We have been talking about Spiritual Disciplines. Fasting is a spiritual discipline. Earlier, I had shared that we don’t talk about much it in the church. Neither do we practice it much. But fasting is a discipline which has been a part of the Christian faith since the very beginning.
The season of Lent is approaching. Ash Wednesday is now less than two weeks away. This is a traditional time to practice fasting. Many people “give something up for Lent.” You might know that I wrote a book about it. (get the Kindle edition). The idea of giving something up comes from the practice of fasting. Although giving things up is a type fast, it is not the same as the traditional fast from food.
Because we don’t fast, we may not understand why we would do it. In this post, I want to share some reasons why you might consider fasting in the traditional way.
A New Calling or Undertaking
We know Jesus fasted. He fasted when he was led into the desert and tempted by Satan (see Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-15). Jesus’ fast took place before he began his ministry.
The Apostle Paul also fasted after his conversion on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:9). God had called him to ministry, and he was about to undertake a great adventure.
I share both of these experiences because they take place before beginning a new ministry. I don’t think this is without coincidence. Maybe you have a new calling or undertaking in life. It is a great time to practice a fast in preparation.
Fasting reveals our dependencies
You are taught to check your blind spot when you learn to drive a car. The blind spot is the area outside of the view of your mirrors and peripheral vision. You don’t want to merge your car into another lane without checking it. If you miss your blind spot, there is the potential for serious consequences.
Fasting is a way of checking out blind spots in life. Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4). We develop dependencies apart from God that we are often unaware. They are blind spots. Fasting works to reveal those blind spots.
You may think that you have not created idols in your life. You don’t have statues in your house that you pray and worship. But maybe you have certain luxuries in your life that have made to be necessities. You have elevated them above your relationship with God. Your relationship with him is not what it could be.
Fasting reveals the heart
Hunger tends to exaggerate our emotions. Our anger may more easily be set off. We may be quicker to shed a tear of sorrow. These things which we had hidden deep inside are released when we fast. This is good, because what remains hidden in the dark is allowed to stay there and fester. When these secrets are revealed it offers us the opportunity to confess, repent, receive God’s forgiveness, and conquer.
Fasting gives insight
Fasting can be an invaluable practice when you have a big decision to make. Fasting has a way of clearing our minds. By setting aside food we are setting aside something that often occupies our thoughts and attention. We see the early church fasting in the Book of Acts when there was a big decision to be made. (see Acts 13:2–3; 14:23)
Extra time for God
Even in a world of fast food, it takes time to eat. By eliminating a meal, we are creating extra time in our schedule. We can use this time to feast on his Word!
Fasting honors God
Fasting is a form of worship. Fasting is a way of saying, “God, I don’t need anything but you.” It is a way of putting God first in our lives. It gives him the honor he deserves.
How do I do it?
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will be launching an online course that focuses on the spiritual disciplines and looks at some of the specific how-tos. It is not just about fasting, but will include other spiritual disciplines. This course will be available to all members of Greater Things Today.
Questions for Reflection
- Have you ever fasted?
- What are some additional benefits of fasting?
- What are some reasons not to fast?
- Share your comments.