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Brethren, that time of year has come upon us again. It is Lenten Season. It is the season of introspection, self-evaluation, fasting, abstinence, repentance and penitence. It is the time of humility, the time to acknowledge the power and supremacy of God almighty. It is the time to remember the damage that sin had done to the humankind and the damage that sin is still doing. It is the time to see where we are situated in our journey of faith and make a good effort to change our ways and look up to God’s grace for empowerment to stay on the right track. Beginning Wednesday (Ash Wednesday – 02/26/2020), Christians all over the world will begin fasting daily except on Sundays until the Saturday before Easter known as the Holy Saturday, which this year is Saturday, April 11.
In concrete terms, the Lent Season is a period of forty days just before the Resurrection Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 4:1-2, we read that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Obviously the 40 days of Lent must have taken its root from this event. Consequently, many Christians all over the world will be fasting or abstaining from food and other things at which time it is expected that they will focus primarily on their relationship with God. It is a time we should pray, read the Bible, serve the poor, observe moments of silence in meditation, and engage in habits that enrich the soul. Fasting is a gift that God has given to the Church in order to help us persevere in prayer.
Fasting gets us closer to God by strengthening our spirit. Fasting also helps to situate our prayers on solid footing. We should however be careful about turning fasting into an instrument of negotiation with God. Very often people have replaced Godliness in their lives with fasting. Fasting is supposed to be a way of taking control away from the ungodly things that have taken hold of our lives while leaving absolute control in the hands of God. If we fast and still do not yield control of our lives to God, then we waste our time. If we fast and still engage in ungodly things, then our fasts are but futile. Abstaining from food without penitence is nothing short of a hunger strike. Isaiah 58:5 makes this very clear, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” Humility without godliness achieves nothing. Fasting is not an end by itself. For our fasts to have meanings they must go along with godliness.
Aside from the need to follow in the footsteps of Christ, the Bible spells out other reasons we fast. Isaiah 58:6-7 says an acceptable fast should include loosing the chains of injustice, untying the cords of yoke, setting the oppressed free, breaking yokes, sharing food with the hungry, offering shelter to the wanderer, clothing the naked, and taking care of our brothers and sisters. Jonah 3:8 says fasting is about penitence. We, of course use fasting to try and influence God – exploits can only happen by fasting and prayer – Mark 9:29, but as we read in 2 Samuel 12:16-22, we can only try. Only God’s grace fulfills desires.
As I often say during this season, when you fast in the Lenten Season, evaluate and re-evaluate your walk with God. Be penitent – do not just abstain from food but be remorseful and make a firm resolve to change for good. Pray fervently as prayer helps convey our remorse to God while strengthening our relationship with Him. Finally, be a witness for God. Use the opportunity offered by the season to share the knowledge of God’s grace. Colossians 1:26-27 tells us that God has chosen His people to make known the mystery that has been disclosed to you among the Gentiles: which is Christ in us, the hope of glory. We must share that hope. Witness about His God’s goodness, His mercy and His grace. Do it in words and in kind. Take on a cause for Christ. Wherever you are, join an evangelism team, take part in feeding the poor, volunteer in and outside of church, and donate money for the needy. Look for noble causes and do something that draws attention to God. Make that resolve this season, not only to change yourself for God, but make that resolve to also impact your world for Him. When we do that, our fast will be meaningful – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya