Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lesson on fasting

Lesson on fasting

• One of the reason why we Christian are practicing fasting is to learn to give up something good to attain something better in return in a process we call delay gratification. Fasting is an important aspect in Christianity. Fasting can help us to build our perseverance in our character. Having perseverance is one of the key ingredients in leading an effective Christian life. And today we are going to talk about perseverance.

• As I was doing my quiet time from the book of Samuel not long ago, I have learnt that the essence of fasting actually help us to build our perseverance when face with pressure in our life.
• I have 2 points to share from the bible of the consequence of not being patient with God’s timing as God’s people end up doing things as they see fit when being under the force of pressure.

1 Samuel 13:8-13
• Saul’s Disobedience and Samuel’s Rebuke

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. 10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?” Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

• Commentary:
Rather than waiting for a priest, Saul offered the sacrifice himself. This was against God’s laws (Deuteronomy 12:5-14) and against the specific instructions of Samuel (10:8). Under pressure from the approaching Philistines, he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God. He was doing a good thing (offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle), but he did it in the wrong way. Like Saul, our true spiritual character is revealed under pressure. The methods we use to accomplish our goals are as important as the attainment of those goals.

Exodus 32:21-24
• Another character in the bible also failed to obey God’s command when face under pressure. His name is non-other than Aaron as we read from the book of Exodus while Moses was at Mount Sinai listening to God’s commandment for the Israelite. While Moses was in the mountain forty days and forty nights, the Israelite grew impatient and demanded that Aaron the priest to make them a golden calf as a substitute for God instead. Later as we learnt, unfortunately Aaron complies due to pressure.

• Let’s read what happen when Moses was back from the mountain in Exodus 32:21-24

21 Finally, he turned to Aaron and demanded, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?”22 “Don’t get so upset, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know how evil these people are. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!”

Aaron’s decision nearly cost him his life. His absurd excuse shows the spiritual decline in his leadership and in the people. Those who function as spokespersons and assistants need to be doubly sure their theology and morality are in tune with God so they will not be influenced by pressure from people.

Consequences of Sin
• Moses Intercedes for Israel 30 The next day Moses said to the
people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness* for your sin.”31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!”33 But the Lord replied to Moses, “No, I will erase the name of everyone who has sinned against me. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about. Look! My angel will lead the way before you. And when I come to call the people to account, I will certainly hold them responsible for their sins.”35 Then the Lord sent a great plague upon the people because they had worshiped the calf Aaron had made.
As we read from the above statement, we come to the same consensus that everyone has to suffer from the consequence of their Sin.

• After reading about these 2 stories, let take a moment to reflect about our life the pressure we face constantly in the society today. What are the pressures we face from our life which may cause us to take irrational action resulting in misery in our life.
E.g. Taking up popular cause that has no interest to you, but you took it anyway because of peer pressure? And end up regretting having to invest so much time and commitment with something you are not interested in.
E.g. Giving up your studies to pursue a relationship that doesn’t last or a career that is attractive but totally new to you like multi level marketing and end up regretting that you are actually not suitable for the Job.

• How about your personal life pertaining to singlehood. Every time during Chinese new year are you constantly being bombarded by your relative rushing you to get married? Do you force yourself to make rash decision when you are under such pressure?
I have with me some pointers in which we can think about before making any rash decision pertaining to finding a soul mate.
No one wants to be lonely. Marrying someone simply to avoid being alone the rest of your life is wrong, not only for you but for your mate as well. People fear being alone and will jump into a marriage quickly to avoid it. Chances are you will still be lonely only now you will be lonely in a marriage. These types of marriages have no foundation of companionship and usually result in unhappiness leading to divorce.
You should never feel obligated or succumb to pressure to marry someone. These kinds of marriages usually result in divorce. Some couples marry when one of them feels obligated to stay in the relationship or feels too guilty to break it off. Marrying someone to please others is not a good idea. Giving in to pressure from family, friends, society, and/or your partner will only cause you unhappiness. These kinds of marriages are disappointing and commonly result in divorce.

Biblical admonition about finding a spouse
• Let’s look into what the bible has to say about marriage. Why we must not rush ourselves into getting into a relationship and be on our guard against meeting an unfaithful person.
Song of Song 2:7 taught us to be patient in finding the right one.
Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.

Feelings of love can create emotions that overpower reason. Young people are too often in a hurry to develop an intimate relationship based on their strong feelings. But feelings aren’t enough to support a lasting relationship. This verse encourages us not to force romance lest the feelings of love grow faster than the commitment needed to make love last. Patiently wait for feelings of love and commitment to develop together.

• 1 Corinthian 7:26 taught us to take precaution in finding the right person to be our spouse.
26 Because of the present crisis,* I think it is best to remain as you are. 27 If you have a wife, do not seek to end the marriage. If you do not have a wife, do not seek to get married. 28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems.

• 1 Corinthian 7:32 taught us that being single we are actually more focus to serve God better.
32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

• 2 Timothy 3 taught us to be on our guard from meeting the wrong person that might cause us misery in return.
The Dangers of the Last Days 1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 6 They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of* vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. 7 (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) 8 These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. 9 But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.

• Matthew 24:12
12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.
• Eccelesiatise 2:22 taught us not to be anxious in our hope for better living, for the greatest joys comes from non-other than serving God alone.
22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

• Philippian 4:6 taught us to cast all our anxiety upon God for He knows best what we want.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

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