Meditation is a great discipline we incorporate into our daily routine to allow us to connect with Jesus. Another inward discipline that allows us to put away distractions is fasting.
Fasting is lost on us. I know for me personally, I love to eat. My relationship with food has not always been healthy, and I don’t mean only the food I consume is not good for me. I run to food for comfort and find enjoyment in eating good food.
Fasting is a discipline we assume is used by the spiritual elite. I mean, let us be honest, who can go without food for any length of time? This assumption means we are missing out on some of the grace from Jesus. The body can actually go a long time without food, culturally we are trained to think it can’t go longer than a few hours. Foster says, “fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels… This is not excessive asceticism; it is discipline and discipline brings freedom.”
“More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear – if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first, we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.”
Fasting is found throughout the Bible, from Moses to Paul people fast in order to be with God. Fasting is always spiritual. The motivation to fast is not to lose weight or force God’s hand to give you something you want. The motivation to fast is to get more of Jesus.
Two places in particular we see Jesus talk about fasting: Matthew 6:16, Jesus says “when you fast…” Jesus is assuming that we are going to fast. This teaching is in the Sermon on the Mount while Jesus describes giving, prayer, and fasting as characteristics of the Christian life. Later in Matthew 9:15, Jesus says “the time will come… then they will fast.” Again, Jesus is expecting his followers to fast once he has left earth and ascended back to heaven.
If you want to be closer with Jesus begin fasting. If you have never fasted from food do not start with a 21 day fast. Begin as a progression. For the first time try fasting from lunch to lunch, meaning you would miss two meals. During those two meals drink fresh fruit juices. Do this once a week for several weeks.
While fasting, take the time you would have used to prepare or eat meals and spend it with Jesus in meditation, prayer, and Bible study. Throughout your day while performing mundane tasks seek to be in a position of worship adoring your savior.
After becoming acquainted with fasting, do a normal 24 hour fast of not eating any food but drinking only water. Foster says, “you will probably feel some hunger pangs or discomfort before the time is up. That is not real hunger; your stomach has been trained through years of conditioning to give signals of hunger at certain hours. In many ways, the stomach is like a spoiled child, and a spoiled child does not need indulgence, but needs discipline… You are to be the master of your stomach, not its slave.”
After training yourself to do 24 hours, seek the Lord, and ask how long he would like you to fast in the future. It may be 36 hours, 7 days, 14 days, or even 21 days. Take time to be alone with Jesus and seek him.
Whenever you break a fast, you will want to do it by eating fresh fruits and vegetables not by indulging a ribeye and potatoes. Ease yourself back into your normal diet, or the Lord may be telling you to change your diet.
It should be mentioned, not everyone is able to fast. If you have underlying health issues like diabetes fasting is probably not for you. If you are unsure, ask your doctor.
Jesus wants to connect with you, fasting may be the discipline you need to add to your life to be closer to him.
Pastor Michael Covey
“I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…” -1 Corinthians 9:27
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth. HarperOne, 2018.
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