May 31, 2022
What's the most unfashionable spiritual practice today?
If you said fasting, you’d be in good company. It’s the means of grace that many people have difficulty practicing.
One of the many reasons we find fasting difficult is the consumeristic culture we live in. We live in a world with short attention spans, and normalized consumption of social media, news, and anything on our mobile devices. Additionally, consumerism shows up in the instant gratification of goods and services.
These examples point to fasting being counter-cultural in a world that is often surrounded by abundance. As a result, it’s possible to say, many of us are guilty of gluttony.
Biblical Basis for Fasting
In the Old Testament, fasting is done for primarily one reason: repentance for unfaithfulness. Sometimes it was individuals that fasted because of God’s judgment and at other times it was individuals (2 Sam 12:13-16, Nehemiah 9:1-2)
Unfaithfulness isn’t the only reason for fasting in the Old Testament. Sometimes leaders would fast to seek God’s assistance. (1 Sam 7:3-11, 2 Chronicles 20:3-12 and Ezra 8:21-23) And sometimes fasting was a result of grief. David’s fast following the death of King Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 11-12)
There’s one more type of fast in the Old Testament. Jump over to numbers 6:1-21 for something known as the Nazirite vow. This was fasting as a form of purification. But there were specific behaviors like abstaining from alcohol, cutting their hair, shaving, and….touching a corpse. This was the fasting of self-denial
Fasting in the New Testament
If I can continue into the New Testament, probably the most known example of fasting is that of Jesus following his baptism (Luke 4:1-2) for 40 days and nights he fasted. But that isn’t the only place Jesus talked about fasting. In the sermon on the mount, I love his instructions not to look gloomy like the hypocrites, they disfigure their faces so their fasting can be seen by others (Matt 6:16-18)
Why is Fasting Important?
Fasting is about deepening our relationship with God. So for leaders, fasting can be an essential means of grace when you're trying to make decisions, you feel the weight of those decisions and/or you find yourself being the center of attention, instead of Jesus being the center of attention.
At the center of fasting are humility and self-control. Like most things, it matters why you are fasting. If it's about humbling yourself before God to seek God's will and God's way. Your motivation for fasting matters.
There are many ways you can fast. Whatever you choose, if it is for a specific period of time or a specific type of fast, fast from one of the things that pull for your attention. It might be food, technology, a habit, etc. Hope in fasting comes from drawing closer to God. Hope while fasting comes from drawing closer to the God that we know in Jesus and humbling ourselves to be in God's presence and take God's guidance.