The Pursuit | Thoughts on Fasting

fast
[fast, fahst]
noun
1. an abstinence from food, or a limiting of one’s food, especially when voluntary and as a religious observance; fasting.

Fasting can mean a lot of things. Whether it’s religious fasting, fasting for health reasons or fasting to be more productive. The first time I heard about fasting was while watching a children’s show, and one character who was Muslim explained that he was fasting for Ramadan. I remember distinctly thinking “wow, that must really suck, I’m glad I don’t have to do that!”, which is ironic considering I am in the midst of a fast right now.

Once I got saved, fasting became a little bit more relevant to me. I read in the Bible about Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights, which is an incredible amount of time to go without food, and voluntarily. But, I still didn’t see fasting as something that was “for me”. My church did a Daniel fast (Daniel 1:11-16) for a week (eating only fruits, vegetables and legumes), which I didn’t even fully follow (I just cut out desserts for a week) and I didn’t understand the purpose of a fast. I saw it as a fun thing to do with my church, it made me feel like we were united under this communal fast. Which, is not a bad thing, but not necessarily the purpose of fasting.

It wasn’t until several years later that I came to understand that fasting is an expected and worshipful part of our walks with Christ (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:1-17Mark 1:12-13Luke 4:1-14), the apostles fasted (Acts 9:8-11) and even old testament figures fasted (Ezra 8:21-23). There is no reason to not take fasting as seriously as prayer, reading the Word, going to church, or operating in the Spirit.

Fasting always brings revelation

This is something my pastor said to us as he announced a church-wide fast. I hadn’t ever thought of fasting in that way. I knew fasting was something we are commanded to do, and it’s something we see Jesus and many other figures in the Bible did, but I was stuck thinking of it as a personal sacrifice to show God how much I love Him. It was my offering, but I wasn’t dwelling on the fruit of the offering – the blessing that comes after the blood has been spilled.

We see God blessing fasts throughout the Bible. The prophetess Anna “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” and received revelation that Jesus is the Messiah while He was still a baby (Luke 2:36-38). Paul and Barnabas fasted and gained wisdom about committing elders to the churches in Syria (Acts 14:23). The Israelites fasted and received victory in battle (Judges 20:26-28). God obviously intended for fasting to be a way of seeking His will and drawing closer to Him.

All this is not to say that simply abstaining from food will bring you to a “mountaintop moment” from the Lord. Definitely not the case. Only true, sincere fasting will bring you revelation. I fasted from watching YouTube for a while because it was a really big distraction and consumed all the time I could spend with the Lord. But, you know what I did instead of watching YouTube? Netflix. I just replaced one evil with another, and that’s not true fasting at all. The definition of fasting I included at the start of this post is accurate, but here’s my definition of Christian fasting:

“abstaining from food, technology or some other idol and replacing that idol with time with God through prayer, worship and Scripture in order to receive personal revelation from God”

We can’t expect to be blessed by a fast if we aren’t dedicating it to the Lord, just as we can’t expect to be blessed by reading the Bible without studying it and praying through it. If we do it just to do it, then any blessings we receive at that time are probably just the result of common grace and not the fruit of your fast.

Now, after saying all this, I do admit that fasting is hard.
When you are so used to doing something like, let’s say, EATING, for example, it’s hard to break that. There are so many social interactions that involve eating, you form habits and routines around eating certain things at certain times, and your body literally needs to eat to survive. But, your body doesn’t literally need to eat every day to survive.* When I’m fasting and feeling really sorry for myself and how hungry I am, I think about the fact that Jesus spent forty days fasting and I become very grateful that my fast is only for five days.

It’s funny how you seem to get offered the most food while fasting – this week my work ordered from not just one, but two of my favorite restaurants where I would have gotten a free lunch.
But, God always works in suffering (big and small), doesn’t He? Let me lay out a scene for you: Christians often think of these “mountaintop moments” where they are on a spiritual high and feel closer to God than ever. But, have you ever looked at a mountaintop? They’re ugly. There isn’t any life. Mountaintops are barren because there isn’t enough oxygen or nutrients for plant-life to grow. However, as you come down from the mountain, the snowcaps start to melt and bring fresh water into the valleys. It may be harder to trudge through the valley and you may not be on the high you were on at the top of the mountain, but there is so much life and growth in those valleys.
All we learn during those mountaintop moments with the Lord is used to water the low moments that inevitably come, and your faith only gets tested and grown through those lows. Plus, you have to cross a valley in order to get to the next mountaintop, and from there you can enjoy the view of the growth that came out of that valley.

Isn’t it SO GOOD that we have a God who works mightily in suffering?? Who else does that?? He wants us and calls us valuable at our lowest and most vulnerable points. This is why we fast – we need to show ourselves as weak before the Lord in order for Him to work in us. God is powerful, but He desires our submission to Him and His holiness in order for Him to shape us into more of His image.

One of the most essential things I’ve learned in this fast is that fasting is a mindset that continues after you start eating again. Fasting realigns our minds with the Lord’s, and then we need to cling to that mindset in order to continue bearing the fruit of the fast. We don’t fast for a spiritual high and then go right back to our old ways – whatever the Lord reveals to us in our fast is not a temporary and light Sunday school lesson. Revelation is WEIGHTY and RICH. The Lord calls us to live with a mind set on Him and Him alone (Colossians 3:2), which is a struggle. But, once you’ve fasted, you realize how much time is wasted on other things rather than the Lord and you desire to make that time with the Lord happen.

Realign your heart to living in the power and truth that can only come from the Lord, and He will amaze you, He promises that.

 

*I want to clarify that there is a HUGE difference between healthy fasting and fasting as a result of an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder. You should eat every day in order to keep your body running at top performance – fasting is only a temporary abstinence from food. Anyone who has any medical concerns about fasting should speak to their doctor before starting a fast or consider a fast unrelated to food. And, if you are fasting, please be sensitive to the triggers that can be associated with it for people who have struggled with food in this way.

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