Fasting As Obedience

May 2005

My children grew up around preachers. Now that they are older and more daring they venture comments about preaching— unsolicited mind you, but perhaps a needed reminder— “Dad, preachers always tell us what to do and very little about how to do.” Last month I wrote about what to do, I encouraged fasting. Now I will tell how to do it. Happy Fasting!

Tip 1. Start now. Physically, fasting for a day or two takes very little preparation. Simply eat lightly the day before and after. If you are not ready for a whole day start slowly by skipping one meal, then two, then three and before you know it you’ve fasted for 24 hours. Reminder: Fasting is abstaining from food and possibly water if specifically summoned to do so by the Lord. When fasting restrain from coffee and other stimulating sugary drinks. Anything your body has to digest is not fasting. Self-denial is a wonderful practice. Not eating certain foods and having certain pleasures are well worth it. Christians should habitually do that. But self-denial is not biblical fasting.

Tip 2. Fast with a goal in mind. You need to know to what end you are fasting. This end will sustain you when hunger pangs come knocking to pester you. Ask the Lord to give you a purpose each time you fast. Jesus fasted and overcame temptation. David fasted for healing of his son. The most significant purpose I fast for is on behalf of others. Recently I was prompted to fast for a friend who was making a major decision. That day he came to my mind dozens of times. Each time I said a prayer for him. By the end of the day I sensed that I accomplished the goal of the fast. There will be no shortage of issues that demand prayer and fasting: The sickness of a loved one, the estrangement of a loved one, the decision making of another or simply to bring your body under God’s control. George Barna believes that Jesus “fasted in order to remind himself to focus on God” (Think Like Jesus, 7). Andrew Murray said: “Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God” (http://www.wclc.org.uk/sermon/fasting/3.html).

Tip 3. A day of repentance and fasting was a biblical mandate to the people of God. IS IT NOT STILL? Jesus said in Matthew 9:15 that one day he will leave the disciples physically “then they will fast.” We fast because God ordained it. Who am I to dispute what he has already said? How do we fast? We fast in obedience, as an act of submission to the will of God.

Faster Beware:
***It’s never convenient to fast. Just do it.
***You’ll feel hungry. Let this become a way to empathize with millions who bed themselves on empty stomachs daily. The money you save when fasting may be donated to World Hunger Relief or your favorite charity.
***Don’t want to. Don’t feel like it. The spirit behind this attitude is enough reason to fast. Walking with the Master demands the practice of the disciplines of the Master.

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