Not exactly a fast: the substitution principal.

“. . . to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”–Isaiah 61:3 (NASB)

Twice in one recent day, I encountered the concept of fasting from bad attitudes. I see what the two people are getting at, but I don’t think “fasting” is quite appropriate. Fasting generally means not eating for a period of time. Jesus and Moses each fasted for forty days. Fasting doesn’t get more serious that that. On the 41st day, they resumed eating.

Fasting from a bad attitude smacks of what one of my college classmates went through. She decided to give up swearing for Lent! For forty days, she would start to make a characteristic comment, hold her hands over her mouth, and say something a little different. Monday after Easter, she was gleefully back in her element.

So I don’t want to fast from a bad attitude, and I don’t want to urge anyone else to engage in that kind of fast. That is, I don’t want to give a bad attitude up for Lent. I want to get rid of it. A bad attitude is a bad mental habit. No one can break a habit by deciding not to do something any more. The way to break a bad habit is establish another in its place. As we go through Lent, consider the following substitutions:

Instead of judging others, seek Christ’s love for them.

Instead of thinking of illness, think on Christ’s healing power.

Instead of speaking words that pollute, speak words that purify.

Instead of anger, develop patience.

Instead of discontent, seek out what to be grateful for.

Instead of bitterness, practice forgiveness.

Instead of discouragement, develop hope.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by problems, pray prayers that strengthen.

I could go on, but probably no one can keep all of that in mind at the same time. Ask God what he wants to work on with you–from this list or some other attitude. = “blank”Expect him to bring scriptures to mind; to bring articles, conversations, sermons, etc. to your attention that relate to your new habit; and to bring you to situations where you will have to deliberately choose not to respond in the old way in order to practice your new habit.

And then, after a hard struggle that may at times seem endless and pointless if you let it, amaze yourself and all of your associates with your new habit. You haven’t given up anything for Lent, but for life

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