide in if this didn’t go as expected. Thanks to the gospel, we can admit our shortcomings and weaknesses without being defined by them. Understand that it will take time to grow in spiritual disciplines, and fasting is no different. We all had difficulty crawling before learning to walk and run.

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