Friday, September 09, 2005

A Different Kind of Fast

The purpose of fasting is to deny our normal desires for food in order to focus our prayer and attention on the Lord. However, the principle of fasting from things we desire is applicable to other areas of our lives. Many things can become our “food”—things we take for granted as our right.

America is so saturated with electronic media—the internet, movies, video games, television, radio, etc.—that we tend not to notice their effects. Although Scripture prizes silence and contemplation, modern media constantly fill up our minds, allowing us little room for quietness before God.

Yet God exhorts us to beware of worldliness and to embrace godliness (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2). Jesus calls us to holiness. We should discern how our culture tempts us away from God. Because of this, I require my students at Denver Seminary to engage in a “media fast.” They abstain from an electronic medium for at least one week to note how it is affecting their lives. Most students choose television, since it is a widespread and powerful force. They note the changes that occur in their lives and reflect on several passages of Scripture that emphasize Christian virtues, such as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Almost all my students report that they first suffer withdrawal symptoms. But they later become more peaceful and prayerful. Time is freed up for reading, spouses, children, and ministry. Lustful thoughts diminish. They are surprised at how much television (or some other medium) had affected them and what a difference the fast made in their awareness of God, themselves, and their culture. Many resolve to be more careful with these media.

I challenge you to offer your own “media fast” to the Lord and see what the Holy Spirit might teach you about worldliness and godliness in your life.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.

5 comments:

Suzi said...

I've given up TV before without too much trouble. And radio is easy, as long as I remember I'm giving it up.

The internet and books, however, are very difficult. I've done both but... It was hard.

And I really don't want to have to do it again. I hope your post isn't the first in a series to get me going that direction. (Doesn't that comment prove I need to?)

Quotidian Grace said...

In Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner writes about fasting from reading books. That would be a real challenge.
Thanks for the reminder of the purpose of fasts--to bring us closer to God, not just to abstain from food.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I meant electronic media! I see no reason at all from fasting from books. Reading is good. Americans do not read enough or they read the wrong things.

Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Mmm, the minister of our church, when he spoke on Jesus talking about fasting, made the point that the reason it seems to be so culturally irrelevant to us is precisely because we never deprive ourselves of anything - we are in a culture that is unable to say "no" to anything, and as Christians, we are far too aligned with the values of that culture. He also suggested switching off the TV for a week.

Bo Grimes said...

I did this for Lent two years ago and it re-fired me spiritually!