Here we are, hours into the New Year 2019. By most surveys, the number-one new year’s resolution is to lose weight. It’s usually embodied in getting healthier, starting to exercise, and all those kind of things but I want you to begin your year seriously, thoughtfully, and prayerfully considering fasting. I know the average Christian not only does not fast, but doesn’t even think about fasting. Pause for a moment here at the beginning of your year and consider this biblical truth, this spiritual exercise that was part of Jesus’ life and the instructions the Bible has for us to fast.
Most people with whom I talk think fasting is unimportant and not very spiritual at all, but when you consider the fact that Jesus fasted and that obviously there was some spiritual reward and impact on His life from fasting, it certainly ought to be worthy of our consideration that we could pause and do the same thing from time to time.
There are a couple of things up front that you need to consider: one, don’t fast if you’re going to do it with a bad attitude or go around grumbling about it all the time. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said not to be like the hypocrites. When they fast, they disfigure their faces and make sure everybody understands the spiritual agony they are enduring. Jesus said don’t do that. Jesus said instead of grumbling about it all the time, wash your face, clean up, and put on some good-smelling stuff. Put on a smile and get on with your day as you live for the Lord. In the words of Jesus, “Your Father who is in secret will reward you openly.” God knows what’s going on in your life and you will know what God is trying to talk to you about when you exercise fasting.
Secondly, you don’t need to tell anybody you’re doing it. You certainly need to make a commitment to yourself and follow through, but you don’t need to go about telling others what day it is and all the nuts and bolts and bumps that you have with fasting. Ask God to do something in your life and commit to following Him through your fasting experience.
Here’s what I’m challenging each of you to consider doing. Have four days each month, one day a week, when you will fast. The fast I’m asking you to consider will be from sun up to sun down. You may wonder why you should do it that way. Even if you’re on a food fast and you’re having health issues and you need to have something to eat in the morning, you can get up before sunrise, spend some time with the Lord, eat a bite, and (with your doctor’s approval) get through the day until sun down and carry out the fast.
I’m fully aware that there are health issues at stake here. I’ve had diabetics say to me that they cannot fast, and I certainly understand. Possibly you can fast to some degree, but you don’t need to do it outside your doctor’s guidance. For most of us, it is hardly problematic that we miss eating from the time the sun comes up to the time it goes down, because we get enough before and after the fast to fuel our bodies.
A more important aspect of fasting is that it’s not just a matter of foregoing food. I am convinced the Bible teaches that fasting takes you to a place in your life where you will have another hunger on which you will focus that takes the place of your physical hunger. That is hunger for God in your life. Think about it. If you go without food and begin to think at noon, “I’m getting a little hungry,” stop yourself! Every time you think about wanting some food, think about getting closer to God instead. In the time you would take feeding your face, pause and take time to feed your soul. Study your Bible. Read a devotional book. Think about plans you have for a mission trip. Bring those thoughts front and center in your life and commit them to God.
Anyone who has fasted knows when you deliberately cannot have food, you think more about food. You must substitute those thoughts with thoughts about God. In time, you will find you’re focusing on Him more than you ever thought you could. Doing without food or water is not unusual. If you’re having surgery or going to see the doctor, you are sometimes instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight. All of a sudden you think you’re never going to get to eat or drink again, though normally you don’t spend time eating and drinking in the early morning hours anyway but it’s on your mind.
The point is to let God bring into your thought process a relationship with Him that needs attention. Fill your life with things attached to Him, focused on Him, flowing from Him, and you will be amazed at what takes place in your life when you find fulfillment of your appetites for God and the things of the Lord more than you ever have before.
The most common fast is the meal fast. It’s what people think about when they think about fasting, but there are other things from which you can refrain and fast. Those who have fasted a meal may come away at the close of the day hungry and glad it’s over, but if you have a meal fast and at every thought about food you turned instead to a greater appetite for God, when it is over you may think: I can’t remember spending a day like that before!
If we would have a fast start for 2019 with a meal fast, I encourage you to pick a day and make it the same day each month. Whatever day you pick is between you and the Lord. It could be Monday or Friday or your choice. From before sun up to sun down, participate in the fast. I said there are four days, and there are four kinds of fasts that I want to place in your hands. The first is the meal fast. The second is the media fast. The third is the mood fast. The fourth is the miser fast. Each week, I’ll write a Directions article to explain a particular fast. You’ll be able to read about that in the weeks ahead.
For right now, consider praying, “Dear God, teach me. Speak to me. Help me to understand what this spiritual exercise could do in my life, and then open up the windows to pour out blessings upon me as I start this year with You and get off to a ‘fast’ start and throughout the year meet with You regularly.”
May God bless you and help you and give you insights that you’ve never before even considered as you start fasting with a meal fast this week.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.