As followers of Jesus, fasting is one way in which we can grow in our faith. It is a biblical practice of abstaining from food or drink for a stint of time and instead focusing our heart, mind, and body toward Jesus. There is nothing like feeling hunger pangs or having to say no to a craving multiple times a day to remind us of our weaknesses. It is in these moments we can ask God to be our strength.
In the last few years, there has been an increase in using fasting for better health. Many at Branches are even participating in a Winter Cleanse as part of the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. While it can be good for health, biblical fasting takes on more than just abstinence of food, but more of refocusing our attention on Jesus.
One of the great examples of fasting is when Jesus was in the wilderness:
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
Other stories in the Bible regarding fasting show that it can be used for multiple reasons. At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a woman, Anna, who worshiped God in the temple through prayer and fasting (Luke 2:37). In the book of Joel, we see that fasting was a way to show repentance:
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Pastor Tim shared in the message Rhythms on January 2, that our bodies are a temple of God. It is easy to think of our bodies as unspiritual and not important for spiritual life. Fasting is a great way to remind us that our body is for the Lord and that we are like a vessel that He can live and work through.
Dallas Willard says in The Spirit of Disciplines, “Without the body in its proper place, the pieces of the puzzle of new life in Christ do not realistically fit together, and the idea of really following him and becoming like him remains a practical impossibility.” Fasting is a matter of the heart and wanting to live out the life that God desires. When we fast, we should also look at how we are living our life toward others.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
God Loves You Already!
It is important to remember though that fasting does not make God love us more. Nothing can change how much God loves us. We are valuable because he created us. Sometimes we can want to make up for something wrong we did or for feeling unworthy of his love. We must remember that Jesus did all that for us. He is our sacrifice. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are where we find grace and salvation.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.