Lent is close upon us once more Ash Wednesday is March 6th. Have you thought about fasting for those 40 days? Many Christians find it helpful.
Fasting is a temporary renunciation of something that is in itself good, like food, in order to intensify our expression of need for something greater; namely, God and his work in our lives. And that gives fasting for Christians a radically Godward focus. And in that sense fasting is a great test and confirmation that God is real to us, since in many situations God is the only person who knows you’re fasting. And the discipline can’t impress anybody, and all it can do is test whether you and God are really having a transaction here. One of the meanings of Christian fasting is that we are expressing our hunger for the Lord Jesus to come back and to take up his kingship in this world.
Fasting is a way of saying with our stomach and our whole body how much we need and want and trust Jesus. It is a way of saying that we are not going to be enslaved by food as the source of our satisfaction. We will use the renunciation of food from time to time to express that Jesus is better than food. Jesus is more needful than food.
Looking at the Bible’s examples, here are three good reasons to start a fast:
- To Connect With God
In the Bible, fasting is a way to grow a deeper connection with God. It’s a way we show our submission to Jesus and repent for things we’ve done 12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:12-13). Fasting is almost always paired with praying because when we give something up for a set time, we can exchange the time spent preparing a meal and eating with time spent talking and listening to Jesus.
- To Focus On God
Fasting is about remembering that God comes first in our lives. It helps us practice saying “no” to our desires and saying “yes” to Jesus. When we give something up for Lent, we are more focused on God than things that may distract us. Rather than focusing on a craving for food, we should hunger and thirst for what’s good and true “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.’ (Matthew 5:6).
- To Depend On God
Fasting is an opportunity to place complete dependence on God. We have the luxuries of running water, easy access to food, and so much more. We can intentionally step away from something we regularly enjoy to remind ourselves that Jesus provides for all our needs. God is a generous God, and fasting is one way to remember how good He is to us “And my God will supply every needs of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:19).
Mark 9:29 shows that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 and 21 say that fasting and prayer coupled with faith in God can work spiritual miracles.
Fasting was an expected practice in both the Old and New Testament eras. For example, Moses fasted at least two recorded forty-day periods. Jesus fasted 40 days and reminded His followers to fast, “when you fast,” not if you fast. But modern fasts can also be from things like alcohol, tobacco, TV, Cell phones, a favorite pastime. Sometimes our prayer is to break a bad habit, which at one time we thought we controlled and now we have discovered it controls us. At other time we are trying to insert a healthy practice into our lives like exercise, sleep, healthy eating, Bible reading or prayer, regular Church attendance, disciplined giving.
Fasting is spring-cleaning our lives with an eye to the Lordship of Christ over our lives. I invite you to research the idea of fasting and pick something appropriate for yourself this Lent. Tell a friend what you are attempting and ask them to keep you accountable. Fasting will help you connect, focus and depend upon God.
The Rev Robin Adams