By Albert Hung
I’m having what you’d call a crisis of faith.
Yesterday, our church family embarked on a 21 day period of fasting and prayer. This has become an annual ritual for us at the start of each New Year. The Christian life is a life of self-denial. We are defined not only by what we do, but by what we choose not to do. When we say “yes” to some things, we must by necessity say “no” to other things. The discipline of fasting is a practical means by which we hone our ability to say “no,” and invite God to recalibrate our hearts and refresh our spirits.
This year, I’ve chosen to fast from media and merchandise – no non-work related internet usage, television, or other media, and no non-essential spending. As a result, it’s been quieter around the house. Less noise from the world. More time to be alone with my thoughts. And as is always the case when I fast, a gnawing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me.
My wife and children are, among other things, fasting from junk food. Yesterday someone stopped by and gave us three Twinkies (weird things like that tend to happen to us). They are sitting behind me on the counter, beckoning me to eat them and hide the evidence. But if I did, I wouldn’t have room for anything else. Those things are filling.
I feel empty when I fast because I’m not filling my body, mind, and soul with junk. I’m not snacking on garbage. And my hunger for spiritual things increases.
Hence the crisis of faith. When I fast, I am confronted with my own desperate condition before God. My poverty of spirit. My lack of spiritual fervor. Every flaw, every weakness, every sin is laid bare. Fasting is a humbling experience. Every time, I lose faith. But not in God. I lose faith in myself.
Following Jesus is not only a matter of acquiring faith. It also is a process of losing faith. Faith in one’s own goodness, abilities, and judgment. Faith in humanity. Faith in education. Faith in government. Faith in capitalism. Faith, even, in the church.
In the end, it is faith in Christ, and only Christ, that saves us, anchors us, and transforms us.
“This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8
Albert Hung: Albert is the Lead Pastor at Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Monterey Park, California, a multi-cultural church with services in English and Mandarin. After spending several years working in theater, television, and the music industry, Albert committed his life to Christ in 2000 while living in Taipei, Taiwan.
Soon afterwards, he moved to Southern California to begin a new journey as one called to full time ministry. He is passionate about leadership development, cross-cultural ministry, and mobilizing Christians to use their gifts and abilities to advance the kingdom of God in the local community.