Search This Blog

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fasting vs. "Dieting" -- How to Gain Spiritual Fruits While Losing Pounds



For Catholics and most Christians all over the world, it is the season of Lent.

According to this Christian site, About.Com. :

Ash Wednesday 2014
Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting,repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
Not all Christian churches observe Lent. Lent is mostly observed by the LutheranMethodist,Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman CatholicsEastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Orthodox Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday (called Clean Monday) and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.

Every Thursday, beginning this year (2014), I have been fasting for all marriages, including my own, as part of our worldwide ministry to spread God's Design for marriage, as well as for God to transform and reform all marriages from all across the globe. This was initiated by Peaceful Wife, April Cassidy, who is my sister in Christ and my Titus 2 mentor in my walk with Christ.

Topping it up a notch, the Spirit inspired me to fast not only on Thursdays, but on all days of Lent, which I would only end on Easter Sunday. Seeing for myself the power of this spiritual discipline though, I don't think I would end it on the commemoration of our Lord's Resurrection. I think I will continue to fast for myself and for others even after Lent. 

Just what is FASTING exactly?

As a Catholic, my first experience of "semi-fasting" or abstinence (not eating meat) was as a 7-year old girl, during one Holy Week, many summers back. I was not allowed to eat meat on Good Friday. Mama said it was because the Lord died that day. I did not understand just exactly why, but I figured, Jesus died so we should not eat delicious food, to sympathize with His Death. To me at that time, fish and vegetables were a real "sacrifice". What a bummer! It was not yummy at all!!! :P

I was 19 in this pic and a member of the ACMG or
the Ateneo College Ministry Group


My first experience of fasting was already as a college girl. In our household, we were encouraged to abstain from meat during Holy Week, but we did not fast. In college, since I was very active with religious organizations, I was introduced to the concept of fasting. What was weird though about it was it was extremely "fun" for me, so, I had to "tweak" it to suit me and to make it feel more of a sacrifice than something I "enjoyed."

My room in high school - Notice the "DIET" sign.


You see, I was battling borderline anorexia by that time, for many years. NOT eating was the order of the day. Every hunger pang, every dizzy spell, every lost pound, was equated to "SUCCESS" in my mind. I LOVED to NOT EAT. I was on a constant DIET. So, FASTING to me was "normal". How could NOT EATING be a sacrifice?! It was such a JOY!

So, what I did during those years was TO EAT, during days of fasting, because I HATED eating. I was so screwed up, that in order for me to "suffer",  I ate instead of not eat. Very odd, right? Hope I did not lose you on that one...

28 years old and with only one child at that time - March 2006
Anyway, when I got over my eating disorder in my mid to late 20's, thanks to Dong's love and to God's Mercy, I then FASTED from certain foods, but did not adhere to the bread and water fast. Sometimes, on whole stretches during the Lenten season, I would FAST from drinking softdrinks or from eating chocolates. I would also abstain from eating meat every Friday.

Then, in my 30's when I got addicted to social networks, especially FACEBOOK, my Lenten sacrifice would be to DEACTIVATE from FB for the whole of Lent, only to come back on Easter Sunday. Being an FB addict before, it was extremely difficult to NOT log in and to NOT read my feeds or to NOT post my own thoughts and pictures online!!! I would suffer from withdrawal symptoms!!! I would stare at my PC and would use all will power to NOT activate my Facebook account. It was that hard for me!

I have however deactivated my personal FB account for good, following my conviction and conversion in September 2013. It was too much of a temptation for me to go back to my worldly self -- the one who enjoyed being "liked" and "shared" and praised. Being able to point out that two of my deeply rooted sins were the snare of people-pleasing and of always wanting validation, simply removing FB from my life, has given me much peace and joy! Minus the "noise" from that social network and minus the desire to belong or to be approved, what used to be a constant "need" to be esteemed, has been removed from my heart.

