Stephen MurrayComment

Fasting

Stephen MurrayComment
Fasting

Fasting is a spiritual discipline where we give up food to seek after God. And it's one we usually avoid. We treat fasting like we treat our taxes. I’ve always been taught to never expect a return on my taxes. That way I’m not left with disappointment.

They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
— John 4:30-34

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” BOLD. Jesus regularly gave up food to show His dependence on God for true sustenance. Is this the main reason we don't want to fast? It's too hard? The question people initially ask when they approach fasting is, "What is there to lose?" And their answer is usually A LOT to lose.

  • Weight - that sounds good!
  • Energy - uh oh. I have a lot on my plate right now.
  • Comfort - yeah, no.

This is usually the lens we look at fasting through. We see what there is to lose but we never ask the question, "What is there to gain?" If we don't see the point, the benefit, the trajectory God is leading us in fasting, then why would we ever do it?

four THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FASTING

1. FASTING IS FOR BEGINNERS

Fasting has been viewed in our generation as the Samurai-Christian spiritual discipline. But Jesus never placed this expectation upon His disciples. He didn’t say, "wait until you’ve got everything else down until you learn to fast." When Jesus talks about fasting in the scripture it is always accompanied by other spiritual disciplines we’ve grown accustomed to talking about but haven't necessarily become experts at: worship and prayer. The spiritual disciplines aren’t for experts, they’re for everyone. Beginners are always welcome in the kingdom of God, especially when it comes to things that help us to seek after God.

2. Spiritual discipline will always cost you something.

I feel like the main reason fasting has been placed in a different area than the other disciplines is because on the surface it feels like fasting is too costly. But the fact is no discipline comes without sacrifice. We have to be willing to give something up in order to become disciplined in anything. True worship is sacrificial. True prayer is heart-wrenching labor. True giving is costly. And true fasting is no different.

3. FASTING IS NOT EASY, BUT IT IS WORTH IT

Another common belief is that there is no real reward after/during a fast. People have told me, “At least after I worship and pray I feel better and more connected to God.” Fasting can seem like a bad investment. It takes all of your energy. You might get headaches. You are irritable. You feel fatigued. You get hunger pangs. None of these are fun for anyone. Fasting seems like the anti-spiritual discipline if you leave it at just that. But if you look deeper, fasting is a discipline that helps us to tap into our most normal feelings and responses that are hidden under the surface that we usually have the strength to hide. In fasting, our ability to hide is taken from us. People begin to get the true us. We can’t fake it, at least as well as we would have while on our regular meal schedule. Fasting is not only revealing and humbling in this way, but also acts as a parable of the great cost of following Jesus.

4. FASTING DOESN’T MAKE YOU SIN

Some people feel like fasting makes them sin. You feel irritable and more inclined to speak your mind when you’ve gone without food for an extended period of time. It’s like the snicker commercials we see these days.

 
 

Snickers says: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” I would say you’re still you, but you act different. You’re the real you. Fasting doesn’t make you sin. Fasting only reveals your sin. It brings it to the surface and helps you see it. Sometimes your friends will see it too. Your loss of strength during a fast hinders your capacity to cover up your inner-diva. Fasting is helpful because it helps us to see the parts of us we’re always hiding.

Benefits of Fasting

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
— Matthew 6:16

Primarily what we mean by fasting is abstaining from the consumption of food for an extended period of time to elevate our physical and spiritual appetites to God and His purposes and plans in our life.

  • Fasting helps us to see our will more clearly.
  • Fasting helps us grow in self-awareness of natural impulses and desires.
  • Fasting increases our awareness of God as we choose to deny ourselves.
  • Fasting helps us feel bodily hunger that informs our spiritual hunger for God.
  • Fasting helps us to see God in fresh ways, and to choose Him in greater ways.
  • Fasting builds our trust in God as our provider.

In fasting, we choose to abstain from good things in order to seek the source. Fasting is a discipline where we want to train our bodies to seek after Jesus rather than any other thing to satisfy us.

