On Feb. 23, Holston churches began an evangelism campaign to baptize 3,000 people by Pentecost Sunday, May 23.
Also on Feb. 23, the Rev. Ronnie Collins, chair of Holston's Witness Ministry Team, began a 40-day fast. Eleven days into his fast, Collins had already lost 18 pounds. Here is the blog he wrote for his subscribers and Facebook friends on March 5.
I have been reading a lot during my last 11 days of fasting, and many questions have come from people around me. Of course, at this point people are starting to notice that I have had a remarkable weight loss, and they are asking why. I simply say I am fasting and praying for some very special issues, and those issues are the salvation of 3,000 people in Holston Conference between Feb. 23 and Pentecost Sunday on May 23.
I have yet to hear anyone outside the church say that I must be crazy. As a matter of fact, they are very interested in learning more. On the flip side, I get all kinds of comments from church people who think I am absolutely crazy. To put it like a friend said the other day, “They look at me like I have three heads.”
Why is this? Why is the church absolutely ignorant of the biblical call to fast? Fasting is what the Bible teaches, as much as prayer and giving. Yet it seems that almost no one in the church practices fasting.
It is my prayer that not only will 3,000 people be saved in Holston by Pentecost Sunday, I also pray that people will study the scripture and see what God says about this most important discipline. I started fasting around 15 years ago and through the years have fasted certain meals of the day. I've fasted for periods of one day, three days, and seven days, but this is the longest time I've ever gone without food. I am in my 11th day today, and I feel more healthy than I have in years. This is the honest truth.
Now, I do desire to eat, but I am not hungry. The gospels tell us that Jesus fasted 40 days and then he was hungry. Interesting.
I learn this every time I fast: I am addicted to food. Now some will reply that food is what we need to live, but we don’t need all the junk we put into our bodies. I believe our diet is the reason why we are so sick. When the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God gave them a perfect meal in the Manna every morning, the people cried out for meat. They weren't satisfied with the perfect food that God gave them each day. How often do we grieve God's heart when he blesses us so much, yet we cry out, “I want more”? The Bible says that while the food was still in their mouths, they died. We are killing ourselves with our addiction to food!
One of the most uncomfortable moments I've experience was at a meal with my mom and dad just this past weekend. I feel bad because they don’t really understand why I would go without food. I sat with my glass of lemon water while my wife Misty, our children, and my parents ate their dinners. When the meal was over, my father said, “I wish I hadn’t eaten. I feel bad now.” It made me think how many times during a given week I will eat and then say, "I wish I hadn’t eaten, I felt so much better before I ate." We are killing ourselves with the amount of food we eat.
I am not uncomfortable sitting down to a meal with my family; mealtime is mostly about fellowship in the first place. We have built our busy lives around food, and that is unfortunate to some degree. However, since mealtime is our time for talk and fellowship, I still sit at the table when my family eats, and I still go out to restaurants with them. The temptation is not what you would think. I even cooked breakfast one day this week for the family, and last night I cooked dinner for them. I love to cook and I do it still, most of all to give Misty a break from her daily chores.
At this point it wouldn’t matter if it was a steak, a piece of cake, or a peanut: I would love to eat, BUT I AM NOT HUNGRY.
I am fasting because I want to humble myself before our Lord. That is what the Bible tells me to do, over and over. The only way I know to humble myself is to fast. I want to humble myself that I might be in a position to hear God’s voice and see God at work in his world. I believe our world is so tired and exhausted from not seeking God. We run after things, we run to conferences, we run to do the work of God, but we never slow down long enough to do what he said would get us in touch with him. Fasting will do that for us. There is a supernatural effect on our lives when we fast, just like there is a supernatural effect when we pray and give.
We cannot afford to overlook this spiritual discipline any longer.
The Rev. Collins is associate pastor at First Hillsville United Methodist Church in Wytheville District, and chair of Holston's Witness Ministry Team.
- See Isaiah 58:1-14 ("True fasting")