My son Andre had a moving up ceremony
last March 22, 2014, same day as Wowo Fred
"moved up" to our Creator.
It did serve a lot of good purposes, and I enjoyed my "stint" there, but in this season of my life, OBSCURITY is divine. :) Not having to constantly update people on the latest goings-on in my life, has allowed me to enjoy life to the fullest and to really be in the moment, instead of being so antsy to finish the moment, so I could post about the moment, on Facebook! Save for this blog, which documents my respect and submission journey and my own walk with Christ, (which was suggested by my husband that I write in order to help fellow wives in the same boat as I was/am) I am basically incognito and invisible in the social networking world, which in current times, is almost as good as having fallen off the face of the earth or to being "dead".

After I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in September 2013, and after the Spirit instilled in me a desire soooo strong to read about God and get to know Him through His Word, the Bible, I also felt more and more led to serve Him via vehicles that would entail a lot of self-denial and sacrifice, including FASTING.

How important is FASTING and how does one differentiate it from ordinary DIETING?

Although both will most likely achieve a lessening of pounds, FASTING is NOT DIETING.

From the outside, it looks the same, that is, REFRAINING FROM EATING, but from the inside, it is a world of difference.


According to Campus Crusade for Christ International, in an article written by Dr. Bill Bright, these are the reasons why one should fast:

"If you do not already know of the power and importance of fasting, here are some very important facts:
  • Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras. For example, Moses fasted at least two recorded forty-day periods. Jesus fasted 40 days and reminded His followers to fast, "when you fast," not "if you fast".
  • Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the "first love" for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
  • Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, "I humble myself through fasting."
  • Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
  • The Holy Spirit will quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you!
  • Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
  • Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life-and make you a channel of revival to others.
  • Fasting and prayer are the only disciplines that fulfill the requirements of II Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
If you fast, you will find yourself being humbled as I did. You will discover more time to pray and seek God's face. And as He leads you to recognize and repent of unconfessed sin, you will experience special blessings from God."

* * *

Fasting coupled with prayer is such a super powerful spiritual discipline that it can even drive out demons!


Matthew 17:18-21

18  And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. 19  Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? 20 Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible to you. 21 But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

So, why am I fasting and for what purposes do I fast?

If I can be extremely honest with you, my initial goal was far from spiritual and holy.  Sometime before Ash Wednesday, I decided some drastic steps had to be done in order to fix my eating habits. After giving birth to our fourth baby, I found it quite hard to lose weight unlike in my three earlier pregnancies and childbirths, most probably because I am of a later age now (38), and my metabolism has slowed down.
Super pregnant with our 4th during a baby shower
given by my Filipina Homebakers Online sisters. :) - March 2013


I made a decision to lose the weight and to eat healthy, but had no motivation to do so because dieting to me now, seemed to be quite a chore. It was enjoyable to eat! Having been freed from the bondage of my decade-long eating disorder, what was once so easy to do (starve myself or eat little) has already become such a difficult task to undertake.

The spirit is willing but the (chubby) flesh is so weak!



I prayed to the good Lord and asked Him to help me in this area. And, I was led to thinking about FASTING. Since I wanted to be healthier and fitter, FASTING would give me the spiritual discipline to control my unhealthy eating habits, as well as serve a bigger and holy purpose -- to offer up petitions and prayers for myself and for everyone.

That was when I made up my mind to hit two birds with one stone. 

FASTING would be my tool in disciplining my body, while also seeking God!

Researching about FASTING has led me to realizing that this was God's Powerful Tool in aiding Him in making amazing breakthroughs in faith! What a beautiful tool we have at hand! I was convinced this was the Lord's Way of making me "fit" in all aspects -- physical, mental, emotional and most of all, spiritual.

How do I FAST?

I eat two full meals in one day, and take in only bread and water in the third meal, my preferred fasting time being DINNER. Depending though on my schedule for the day,  I would sometimes fast at BREAKFAST or at LUNCH. There would be times when I would not eat or drink anything at all. It really depends on how I feel or what I am led to do.