PRACTICALS FOR FASTING

1. DECIDE WHAT TO FAST.

What is God calling you to fast from? Whatever you decide on, enter your fast with resolve and confidence that it will be fruitful in your life. God will meet with you. Spiritual disciplines lead us to a place that we interact with and encounter God. Fasting will help us to draw near to Him.

2. REPLACE MEAL TIMES WITH WORSHIP AND PRAYER.

We want to use the time that has been opened by our fast to seek God. Abiding in Christ is our goal (John 15).

  • Read your bible: Ask Him to speak to you through reading His word.

  • Journal: Fasting is a time where we are asking, seeking, and knocking (Luke 11:9). Write down what you read from the scripture that stands out to you.

  • Incline your ear to hear from Him. God loves to respond to our prayers with fasting (Ezra 8:23; Acts 13)

  • Listen and write down what You hear Him speaking to you. This is something we must enter into with faith. Ask of Him and see what comes to mind. Write it down and look to see if it aligns with the scripture. Share it with your Lifegroup leader for accountability.

  • Worship: Fasting leads us to a place of lifting God higher, and humbling ourselves before Him. Worship with song, sing to Him, reflect on His character, glory, and worth. Let Him know that Your heart longs and yearns for Him in your hunger.

  • Pray: Let your fast be a time of you seeking God in the secret place. Prayers between you and Him (Matthew 6:6)

3. KEEP HYDRATED.

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water interspersed throughout the day. Sometimes the pain of going without food is great. Water can help in these moments and relieve your pain. Remember to set your mind on the Spirit when you are in pain. Let the pain lead you to desperation for God. And when you drink water/juice, call to mind the words of Jesus, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:14) In your drinking, be reminded of this promise.

4. BE RESTFUL IN THE UNREST.

You might have to slow down during your fast: less running, less working out, less activity. But don’t allow the enemy to win your fast. During a fast, your tendency will be to not do anything and wallow in your pain and discomfort. In fasting, be determined to seek after God and not allow the pain to keep you from seeking God. Allow your time of fasting to be a restful time, not a weary time. When Jesus called the disciples to rest, He also called them to very strenuous activity in going place to place proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Mark 6:30­52). On top of this, Jesus modeled seeking God in the secret place (Mark 1:35). Do not become weary in your fasting, but trust that God is using this time of unrest to grow you closer to Him and to give you greater rest. Let us not grow weary (Galatians 6:9)

5. DON't overdo it when BREAKING your FAST.

When going without food for an extended period of time, your body rethinks how to survive. Rather than depending on new intake/digestion, your body has begun drawing from its reserves/fats. With this transition, your digestive system has slowed and needs time to boot back up. When breaking your fast, be sure to eat light foods rather than heavy foods. Fruits, soups, and crackers are a great way to ease out of an extended fast. Taking communion is a great way to end your fast, remembering the love of God in Christ’s death and resurrection through bread and juice.

THOSE WHO SHOULD NOT FAST (FOOD)

There are health conditions and other situations that prohibit fasting food for certain individuals. While the following list is not exhaustive, it does include some major conditions that will not allow you to fast (food). Please consult your physician before considering a fast, regardless of your state of health. However, if you have any of the following, DO NOT fast (food):

  • Do not fast if you are pregnant or nursing.

  • Do not fast if you are extremely debilitated or malnourished, which would include patients with cancer, AIDS, severe anemia, or any severe wasting conditions.

  • Do not fast before or after surgery, since it may interfere with your ability to heal after surgery.

  • Do not fast if you suffer from cardiac arrhythmia or congestive heart failure.

  • Do not fast if you are struggling with mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and severe anxiety.

  • Do not fast if you suffer from severe liver and kidney disease.

  • Do not fast if you are Type 1 diabetic.

  • Do not fast if you are taking anti­inflammatory medications, aspirin, antidepressants, narcotics, chemotherapy, or diuretics. (Medications such as thyroid hormones and hormone replacement are safe to take during a fast. Always consult your physician before fasting if you are taking any medication.)

  • Do not fast if you are taking prednisone. You will need to first wean off this medication slowly under doctor’s supervision. (You may continue to take low doses of hypertension medications during a fast as long as you are monitored by a physician. However, this does not include diuretics.)