Summary: A Biblical look at the spiritual discipline of fasting.
FIGHTING THE FAILURE TO FAST
Morgan Spurlock is the producer, director and guinea pig of the movie “Super Size Me”, in which he subjects his body to a three-meal-a-day McDonald’s only diet to determine if fast food really has an impact on a person’s health. During the journey, Spurlock put his own body on the line, living on nothing but McDonald’s for an entire month.
It all adds up to a fat food bill, harrowing visits to the doctor, and compelling viewing for anyone who’s ever wondered if man could live on fast food alone. By the end of the month he had gained 25 pounds, raised his cholesterol level 65 points, increased his body fat by seven percentage points and doubled his risk of heart disease.
Before, during and after the diet, Spurlock was regularly checked by three doctors, who expressed amazement at his rapid transformation. It wasn’t just his physical appearance that changed. His liver was taxed to such an extent that the doctors suggested aborting the experiment halfway through.
Spurlock, deemed a perfectly healthy American man before the diet and in good physical shape, also restricted his physical activity while on the diet. His research revealed that more than 60 percent of Americans get no significant exercise on any given day, and the average American takes about 5,000 steps per day, so the filmmaker decided to restrict his activity to that level as well.
Spurlock indicated his documentary is intended not so much to convince Americans they shouldn’t eat fast food but to get them thinking about portion control and the increasing trend of obesity. "Everything’s bigger in America," Spurlock says in the opening of the film. "America has now become the fattest nation in the world."
He hit the road and interviewed experts in 20 U.S. cities. From Surgeon Generals to gym teachers, cooks to kids, lawmakers to legislators, these authorities shared their research, opinions and "gut feelings" on our ever-expanding girth.
The film explores the horror of school lunch programs, declining health and physical education classes, food addictions and the extreme measures people take to lose weight and regain their health. The film shows a first-grade class pictures of George Washington. Only one or two of about seven children could identify the founding father. But every child could identify Ronald McDonald and knew detailed information about the fictional character.
Well, it is no surprise against the backdrop of such a movie, and a country that would have a hard time denying the reality of that movie, that the spiritual discipline of fasting seems out of date, unrealistic, and hardly necessary for the Christian walk in the 21st Century. Few Christians deny the importance of prayer, or studying God’s Word. There is something instinctive about reaching out to God in those ways. Fasting, on the other hand, is a spiritual discipline forgotten, feared, and even mocked by many believers.
Richard Foster writes in his book A Celebration of Discipline, “In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times. In fact, fasting has been in general disrepute both in and outside the church for many years. For example, in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861 to 1954, a period of nearly one hundred years.”
In fact, if I were to ask you to raise your hands, which I won’t, and indicate the habit of fasting as represented in our church, what would the results be? Even among a body of Bible believing, God pursuing, spiritually maturing people, how many of us would raise our hands and say that in the last year we fasted for three or more days at a single time? How about 48 hours? Or 24 Hours? Just one single day out of the past 365.
I would say there is little doubt that fasting has become the forgotten discipline in our Christian walks. The constant propaganda that we see daily admonishes us that if we don’t have at least three large meals each and every day, with a few snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation. Combine that with a society that believes we should satisfy every human appetite, and fasting has become obsolete.
When you suggest fasting to people, you will often hear such things as “Isn’t fasting injurious to your health?” Or, “It will take all my strength and I won’t be able to work.” Or maybe, “Doesn’t it destroy healthy body tissue to fast?” Of course, the reality is that when done correctly, not only can fasting have great spiritual benefits, but it can also be physically beneficial. However, that isn’t the message of our society.