Fasting though is not simply about the cessation of eating. As I have mentioned, this was not about dieting per se.

What I do during fasting are the following:

- Open up my Bible and read His Word;
- Lift up to God people I am praying for;
- Lift up to God the petitions of specific people asking for prayers;
- Lift up to God my "enemies" (those who have maligned me, hurt me or grieved me), and pray for the Lord to bless them;
- Ask God to draw me and all other people whose lives I want Him to touch; 
- Be silent and listen to God speak to me;
- Repent for my hidden and apparent sins;
- Praise the Father and thank Him for all the joys, as well as sorrows He has given for me to enjoy or endure;
- Soak and immerse myself in Christ's Presence;
- Call on the Holy Spirit to pray with me and through me.


In short, I fill up my physical hunger with spiritual food or nourishment. Failing to read His Word while fasting makes the spiritual discipline incomplete or be like mere "dieting." It fails to be the powerful weapon that the Bible proves that it is.

Just to add, still based on the Campus Crusade for Christ International's Dr. Bill Bright:


"Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines. Through fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit can transform your life.
Fasting and prayer can also work on a much grander scale. According to Scripture, personal experience and observation, I am convinced that when God's people fast with a proper Biblical motive-seeking God's face not His hand-with a broken, repentant, and contrite spirit, God will hear from heaven and heal our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation and world. Fasting and prayer can bring about revival - a change in the direction of our nation, the nations of earth and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
The awesome power can be released through you as you fast through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual admonitions. In fact, it has been ignored for so long that it is difficult to find information on the "how-to's" of this life-changing experience. When I first undertook an extended fast, I had a difficult time finding information on the nature of a Biblical fast, how to start, what to expect physically and spiritually, and how to terminate a fast."
* * *

Here are some things I fasted for in the past month that God had answered:

- God's Wisdom, Provision and Favor for my husband's business venture;
- That God will give my father-in-law Christ's Peace, while he was suffering on his death bed (He died peacefully and joyfully last March 22, 2014 after weeks of being in extreme panic and fear.);
- Healing and good health for some sick family members here and abroad.

Wowo Fred died happy, at peace, having had given up to the
Lord his life before he passed away on March 22, 2014.

Here are some things that I am still fasting for:

- That God convict my husband's heart and everyone's heart from within my and his immediate and extended family, in order that everyone truly repents from sins that grieve God's Heart and turn their lives over to Him for real;

- That God continue to show my husband the direction He wants for him to undertake;

- That God continue to convict me of my sins and help me in denying myself daily and continue to give me His Peace as I let go and let God rule in every area of my life;

 - That the Lord show His Face to people who are dear to me but are either deceived, blinded or ignorant of Jesus and His Gift of Salvation;

- That the Lord heal the marriages of people I hold dear and open up the eyes of hundreds of wives all around the globe, on the beautiful gift of Biblical submission and respect to one's husband;
I am praying for the marriages of all the Alejars, as well as for
the marriages of people I don't even know, all around the globe.
- That the Lord will lead me to the right path in terms of what I am supposed to do next in this season of my life (which is full of just keeping still and supporting my husband, while I take care of the kids.);

- That God will make my enemies' hearts pliable and open to His Will for them. (I pray a LOT for my enemies or those who have grieved my heart; sometimes even longer than for those whom I hold dear. I hold no resentment for them, and ask the Lord to bless them in all areas of their lives.)

- That the Lord will make my mother-in-law strong as she goes through life without my father-in-law;

- That the Lord will make a breakthrough in my husband's spirit and faith, in order for us to further spread about God's Great Design for Marriage, as a ministering couple;

- and so many more!!! including prayers for the poor people, the country, the world, etc...


With so many petitions and prayers I am asking God's Help for, ending my fast on Easter Sunday won't really be able to cover them all! 


