March 7, 2019
Why fasting? Fasting is abstaining from food (or some other enjoyable pleasure) for a spiritual purpose.
Abstaining. It’s like a dirty word. Ours is not a culture that promotes denying oneself. We are trained to be relentlessly consuming and incredibly possessive. Even when we know a short term denial would be beneficial for long term living, we can find it impossible—unreasonable even!—to tell ourselves no. We see it now, feel it now, want it now, will have it now! Rarely do we consider refusing our desires. It’s okay as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, right?
Our culture may not value self-sacrifice, but our God does. We absolutely can not ignore the biblical themes of sacrificing for something greater, and not consuming or acting on everything just because it’s in our power. Paul urges believers to “present your bodies a living sacrifice,” and reminds us it’s imperative to discipline ourselves and keep desires in check (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9). Of course our greatest example is Jesus, who undertook the sacrifice of fasting for forty days and returned to shake society from its very roots. (Read Luke 4 to see how Jesus fasted to prepare.)
The beauty of following Jesus is that we’re not forced into rigorous practices for salvation. Fasting isn’t something we must to do to stay on God’s good side nor is it something we undertake to show off our spiritual depth to others. In fact, Jesus discourages fasting as a way of getting the thumbs up from the religious community (Matthew 6:16). Fasting is a way of showing God that even with all he’s given you—which is absolutely everything you have—you want more and more of him.
Fasting is purposely putting down something that you enjoy, or even need, for the purpose of spiritual development. Fasting is not a way to force God’s hand to give us something. It’s us silencing our ever-screaming need for more, and creating space for God to do what he wants in us.
What you fast is up to you. It could be foregoing the daily sweets, or the end-of-day Netflix binge-fest. Instead of reaching for whatever you normally use to satisfy the consumption craving, reach for a Bible or take a moment to pray. Maybe just sit in silence.
Pray – Seek God on what to fast and specific things to pray about.
Make a plan – Check out your calendar. What days or times will be most challenging and how will you overcome that to stick to your fast?
Fill the void – Make sure you’re replacing the meal or activity time with something that contributes to your purpose.
Be open! – Who knows what God has for you as you seek him. Don’t put him in a box.