Last week I talked about fasting. If fasting is a new concept to you, you may be wondering what it is and why do it.
In the Bible, a fast refers to going without food for a period of time. Usually these were times when those fasting were seeking God and His favor either in the face of crisis or when beginning a new endeavor or phase of ministry.
Queen Esther and her maids fasted for three days before she planned to go before the King to ask him to reverse his order to kill the Jews. She asked her uncle, Mordecai, and his Jewish compatriots in the area to do the same. She knew she was in a tricky situation. In those days, even the queen could not show up at court unannounced. If the king did not hold out his golden scepter to welcome them, an intruder could be killed. Plus, there was the question of what to say and how to approach the situation. You can bet that in her fasted state, she sought the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and help. All were provided. Through her actions, the Jews were spared and prospered. Their enemies were defeated.
Likewise, Jesus did not begin His ministry without giving up not only food, but all earthly comforts, leaving home and surviving alone in the wilderness for 40 days (Luke 4:1-14). We’re not given the details of most of His time there, but again, we can image that it was an intense time of prayer and reflection—a strategy session of sorts, envisioning just how to set about the monumental task before Him. Toughening His will and His resolve, in the end He was “stronger than horseradish” as they say. He conquered Satan with only the Word of God. He came out of the wilderness with a plan. The next thing He did was begin to round up His disciples. These were the first generation He would trust as helpers in executing the Plan.
It’s important to note that a fast is not undertaken for the purpose of changing or convincing God. To the contrary, if God is leading you to any fast, you be sure its for the purpose of changing you. Does God lead us to fast? Luke 41:1 tells us that: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan (after His baptism) and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. If Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into a fast, we can believe He will lead us, too.
I said last time that I was beginning a fast which I intend to last for 40 days. This includes eating solid food only one time per day as well as abstaining from some activities that capture my heart and attention. As of this writing, I am one week in. Anyone who comes to a fast, whether it is from food, activities such as social media or other worldly passions, should have a purpose in mind. Giving up food, comfort, convenience, and addictions sounds good when you are full and comfortable. When you are “hangry” (hungry to the point of rage) or longing for a fix of whatever you’ve put aside, you need strong motivation.
Ultimately, there is only one thing that can motivate us to keep going when the going gets hard.
When this challenge is set before us, the question is which do we want more—the temporary pleasures of our flesh and the world or the Eternal Life that comes from knowing Him and living out His perfect will for our lives?
In fasting, we answer that question in affirmation to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we face down hunger and distraction to hold on to the Savior, we too become “as strong as horseradish.” We know that we are, indeed, living by the Spirit and not the flesh. The fast becomes a touchstone we can return to as a reminder that with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
Just a note, though. I have started fasts that fell by the wayside. It’s always disappointing. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). He is pleased with your attempts to “put to death the deeds of the body,” because He knows this always leads to Life (Romans 8:13).
Here are some tips if you are thinking about starting a fast:
- Pray about it and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Isaiah 30:21).
- Set a date to begin. Give yourself time to set your heart and to think how you will overcome obstacles.
- If this is new for you, start small. As you grow in strength and faith in response to little victories, you can reach for more.
I’m excited to hear how God is moving in your life! Share in the comments.