Fasting? Why? Do I desire a close personal connection with God? Do I desire a relationship with my Lord like no other I experience? A fasting day dedicated to seeking a close connection with God and a greater understanding of my need for Him provides a perfect time to reflect upon my calling and the condition of our relationship.
What is My Calling?
What is my calling? A nearly impossible question to answer while immersed in a noisy, competitive, materialistic, performance oriented culture; a question which requires dedicated prayer and assistance from the Holy Spirit to answer. Especially when the same norms and standards often poison and pollute my religious environment, the only difference: what is counted and the measure of success. Meanwhile, the obsession with measurable success remains. How am I doing? How does my church compare to the church next door? Am I doing more and bigger things? Resulting in this noise of the world crowding out God and preventing me from hearing Him. In this environment, I easily mistake individualism for spirituality. “As lust counterfeits love, individualism counterfeits spirituality.” Oswald Chambers.
The song, ‘Big Time,’ by Peter Gabriel that lampoons the Bigger, Better Deal (BBD) idea of Western, especially American culture. At the end of the second stanza of the song, he sings with great pride and self-satisfaction:
‘I’ll be a big noise with all the big boys, so much stuff I will own
And I will pray to a big god, as I kneel in the big church’
At the end of the fourth stanza he sings with the same pride and self-satisfaction:
‘And my heaven will be a big heaven,
And I will walk through the front door’
Naaman was a commander of the Syrian army that God had used in his plans, but he was proud and sought to do great things and to be seen as great by others. Ultimately he repented, but his name is associated with pride and doing, being and being seen as great among men. Read the complete story here: Naaman.
Naaman Complex and Killing the BBD
Off and on during my life I struggle with the BBD. For example, the BBD can show up like Naaman in 2 Kings, chapter 5 I look for something great to do, some great and big calling. When I draw near to God in studying his word, in prayer, and in fasting: he calls me not to some great thing but holy respect (often described as fear). Instead of some great deed or accomplishment from me, He seeks holy fear, love, obedience, and dependence (trust) upon him. In contrast to a worldly metric, measure of success, he wants simply wants me to be of value to Him. Remember and memorize Luke 16:15.
Questions I can ask myself when an idea that might become a religious Naaman Complex or BBD or Obsessive Delusion comes over me:
- Do I still want to do this if I must do it in secret with only God as the witness? Not posting it to Twitter or Facebook?
- Do I still want to do this if someone else gets the credit?
- Have I forgotten that no matter how well I do; compared to what Christ has done for me that my obedience and response to his commands should be “I have only done that which was my duty.” Luke 17:10
- What gain do I expect other than ‘well done good and faithful servant?’
- If my role is to pass this on to someone else to fulfill, am I at peace with that?
- Have I ignored an opportunity to ‘give a cup of cold water to a little one’ to pursue my perceived calling?
- If my ministry is helping three unknown elderly people become better disciples, am I at peace with this; so involved and grateful to serve that I never think that I should be doing something else? More visible to others?
- Am I thinking of being seen or pleasing someone else other than God? This can be a byproduct but not something I seek.
The Great Enemy
“The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ today is the idea of practical work that has no basis in the New Testament but comes from the systems of the world. This work insists upon endless energy and activities, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation….For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. It is a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.
We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live. In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master. The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others.”
Whose Praise do I Seek?
- Have I forgotten that my ministry begins with my family and those closest to me, my neighbors (those I am physically near) in reality, not in social media, television, or the newspaper? Media moves us away from reality and distances us from loving God and neighbor.
- Remember, my primary call is always to love God and my neighbor (those within reach). To perfectly reflect and allow the Spirit to transform me into 1 Corinthians 13. Isn’t this call enough to fill 80 years if I should live that long?
- Do I think about the “praise of men” more than the praise of God? John 12:43. I must spend much time praying about this and asking God to speak to me. This common disease of the Pharisees is very common today and can be buried under many layers of self deceit.
- A good question from Oswald Chambers: “Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him?”
- Does it give me joy to think: His grace is sufficient? If I think I need more, a disconnect with my Lord exists.
- Who is the hero of my imagined story? Do I feel heroic when I daydream about it? If I am the hero and not Christ, it is likely an obsessive delusion which needs more prayer. Here I must confess every speck of self-deceit to my Lord and get the help of the Holy Spirit. Delusions can steer me away from my true calling. Living out 1 Corinthians 13 anchors any true calling.
No Human Ingredient
“When I have really transacted business with God on His covenant and have let go entirely, there is no sense of merit, no human ingredient in it at all, but a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and the whole thing is transfigured with peace and joy.” Oswald Chambers
When I hear: How does my church compare to the church next door? Is it growing as fast as they are? Is my ministry successful? The solution to this problem begins with me and my refusal to participate in this religiously veneered worldliness and to remind myself and those who ask such questions to lean upon God, trust him, and go where he sends, and to know the peace described in Psalm 131.
Decision from Him, not My Naaman Complex
His call might very well lead me to something bigger than I could ever imagine, but that is for him to decide and direct. God has a call and a vision for all: primarily to love as he does. Any specific further vision and calling for my life will not be found in a desire for the BBD, envy, comparison, or a need to fulfill my ego. It will be in context of loving as he does and subjugated to that. His definition of success may even be invisible to my understanding. I can only find my calling in relationship to him and in much prayer. Fasting and prayer can sharpen my sense of dependence and, with practice, help me shed the Naaman complex. He promises that he will perfect His will in us.
Psalm 138:5-8 ESV – 5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Service not Measurable Results
If you’ve never fasted and you struggle with keeping your calling free of the BBD, I encourage you to make this the topic of prayer in daily prayer and a key subject of your next fasting day. Remember a calling is to service, obedience, and love, not to measurable results. The results may be enormous and abundant; but they belong to God, and he gets the credit. All this takes massive effort in letting go, concentration, sacrifice of ego, and ongoing confession, unlearning much, but I am not alone. With the power of the Holy Spirit, I can overcome ego, massive self-deceit, and the Naaman Complex and move closer to grasping the holiness he has destined for me.
Fasting reveals the Anger and Irritability Index
Self will and the rule of the stomach scream during a fast often creating irritability and anger. Fasting is where I can reveal the battlefield within myself, crucify all rights to self, and seek God’s healing for my selfishness. This angry child I encounter during fasting is my true nature. The one that is revealed when I don’t get my way. Every time I am angry, I can pray: “My name is dead. No right to self remains. Jesus lives and grows in me. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” See 2 Corinthians 5:21. I must keep fighting this battle until no speck of me, gain, competitiveness, or “winning” remains, only a sense of peace.
Reflect Upon Attitudes of Public and Private Worship
How sick I am with the Naaman Complex directly impacts how I choose to worship publicly and privately. For more on this subject, read Worship or Sunday Sacrifice. Is My Religion Classic Greek?
Prayer for when thoughts of glory and measurable success arise
Father you know me and my thoughts. Please forgive my thoughts of… Heal me and transform me into the person you desire me to be. To your glory and honor, make me, a sinner, as holy as you will. Amen (last part of prayer paraphrased from Oswald Chambers)
The Greatest Call
The greatest call is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This is the call of every Disciple whatever their circumstance. Fulfilling it with my own power will always be impossible; but with prayer, fasting and trusting in the power of my Lord, he will fulfill it in me to his glory and honor and by the power of the resurrection if I will ask, and keep asking every time I fall short when I take my eyes off him. It’s a walk, not a one or two time occurrence. Keep looking at him and trusting in him and he will do the greatest thing in life, he will transform me into a loving and holy child of his. When fasting, becoming this should be the center of my meditation and prayer.
Originally Published January 2013