Fasting and Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Collyn Dixon

When thinking about the modern Christian attitude towards fasting and other spiritual disciplines, it is normally shunned by society. However, the importance of practicing these practices are too important to ignore for the average, modern day Christian.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Tawa Anderson and Theologian Richard J. Foster argue for the importance of practicing the spiritual disciplines.

Within his public presentation during February 26’s philosophy forum, entitled “The Quest for a Satisfied Insignificance,” Anderson presented the practice of Spiritual Disciplines as the method to living a satisfied insignificance as a follower of Christ.

As a clarifier, Anderson explained this “insignificance” comes from the natural inclination of the sin of pride.

“Pride is the root of all evil,” Anderson said.

From this evil, all other forms of evil come about. Anderson personally struggled with vainglory (wanting glory for its own sake for the self) and envy (wanting a certain status for the self).

“It was within these two sinful states that I realized I was living a life for myself,” Anderson said.

Anderson realized, within his life, that he was not supposed to live a life like this. Thus he began his quest to live a life of satisfied insignificance.

“Life is to be lived to glorify God,” he said.

This is the root of living an insignificant life. The insignificant life is one that does not satisfy the self, but instead glorifies God first. Insignificance because it is God who ultimately matters first and foremost.

“In my quest to live a satisfied insignificance, I have found these four spiritual disciplines to be of utmost importance: [service, solitude, simplicity and submission],” Anderson said.

“Jesus calls His disciples into a lifestyle of humble service, which emulates Jesus’ example without expecting anything in return. Service is not a means to an end, but an end in itself… So do I serve as God first served us.”

Anderson then moved on to solitude, quoting Foster, for those who are seeking the applause of glory from others.

“As Richard Foster reminds me, ‘If we possess inward solitude, we do not fear being alone for we know that we are not alone.’ [I suspect solitude looks different for everyone], for me it looks like biking… And I’ve grown to love being able to get lost in thought and prayer in the solitude of a solitary bike ride, with nobody but the Lord to keep me company,” Anderson said.

Next came Anderson’s explanation of simplicity from the daily life of complexity.

“Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage,” Anderson said, quoting theologian Richard Foster, then went on to explain the quote.

“[The ability to balance duplicity leads to gaining] a big fat head. On the quest… I find joy in faithfully serving in the capacity God has placed me in, desiring neither more nor less than the place of relative obscurity in which I toil,” Anderson said.

Finally, Anderson commented on the spiritual discipline of submission.

“This one’s a tough one for most of us. If you’re anything like me… you tend to think like Frank Sinatra, ‘I want it done my way.’ The reality is, we all live under submission of some [authority]. As Paul writes, ‘we are slaves to sin or we are slaves to Christ’ (Romans 6:16). In the quest for a satisfied insignificance, I derive pleasure in serving individuals and institutions, seeking to further their goals (not my own), accomplish their missions (not my own), and emulate their ideals (not my own)” he said.

Anderson concluded with the discussion of these spiritual disciplines.

“I think the quest for a satisfied insignificance ought to be a primary marker of Christian discipleship,” Anderson said.

“We should not just settle for, but we should actively desire a life of ‘quietude’ and insignificance, within which we faithfully serve the Lord with the talents He has given us in the situations He has set before us.”

A student attending the forum left a comment on the way in which fasting takes place in the quest of satisfied insignificance.

“I think it comes down to facing the desire to achieve one’s own dreams instead of the Lord’s. I think it would be along the lines of feeling a certain way to accomplish sinful dreams, but I know that I have fasted and can reject that desiring feeling like I have rejected the desiring feeling of hunger in order to continually pursue the Lord,” the student said.

Anderson then affirmed the comment.

“Yes I think that is helpful. Fasting and prayer help to differentiate what is of you and what is of God,” Anderson said.

Practicing these spiritual disciplines helps the fellow believer in denying a life of vanity and living life for God alone: insignificance.

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