Monday, January 28, 2019

Why Do You Fast?

It's that time of year again where churches encourage members to fast at the start of the year. To launch fasting in our household, we had a long discussion about what fasting means while reviewing Isaiah 58: 1-7. This chapter speaks about right and wrong ways to fast. In this passage, the reality was that God's people didn’t fast with the right heart and did it only as an empty ritual. The context of this passage focused on their relationships with others - the oppressed and the needy. But the overriding theme was not to do something just because you think it will please God without changing your ways. We were mindful of this thought as Monday dawned.

In my experience, the first day of any fast might be the hardest. Though we are a unit, each person in my household fasted based on their relationship with the Lord. I typically ate breakfast using the guidelines of the Daniel Fast (fruits, vegetables, and grains) then fasted throughout the day until 6:00 pm. In the interim, I drank lots of water.

I received a coupon for soup from a high-end farmers market in the neighborhood. Since I opted to eat only fruits and vegetables, I thought I would take advantage of this coupon. When I got to the market it seemed like there was a run on soup since the vegetarian one I wanted was sold out. So I went to the hot soup section to find a vegetarian option. Another guy was sampling what I initially thought was a vegetarian soup and I mentioned to him that there was meat in his soup. He was friendly and replied, "you don't eat meat?" I replied, "I do, but I'm fasting."

This exchange started a conversation where I learned that he was also fasting with his church. I shared my thoughts on fasting: it's not just about denying yourself but leaning on God, relying on the Word, praying to get you through, while deepening your relationship with Him. I mentioned that if we were doing this without focusing on the spiritual component, it wouldn't necessarily be a fast, as noted in the Bible. He told me the name of his church and started to give me a card for the church. I mentioned that I was familiar with his church and that I'd had to do quite a bit of church-hopping to find my current church since moving to CA. To which he replied, " Yeah, there's a lot of sh#@ in church."

So many thoughts ran through my mind at this point. In all fairness, it was the first day of fasting, so perhaps he wasn't aware of what he was saying. But then he said, he's Irish/Catholic, and swearing was very common for him.

I know it's common to curse today, but I have a different expectation from Christians especially one who just told me he was fasting with his church. I shared my thoughts on cursing and then encouraged him to perhaps submit this as an area of submission during his fast. "You don't curse?" "No, and it's not because I think I'm better than you, it's just an area of my life where I made a conscious effort to speak differently." I know how I speak matters. I said as much to him before we parted cordially.

In general, Christians should operate differently from those around them. How will anyone see your light if you speak and act the same as others? If you curse at the drop of a hat, how will anyone know you're different; that you're a believer? I think this is just one area where the transforming power of Christ can change a bad habit (Romans 12:1,2).

As we complete our annual fasts, let's check our hearts. Jesus didn't fast often, but when He did it was for forty days with total dependence on his Father (Matthew 4:1). During those forty days, when Jesus’ flesh was at its weakest, He endured relentless temptation from Satan. Satan offered Him alternatives to God’s plan, compromises that would satisfy His natural desires, and attacks upon His very identity as the Son of God (Matthew 4:3). Jesus used the Word of God, not His own strength, to defeat those temptations and remain victorious over sin. He demonstrated for us that fasting can strengthen us spiritually when we use it to draw closer to God. ( Through Jesus' example, we see that we cannot rely on ourselves to live in obedience to God.

Here's another example of fasting with the right motives - when Ezra fasted, he fasted because he had a relationship with God and knew that God could be trusted to provide protection. And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. The entire story is found in Ezra 8.

Let's not fast as a matter of empty ritual but instead let's ensure our hearts are in the right place. May fasting facilitate our transformation, making us more obedient to God and more familiar with His Word while deepening our relationship with Him. It's amazing how we are changed when we submit ourselves to His will.

So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. 
Ezra 8:23 [NLT]

Why do you fast?

P.S. the fast is over, and I am changed even if only incrementally. Becoming more like Him is what matters!


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  1. I tried a three day fast once and it was horrible, I ended up with grape juice and toast every day calling it communion. I have learned better since, have done 21 and even 40 day ones, telling the Lord I was doing it for love and the right reasons. Some people try to lose weight, I think that's different altogether. I just give up a meal a day or some Pinterest time, or something else. There is still too much dissention in the body of Christ, I get in trouble for reading different translations of the Bible,glad He knows hearts, but I have to agree with the man there is a lot of junk going on in the church.

  2. I fasted for a month many years ago for clear answer & direction. You may like to read my "Feeling Alone" reflection explaining the reason for this.

    You're most welcome to drop by for a cuppa,

  3. Loved this, my friend and your boldness with grace was used by God!

  4. Very interesting. My husband and some other members of our church are fasting every Monday night through Tuesday night. Thank you so much for sharing this article. I learned a lot just by reading it.

  5. Fasting is a challenge, but I think it's well worth it.
    Today, on the radio, I heard John MacArthur talking about fasting, and he said that in his experience when something is truly grieving him or close to his heart, fasting is a natural response. I'm not there yet, but I see this as a valid point.

  6. The only fast I have ever done was a "fruit fast" for 5 days as part of a yoga challenge. I will have to study fasting further before committing, but I think your heart is in the right place. You need to think about why you are fasting.

  7. I did a short, partial fast earlier this year with my church so this is especially good for me to hear: "the fast is over, and I am changed even if only incrementally. Becoming more like Him is what matters!" I don't necessarily see or feel any change, but I know time spent with God is never wasted! Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. As with everything we do for the Lord, it's all about the heart! Great reminder and great boldness in Christ!

  9. Interesting. I've never done more than a 24 hour fast. But I completely agree that it needs to be done with the right spirit.

  10. I have not done much fasting in my life, though I know it would be a good thing. One year in college, my roommates and I fasted from lunch on Tuesdays. Instead, we met at the room and spent our time praying. That was a blessed time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What a great conversation with the guy at the Farmer's Market! Blessings to you! I'm your neighbor at #FaithOnFire.

  11. I liked your comment about us (as Christians) needing to be different from the world, or how else would people be able to tell us apart? I know so many Christians who don't seem to grasp that. They have said that they're not perfect (which none of us are), but that doesn't mean we excuse ourselves from trying harder and harder until we accomplish our goal.
    I've not done much fasting, but I plan to this year.
    Visiting from the Faith 'n Friends Link Party.


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