Fasting. Oh this will be fun.
Defined simply, fasting is the discipline of willingly restricting food for a spiritual purpose. The Hebrew word (tsowm) is graphic: it means “to cover the mouth.” Whenever a fast is mentioned in the Bible it has to do with abstaining from food for a spiritual purpose. It’s not a diet. It’s ruined when you go bragging on Facebook about it. It’s pointless if you don’t turn your gaze toward Jesus. But it is powerful because it frees up time we would have spent eating meals and gives us additional time to expose ourselves to the Word of God and the presence of God in prayer, journaling, solitude, meditation, etc.
We could talk for hours about the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting. In response to a load of questions I’ve received, I’ll drop a few of the thoughts as to the WHY? of fasting as we call our tribe to fast this week.
1. Waiting. You wouldn’t know it by talking to most Christians, but fasting used to be part of the normal Christian life. Somehow it fell off the cool scale and lost its appeal. One thing is clear, a lot of us want instant answers and quick fixes to our problems, and we love the idea of an instant gratification spirituality where we get it our way right away. Fast food faith. Pizza in 30 minutes or less. Instant oatmeal. Instant credit. Our culture has trained us to expect things now. You can call it a lot of things, but you can be sure of this: fasting is a discipline of waiting. Painful waiting. But it has a way of recalibrating the soul out of the rhythms of our culture and into the rhythms of grace.
2. Humility. I often hear people praying for God to humble them, but nowhere does the Bible say that we are to pass the buck on this responsibility. “Humble yourselves” is the constant exhortation of Scripture, yet it often seems unclear how exactly we can “humble ourselves.” Fasting is humbling. In Psalm 35:13 David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” In Ezra 8 the great spiritual leader said “I proclaimed a fast that we might humble ourselves before our God…” (8:21) Don’t miss the connection: that we might humble ourselves. And don’t forget the lesson of biblical history: God always opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Grace. The gift of God. The presence of God. The favor of God. The blessing of God.
3. Power. The end result of the Ezra fast is encouraging: “So we fasted and implored God for this, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:23) II Chronicles 7:14 is the classic promise for those willing to humble themselves: “If my people called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” One more episode. It’s Mark 9 and there’s a dad with a mute son who the disciples tried, but could not heal. Jesus does not say, “Well, it must have been God’s will for this boy to remain bound by the devil. God is in control, and let’s get on with life.” No. He expresses frustration with the lack of faith in the situation and proceeds to heal and deliver the boy. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, He gives the timeless invitation: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Apparently fasting is like a catalyst to your faith.
I dare you to do it.
Set aside these days. Don’t eat. Spend extra time feasting on the Scriptures. Chew on it. Pray.
Final thought. Don’t expect to “feel” the results of your fast at first. Fasting has a way of weaning you off the world and all things natural. Children rarely understand the blessing of being weaned while they’re being weaned. But I thank God I do not still run to my mother’s breast when I need a drink of milk. Just as your body detoxes while you fast, there are spiritual toxins coming out while you replace lower providers with the deeper provision of the Word of God and prayer. It will hurt. Your head might ache. Your stomach will revolt. Press on, because God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Click here for more info on fasting from Bill Bright, the Yoda of fasting.
For anybody interested in the Daniel fast Click here to check out the Daniel Fast Blog.