Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fasting (part one)

    (some of what the Bible says)

    As we continue to think about patterns that connect us to God, let’s think about fasting.

    Who fasts?

  • Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-4)
  • Believers fasted before making important decisions. (Acts 13:2 and 14:23)
  • Paul (Acts 9:9), and those he wrote (1 Corinthians 7:5).
  • David fasted (2 Samuel 12:16) as a sign of godly repentance.
  • In fact, entire nations like Nineveh fasted to ask for God’s mercy (Jonah 3:5)....
  • How about Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Darius (Daniel 6:18), Moses (Exodus 34:27-28), or Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:37)!

    Definition please!

    In the middle of the story of Esther, fasting is defined as not eating or drinking for a specific amount of time. (See Esther 4:16) So you may think that the lack of food is the main point. It is not! The point of fasting is seeking GOD!! Isaiah gives God’s promise that if we seek God with the right kind of fast (see Isaiah 58:6-8) when we call, the Lord will answer! (Isaiah 58:9)

    Why fast?

    Fasting does not earn forgiveness with God. Jesus’s work on the cross fully satisfies the penalty of each one of our sins. Instead “Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to yourself, that you are serious about your relationship with Him. Fasting helps you to gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.” (See Christian fasting - what does the Bible say?)

    How do we avoid food and/or drink for a period of time?

    The next blog entry will have more practical steps on taking a fast. But if the Holy Spirit prompts you to fast before then, a good first step is to allow each hunger pang to cause you to check in with God. “Lord, I feel hungry right now, help me know that only You really satisfy.” Perhaps the next stomach growl can remind you to humbly acknowledge your legitimate needs. Does your joy come from God, or food?

    Jesus offers this advice:

    16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18) Our fasting is not a show for others, but seeking the Father who sees in secret. We do not use any of the spiritual disciplines to manipulate God into acting. We seek the Giver (God) not a gift (answered prayer through fasting).

    Going without food and/or drink for a limited amount of time is a spiritual discipline, explained in the Bible, and useful for seeking God.


    Be sure if you have diabetes or other limiting health issues that you ask for medical advice from your doctor before proceeding!

    Please comment here about your understanding of fasting in the Bible.

    rose said...

    Fasting is hardly ever talked about anymore. The only time I have ever fasted was when I was a young girl in Catholic school. I fasted because it was part of my faith at that time and not because I wanted to get closer to Jesus. Thank you for explaining the reason for fasting~I needed to hear that. Blessings, rose

    TBC said...

    Bob Walter comments:

    My purpose in fasting has been to help me focus on my total dependence on God for everything in my life. As the day wears on and I feel those pains of hunger, I am reminded of this and stop to thank and praise Him in prayer. The greater the duration of my fast, the more intense the hunger, the more frequent prayer, the greater the realization of His presence in my life.

    I confess I often find myself questioning the denial of food to achieve this in 21st century America. In Biblical times there was probably nothing more important to a person’s very existence than his “daily bread”. There were no refrigerators or pantries overflowing with every kind of potato chip, cookie, ice cream bar (or for those with a healthy bent - fruit, protein, vegetables) - just waiting for the stroke of midnight or sunrise or whatever marker that will signify the fast’s end.

    I feel at times that it is healthy to substitute cable TV, sports obsessions, the internet, cell phone texting (ohmigoodness - not texting !) - for food as the subject of the fast. It’s not what we deprive ourselves of -- but rather Who we focus on that makes fasting an important spiritual discipline.