Motive Is Everything

By: Ron Lagerquist

"There can be many motives to fast, and some are not healthy. A fast will be as good as the motive behind it."

Her eyes said it all. How do women know, I asked myself while standing at the front door holding a flowery shield in front of a guilty face. Weren’t these the same red roses that worked their magic a week previous? Ex-ray vision looked past the sweet-scented pedals, and saw my motive. Thank you, she said, on ice and I gently shaken. 

There are many reasons why men buy their woman flowers, and not all are sweet smelling. Oh yes, there is love. But what about guilt, damage control, softening a wrong done, a cover-up or avoiding much-needed discussion. A dozen red roses can communicate manipulation when the real need goes deeper than a one-night mood-change.

There can be many motives to fast, and some are not healthy. One of the reasons fasting has for the most part been abandoned by Christianity is its history of abuse. Before Martin Luther began the Great Reformation, fasting, accompanied with self-flagellation, was looked upon as a way of purging sinful flesh. When the true gospel shined forth breaking a 1,600 year-old law-based tyranny all such purging became abhorrent, an offence to the plain message of grace. The word fasting for many Protestant Christians is forever associated with a dark past.

The early Church’s mistake was a simple one; deny sinful flesh to pacify a holy God. The reality was quite the opposite. The only thing that could ever appease God was totally outside their means. And without the work of grace, fasting or any other human means cannot manage cravings of the flesh or a guilty conscience. The wrong motive resulted in turning the blessing of fasting into an evil form of masochism. What is strange to me is one can have a cross hanging around the neck, huge crucifixes plastered all over the walls of the church and not get it. Jesus did what we were helpless to do for ourselves. Fasting was a gift to us not our paltry gift to God.

 Here’s the rub. Yes we can give God a brightly wrapped bouquet of flowers in the form of a fast if it is not about gaining acceptance but instead a love and hunger for closeness. Like any discerning woman, God will see past the pretense of ritual and be delighted by an honest heart hungering to meet Him in the quiet. In those glorious meetings, soul peeled wide open, I can tell you from experience, it will be you who will be receiving. You can never out-give God. The key is to give from an honest heart.

In saying all this, I am not convinced fasting for purely health reasons is wrong. At least it is honest. Did Jesus heal for healing sake? Yes, of course He did. Healers love to heal.

Your body will call you on a fast. I know when it is time I need a fast. Diet has slipped; sneaky food addictions start showing up here and there, less mental clarity, spotty skin. One may say, well, that is not a spiritual fast! Wrong! I no longer separate spiritual fasting and fasting for health. They are intertwined. The very desire to be clear minded, vital, overflowing with energy and cleaned of any addiction is for the glory and work of God. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Keep it clean and free from addiction.

Let me tell you a secret but you must not breathe a word. Many people begin fasting with the honest desire to heal, only to find themselves face to face with their own spiritual need. And guess Who shows up? God can deal with truth, it’s all the phony cover-ups we put up that He hates so much. Your fast will only be as good as the motive.

Ritual vs. Reality 

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for a bowing of one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?"

Isa. 58:5

"For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right that has not forsaken the commands of God."

Isa. 58:2

Tough to pull the wool over God's eyes. We can pull the wool over other’s, even our own, but not God's; He sees the heart in full color. At first glance The Israelite’s fast seemed noble. It seemed they were eager for God to come near to them, lying down dressed in sackcloth, covered with ashes, making an awful hullabaloo to God. But like the modern church, ancient Israel was plagued with religionitous, a disease of convenience. 

It works like this—wrap something up in a pretty little package, offer it to God and hope it is pleasing to Him. God does not want our works or our pretty little gifts, He wants our hearts and that is where the Israelites blew it! That is why their fasting was an insult to God's intelligence. What God is saying in Isaiah 58 is: “Do you really think you can appease Me by offering something such as your little fasts and expect Me to turn a blind eye to the corruption and rebellion in your heart?” There is a good lesson here. When something becomes empty ritual it no longer has the power to affect the heart.

How can a tree bear two different kinds of fruit? The answer is, it cannot. All we are doing is doctoring up some of the fruit to make it look like something else. God does not respond to the things we do, He responds to a change of heart. It is here that we come to the true purpose of spiritual fasting. 

Fasting is not something we offer up to God, no! Fasting assists us in offering ourselves up to God. Spiritual fasting is simply a tool to help us change our hearts before God.

When a chef is preparing food, he uses many tools of the trade: pots and pans, slicers and dicers, spoons and spatulas etc. He uses all these to create tasty culinary delights. Imagine while waiting for your dinner at a nice restaurant the chef comes out of the kitchen, plunks down all his dirty pots and pans on your nice clean table, smiling with pride and delight. “These are my special tools.” 

We do the same thing with God. Somehow we think that when we go to church, fast, speak in tongues or read the Bible that we can offer these things up to God as being pleasing to Him. Yet these are the tools God has provided to help us. What He truly desires is our heart. Fasting is a wonderful tool to refine our love and focus, not a penance to earn grace.

Related Article: Preparing For Your Fast

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Wonderful thoughts I'm so greatful for the efforts you are showing to be prepared top meet the bridegroom.
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I like the "tools" analogy. Great article.
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