Friday, April 10, 2020

Why you can't fast your way into getting what you want....

On the 7th of April, 2020, President Russell M. Nelson joined the Catholics on Good Friday by asking for a worldwide fast to "prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic." He also invited anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to join.

Since then, people have been going to Facebook to declare "I will follow the prophet!" and with memes like this one, suggesting that fasting will bring the outcome we all want.

Unfortunately, this meme is a perfect example of why 256 character soundbytes can't effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This particular meme was something said in a very specific circumstance regarding a very specific situation. It does not follow that it applies to something like fasting away a pandemic.

There is a growing trend among the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to virtue signal in lieu of bearing testimony.

Virtue signaling is similar to a peacock displaying his feathers. It's a sign to everyone around you that YOU are righteous, true, loyal. But true loyalty doesn't require a display. Bearing testimony, in contrast, is not focused on the believer, but on God and how we can serve Him. For example:

"I will be fasting because President Nelson asked me to!"
"When we fast, the Lord will bless us by lifting the COVID-19 pandemic."
"I have struggled with fasting before, but when I have humbled myself to fast in supplication, my heart has been softened to His will and I have been better able to serve those in need."
In the first two, the focus is on declaring personal righteousness and faith in a specific outcome that is dictated by our sacrifice. But God is not a vending machine. He is not a tame lion, and we don't know what He will do. In the third, the focus is on changing ourselves to be ready for whatever God has in mind, be that a specific outcome or not. THAT is the type of blessing that can be gained from fasting, but only if we fast and pray humbly.

After my husband left me, life was rough. I had little money and no sense of security. In an effort to make things get better, I began strict obedience to every possible good principle. Subconsciously, I believed that in a life where I had lost all control, I could control something by absolute obedience.

But obedience to God can not be a transaction. He does not dispense blessings based on our faithfulness. For all my obedience, I am still single with broken covenants in a life I would not have chosen for myself on any level. For all my anguished striving for perfection, I am still judged as unrighteous by those whom God has seen fit to bless as they walk the "covenant path."

How many people, with incontrovertible proof that God blesses as He wills, and not due to our exactness in obedience, would still love and serve him? Yet, eventually, if we want to be His disciples, that is exactly what He asks of us. Devotion, not because of blessings He gives us, but because we know who He is.

When He promised that He "is bound" when we do what He says, it was in regards to a very specific covenant made with very specific people. It means that when we make covenants with Him, the blessings attached to that covenant will come.

It does NOT mean that we can pray our way to getting what we want, like my teenaged daughter when she cleans the house so I will turn on her internet.

Prayer and fasting is a process by which we focus our minds and hearts in order to change ourselves, not in order to cajole God into granting us blessings.

When we pray and fast, let us do so with an attitude of humility, focusing on how we can change our hearts and actions to submit to God's will, and to be enlightened in ways we can help.

This pandemic WILL end. They always do. The outcome is already certain. The only thing we can change is who we are at the other end of it.

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