DISCUSS the disciple’s “secret service.” What did they do? Did they find it difficult, rewarding, or both?
Considering the “Spiritual Disciplines & Fasting” essay that you read, discuss the following questions:
1. What questions do you have about fasting, or other spiritual disciplines?
2 What is your attitude towards fasting, or spiritual disciplines in general? Have you had any experiences with spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading Scripture, fasting, confession, etc.)? What was it like?
3. How is fasting a practice of "Downward Mobility?" What are some improper motivations for fasting?
4. Sometimes it is good to fast from things that we have created unnecessary attachments to. When you feel empty or restless, what do you do to try and fill the emptiness? What would happen if you spent some time limiting this response and instead filled that space with prayer or reading Scripture?
5. Throughout history, Christians have fasted during special seasons of the year. Sometimes, God may ask us to fast from something for a longer season of time than just a few days. What are some potential things in your life that you think it would be a good idea to fast from for a season that isn’t food related?
6. Are there any big decisions coming up that you are needing to make? Any needs that have come up that you need help in fulfilling? Offer these up to the Lord, and pray for one another. Think about how you can continually give these things over to God and seek His wisdom in them.
ASSIGNMENT: Choose a fast to practice before the next meeting. It could involve fasting from one or two meals, or fasting from food for up to 72 hours (or more). If you’ve never fasted before, resist the urge to do some heroically large fast. Instead, pray and discuss with your discipler where you might begin. Remember to drink plenty of water, and if other liquids are necessary, that’s fine. Simply do what will allow you to move further in the direction of self-denial. As you fast, journal any challenges, temptations, thoughts, or prayers that come to mind as you devote that time to seeking God instead of satisfying the desires of the flesh.
In preparation for your next meeting, read the essay “Sabbath As Self-Denial” by Jake Thurston located below. Come ready to discuss.
Sabbath as Self Denial
By Jake Thurston & Jesse Skidmore
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it… There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:1, 9-11)
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
“Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop.”
Do you feel like your life is needlessly busy? Work demands more out of you than what you’re capable to put out, your kids have extracurricular activities that suck up any spare free time you have, and any downtime you finally can claim for yourself is spent cleaning the house, running errands, and being pulled a million other directions. It seems like life never stops.
Can you imagine if there could ever be a way to put your busyness on hold, and actually rest? Thankfully, there is a way. It’s called sabbath.
Author Adele Calhoun defines sabbath as “God’s gift of repetitive and regular rest. It is given for our delight and communion with God. Time for being in the midst of a life of doing particularly characterizes the sabbath.” She goes on to say that sabbath days are filled with time for intimacy with God and those you love, taking restful activities that give you life, letting go of what stresses you out, addressing the difficult conversations another time, not having a to-do list, and altogether, refraining from being busy.
If there is any clear and concrete practice we get to experience God’s grace on a weekly basis, it’s through the sabbath. It’s a day when God reminds us to “stop,” slow down, remember that everything is okay, take pleasure in the things that delight us, and be re-energized by his Spirit.
But how could sabbath be an act of self-denial? Isn’t it selfish for us to take an entire day for ourselves when there are a multitude of things to get done and countless people depending on us? Here’s the point:
If we don’t stop to rest, we won’t have anything to give.
We’d be so tired and worn down from our endless pursuit of activity that we’d never be able to give our best to the work we do and the people we love. They’d only get the scraps of our personality, which come in the forms of anger, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, short tempers, annoyance, and even addiction. If we don’t realize we can’t do everything, then everything we do will suffer. It’s an act of self-denial.
Busyness is often more self-inflicted than anything else. We claim to be “so busy” with work and activities that we’ll cast blame on everything and everyone for why we can’t seem to get a moment’s rest. But in reality, we often do it to ourselves—not because we have countless demands we can’t keep up with, but because it makes us feel important. Busyness is praised in our “go-go-go” culture. However, refusing to rest with God and our loved will hinder us from being filled up to pour ourselves out to those around us. You can’t empty a pitcher that’s already empty.
Adele Calhoun says, “the sabbath reminds us that we belong to the worldwide family of God. We are citizens of another kingdom—a kingdom not ruled by the clock and the tyranny of the urgent. God’s sabbath reality calls us to trust that the Creator can manage all that concerns us in this world as we settle into his rest.”