What is important to note though is that in FASTING, we are not just seeking His Hand, but also His Face. We are not only waiting on the Lord to give us what we want (especially if it is is aligned to  His Will), but most importantly we are fasting in order to "see" Him and bask in His Presence, just as David did.

Psalm 27:8


My heart says of you, “Seek his face!
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.  


To make it triply "powerful", along with PRAYER and FASTING, I also practice ALMSGIVING.

What is the significance of the three? 




1. Prayer: Without prayer, fasting and almsgiving are merely actions we do out of tradition without much meaning. Prayer is our conversation with God. It is through prayer that we find the strength to fast. It is through prayer that we develop a closer, more intimate relationship with God. This relationship makes us so grateful for the blessings he has bestowed upon us, that we eagerly give to those less fortunate than us. The Church, in its wisdom, understands that prayer is essential to any action we Christians may undertake.

2. Fasting: Fasting is one of the most ancient actions linked to Lent. Fasting rules have changed through the ages, but throughout Church history fasting has been considered sacred. The prophet Isaiah insists that fasting without changing our behavior is not pleasing to God. Therefore, the goal of fasting is linked with prayer. The pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God, and prayer and fasting together brings us to what Lent is about - a deeper conversion.

3. Almsgiving: It should be obvious by now, that almsgiving is simply a response by us to God, a response that we have come to through prayer and fasting. It is an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given us, and a realization that in the Body of Christ, it is never just "me and God." Through prayer and fasting we come to a deeper understanding that the needs of all are the responsibility of all in the Body of Christ. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral elements of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized.


So, there you have it, sisters in Christ. PRAYING, FASTING and ALMSGIVING - are great tools in achieving a deeper relationship with God. :)

A WARNING though!!! 

The "Three Strands":
 Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

All external acts -- praying, fasting and almsgiving -- are nothing, I repeat, NOTHING in the eyes of God when not done out of love or with the right motivations. Without our hearts set aright, we might as well be just be babbling, dieting and "wasting" our money. All those acts will not make us righteous in God's Eyes. As always, it is the heart that determines whether we do things for God or for ourselves.





Proverbs 21:2


Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,

    but the Lord weighs the heart.


Taken just yesterday, April 3, 2014







Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, I have indeed lost some unwanted pounds already, while also "gaining" the fruits of the Spirit because of fasting. ;) Woohoo!!! Win-win! :)


Galatians 5:22-23


22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

May we all be richly blessed! :) 



6 comments:

  1. Heikki and I fast at least twice a week together or separately. We skip two full meals or a full day of no solid food. Sometimes though I ask what I need to fast from (i.e. what is a current idol). Most of the time I believe I am asked to take days off social media. You know there was ONE FULL YEAR I did not read celebrity gossip and thankfully, I still don't now (though not as a fast). :p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's great that you and Heikki fast! It's a great spiritual discipline. I can now fast "better" because I don't have an eating disorder anymore. Eating as fasting is just too crazy. It does not make much sense. ;P

      This is my best fasting so far because I am now equipped with the Word. Whereas before it was just to refrain from doing things or eating certain foods, but without spiritual nourishment, which basically seems like "dieting" only ; now it is giving up of food in order to be nourished with spiritual food.

      I have stopped reading news stories, showbiz stories, and TV altogether, plus deactivation from FB. It's so refreshing to the mind and spirit!

      Thanks for sharing. :)

      Delete
    2. I still read the news because there are some things I believe I am being asked to pray for. :) Did you get the books we sent?

      Yes, being broken physically can only lead to spiritual regeneration so fasting is a very, very important weekly event for us.

      Delete
    3. I have not received anything yet. I hope and pray they be on their way soon and not be 'held up' at the post office. Thanks in advance! I am excited to start reading them!

      Delete
  2. P.S. Bakit ganoon yung quotation marks ng titles ng blog mo. Parehong paloob. Parang mali. Hehe. OC. :p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ewan ko rin. Nakakainis nga e. Parang ano ba?! :P

      Delete

Feel free to comment. I would love to discuss things with you. :)