Yesterday at The University of Texas, we kicked off a 21-day fast with almost 200 students from about 15 different ministries. Over the next 3 weeks, these students, along with many of their campus ministers and leaders will be committing to praying everyday for at least an hour, and living sacrificially in an effort to draw closer to God.
What’s the difference between this fast and other fasts? It’s not so much food that we’re fasting from, but rather different forms of media like TV, movies, facebook, youtube, twitter, podcasts… the list goes on. We all get to pick what we want to fast from, and then comes the real challenge – praying consistently everyday, and staying away from the things we’re giving up during this fast.
So there you have it, the guidelines have been established, the parameters have been set. So now I suppose, there’s only one question left to answer: Why on earth are we choosing to do this in the first place?
Honestly? Because it’s time to clear the clutter.
Maxed Out on Media
They call us the “ipod generation” for good reason. I’m barely twenty-five but kids sometimes look at me as if I come from the Dark Ages simply because portable music back in my day meant carrying a discman where you could play ONE cd at a time, and it was even cooler if you had a 40-second anti-skip system on it. Forget about explaining walkmans. What is this tape device that you speak of? Only an hour’s worth of music?! *gasp* Oh the horrors of it all.
Yes, okay I get it. Us “old people” were terribly deprived when we were young… or were we? Technology is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I remember being highly grateful during my college days for search engines like google which enabled me to work on papers in the comfort of my apartment instead of having to search through tons of heavy, musty books at the library. But while the advances are amazing and enthralling, is it really making our lives easier? Or is it just adding more things to crowd our already busy lives?
There’s an old proverb that says “all things in moderation” that I think we would do well to heed in this day and age. Once upon a time where it was rude to take a phone call during a meal, it’s now accepted for individuals to forego conversation and sit in silent company in lieu of texting, checking email or playing games on their phone. Our generation has become so captivated with getting the latest news, watching the funniest videos and tweeting everything they see that community and relationships are getting lost in the mix.
Clear the Stage
A few years ago, the theme for one of our Rez Weeks (a week long Jesus celebration on campus) was “Clear the Stage.” Simple and straightforward, the message was also profound. We as a Christian body realized we had let so many new and exciting seemingly good things into our lives that we were now too busy for Jesus. We had missed the mark, and it was time to do something about it.
This fast that we’re doing for the next three weeks reminds me of this. We’re clearing the stage so that God can take center focus like He was always meant to. We’re cleansing ourselves of things that have been distractions from spending time with Him and hearing His voice, and once again opening ourselves up to His leading.
We’re doing this, not because we want to show how spiritually superior we are to other Christians, but because there is a genuine desire to draw closer to Him and take our relationship with Him to the next level.
Fast and Pray, Always Together, Never Apart
This fast is probably the most intense one we’ve done yet as a corporate body here at UT, mainly because we’re asking people to commit to praying for an hour everyday and going through a set prayer guide.
While it’s definitely a bigger commitment, it’s something that I don’t just think is good, I think is absolutely what God desires for us when we fast. Here’s the thing about fasting: without prayer as a big component, it becomes nothing more then a show of willpower. How long can I go without something I like before I cave in? Maybe it gives a slight moment of satisfaction knowing you passed this self imposed test, but beyond that it doesn’t do much.
We must understand that when it comes to fasting, the reason we pray is so that we can fill ourselves with more of God now that we’ve taken out some things in our lives. Not to do so, would leave us open to getting into worse things, and then we would end up like the house cleansed momentarily of one spirit, only to have seven more return. (Matthew 12:43-45)
And It Begins
So here we are then, at the beginning of a 21 day process of clearing our lives so that God can use us better. This time round, I’ve chosen to give up TV, movies, youtube, listening to the radio and excessive smart phone use, and boy that’s going to be interesting. Already there’s a weekly TV show tonight that I’m used to watching, but instead will be praying at our UT tower for an hour, and then finding better use of my time at home instead of vegging out on the couch.
My point today? Fasting is challenging, but it is not without it’s rewards. If anything, it always shows me where my heart is in relation to God, and gives me time to spend with Him and seek direction on how to correct things so I can be fully used by Him for the glory of His kingdom. And that, is always a good thing.
So today, if you’ve never fasted before, trying picking one or two things and give it up sacrificially, and use that time to spend it with God and pray. 21 days from now, I guarantee your life will be changed. What are you waiting for? Give it a shot!
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org