How many of you have gotten overwhelmed with the implications of fasting? Not many people would argue the point that every Christian should be living a lifestyle of fasting. But when they think about having to go 1, 3, 7 or 21 days without eating food at all their palms get sweaty, their stomach moans and they think “I could never do that.” I believe many Christians miss out on the growth and joy of this discipline that is required and exemplified in Scripture. I could go into the biblical benefit and reason we should fast regularly, but for this article I’m going to stick with exploring scripture examples, Jesus’ commands and the diversity that fasting can entail. I’ve come to realize, people can feel trapped when it comes to fasting; each individual should feel freedom in what fasting looks like for them, rather then neglecting the actual biblical call to fast.
Let me share some biblical fasts that are not what we’d normally envision for our next fast. It’s written about John the Baptist that he and his disciples fasted often; what did that look like for him? The Bible shares that he ate only locusts and honey; a diet of locusts and honey may have been considered a fast without it having to be 40 days without any food at all like Jesus. Apparently that fasted lifestyle produced in John something for Jesus to say that there were none born of a woman greater than John the baptist!
Daniel lived a fasted lifestyle for years simply by eating only fruits and veggies. In another point in Daniel’s life he spent 3 weeks in concentrated fasting by not eating anything that even tasted good to him; That might sound harder than actually giving up food completely! The prophet Ezekiel ate only a certain recipe of bread giving to him by God for a period of time; while laying on his side! There are other examples of Paul or Esther who fasted 3 days without food OR drink! The early church continued a culture of fasting at Antioch where they were “fasting and ministering to the Lord.” As you can see, these few pillars in the faith lived in a culture of fasting, reaped the benefits clearly through their lives and all of them looked drastically different than the other.
The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom primarily concerned about the heart. When we encounter Jesus, we want to fast because we realize the supremacy of the spiritual over the natural. We recognize that spending time away from good or even essential things weakens our response to our flesh and requires us to rely on the Spirit. Which is why Saul simply refused to eat after he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road, he knew he needed something from God’s Spirit.
It’s in that place of the heart turned and set apart to God that He responds.
If you aren’t convinced of the necessity of fasting, read these scriptures.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:16 “when you fast,” then He continued on to address heart postures in fasting. In both Matthew 9 and Mark 2 Jesus says that once He leaves the earth “then they WILL fast in that day.”
I believe we all should be practicing regular fasting. However, in the Kingdom of God, it’s always about the heart. Our heart posture should include fasting, but only what Jesus tells you to do as an act of obedience and devotion; Like Ezekiel, like John the Baptist, like Daniel.
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:4;12
In closing, as Christians, let’s respond to His prompting through scripture and the Holy Spirit. Let’s live a fasted lifestyle; but not need others or cultural norms to dictate what that looks like for us.
So maybe you just need to give up the donuts or meat for a time. Or do you need to give up all food for a couple days? God is after something deeper – a set apart lifestyle, in health, to Him. Take on regular fasting, let it produce in you a self control over your desires and a lifestyle of health. Along with it also, the faith and power in prayer Jesus promises. He thought it was a good idea, he gave the command, he sacrificed all, so let’s sacrifice with him!
Give yourself more freedom and grace then you may have put on yourself before; It’s about you and Jesus.