Formed by fasting: When "no" is the gateway to "yes".

This week's devotional is from Pastor Art Greco.

ENCOUNTER

There is a direct correlation between the decisions we make and the formation we experience.  More specifically, our choices dictate what is formed in us. That’s the idea of that old Cherokee proverb most of us have heard at one time or another:

“A fight is raging inside me. It’s a fight between two powerful wolves.,” said a young Cherokee to his Grandfather.  “One is evil, mean, selfish, and prideful; the other is good, kind, generous, and compassionate.  Which one will win, Grandfather?”

His grandfather’s answer has landed hard on the ears of everyone who’s heard this illustration over the years.  “The one you feed,” said the Grandfather. “That’s what always wins.”

And that proverb is accurate, except that sometimes, as in the case of the practice of fasting, we “feed” the areas of desired formation by NOT feeding them. Sometimes the gateway to “yes” is a good, solid, firm “no” – the willingness to be formed by both literal and figurative “starvation”.

BE REFLECTIVE

Go back to one passage that was mentioned in last Sunday’s message, I Corinthians 9.  The focus last Sunday was verse 27, but the wider context speaks of motives and effect. With both Bible and notepad open, read the entire 9th chapter.  The whole thing is about the correct use of freedom and, more specifically, the kind of maturity involved in and developed by the purposeful and deliberate decision to deny oneself the right to that freedom.  In other words, when we say no to practices we have a perfect right to employ, formation happens – formation of the heart, formation of the mind, formation of the soul – all sorts of formation.  Why?  Because fasting is designed to help us break our attachments to some things in order to enhance our attachments to the best things. It’s designed to form us.

As you read I Corinthians 9, what freedoms come to mind that you may be holding to that might be potential instruments of growth for you?  For example, your right to speak freely about your favorite politician; your right to choose which people you allow access to the deepest levels of your heart; or as Paul states, your right to enjoy your spouse and all the intimacies that come with the privilege of marriage.  None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but ask the question, “What formational opportunity might I be missing out on by NOT denying myself of these rights?”.

Jot down any thoughts you might have.  Now look over your notes and simply consider them.

BE A BLESSING

Sometimes the one we bless is God himself. That’s the essence of worship, isn’t it?  Blessing God.  Do that with your Bible and notes laid out before you.  Bless him. Ask the Holy Spirit to cause you to notice the more relevant phases in your notes.  Ask him to give you strength and insights needed to act on what you see there.  Express your desire to be formed by him and your willingness to find the gateway to “yes” by saying “no” to things – even good things.  Then offer this blessing to God:

“May your heart soar with the realization that your servant loves you and is hungry to be formed by you.  Here am I, Lord; form me.”

BE TOGETHER

Be present this week in tonight’s Ash Wednesday service and one of Sunday’s corporate worship gatherings. Find someone with whom you can share any “learnings” from your devotional experience.  That sharing might include any insights gained about what part of you is being formed through the gift of self-denial or even a realization that you are having an honest struggle with the whole concept.

Whatever you do, remember that growth happens best when it’s experienced in community.  Be together in this.