FASTING Discipline 2014-24
First off, how many of us have fasted? The facts are, not too many people have ever fasted or do so, on a regular basis, which is somewhat normal for society today. I do not mean DIETING fasts, but instead Spiritual Christian Fasts. What do you think is the difference?
What is fasting?
Not eating to lose weight could be called a fast, but that is a dieting fast, somewhat. Or, many times, a person can fast during Lent, by restricting certain intakes of food stuff. For medical reasons, some people may not be able to fast from food altogether. They may choose to abstain only from certain foods, like sugar or chocolate, or from something other than food. In truth, believers can fast from anything. The doing without something temporarily, such as television or soda, as a way of redirecting our focus from earthly things toward God, can also be considered a spiritual fast.
As a point of information only I fasted during Lent one year. We did so as a sacrificial Spiritual Lenten reason. We discussed when and how we would fast beforehand. Our decision was to fast on Monday’s and to do so by restricting our food intake. We drank water only except for the evening dinner time when we indulged ourselves with a cup of broth. During the day we involved ourselves in prayer and meditation. I will say, that by 4:00 PM, I was starting to feel the hunger pains in my stomach, but that went away eventually, especially after drinking fluid.
Spiritual Fasting in the Bible
There are many references in the Bible about Fasting. We will not go into detail about them, but the handout will show some of them from the New Testament. A cautionary statement though is to state that in the Scriptures there are absolute fasts that were done that involved no food OR water and for various time periods. That can be dangerous, especially if there are medications that need to be taken, or age or diseases that would preclude doing such a thing. The body can do without water for three days, but not much more than that time period.
Do we earn God’s favor by fasting?
Spiritual fasting is not a way to earn God’s favor by getting him to do something for us. Rather, the purpose is to produce a transformation in us—a clearer, more focused attention and dependence upon God.
Should we fast and proclaim this to anyone?
Fasting is never to be a public display of spirituality—it is between you and God alone. In fact, Jesus specifically instructed us in Matthew 6:16-18 to let our fasting be done privately and in humility, else we forfeit the benefits. I explain about my fasting to make a point of when I did so, and not a boasting of our actually doing so.
Is Fasting a Commandment from God? Sticking with the New Testament, Jesus did not say, “If you fast”, neither did He say, “You MUST fast”, but instead said, “When you fast” Matthew 6:16-18.The second crucial statement of Jesus about fasting comes in response to a question by the disciples of John the Baptist.
Perplexed over the fact that both they, John’s disciples, and the Pharisees fasted, but Jesus’ disciples did not, they asked, “Why”. Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9: 15). That is perhaps the most important statement in the New Testament on whether or not Christians should fast today.
What is the Purpose of Fasting?
Referencing Matthew 6:16-18 again whereas it states, “16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others 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.”
To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want. At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.
Fasting must center on God, not on ourselves. It MUST be God-initiated and God-ordained. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights— these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.
What can we learn from fasting?
More than any other Discipline fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately.
In Psalms 69:10, David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting” Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear— if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”
(Matt. 4: 4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us. In Christ, “All things hold together” (Col. 1: 17). Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting!
Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. Paul writes, “‘ All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Cor. 6: 12). Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels.
The practice of Fasting This is where I would go into detail on how to fast, how often, what to eat or drink, etc. The purpose of these Spiritual Disciplines is to introduce you to the Disciplines, but not necessarily go into each one in depth. You can do so in the future if you are interested. If you want some ideas, get and read Robert Foster’s book,”Celebration of Discipline” that I drew many of the ideas from to write this blog.