What is Fasting Really About?
Lent is upon us and I want to fast. I also want to lose weight. I think I will give up red meat or chocolate. Maybe I will just give up meat on Fridays. I really want to fast this year. I will try the “Daniel Diet.” That sounds like a nice biblical fast. But Why? Why do i even want to fast? It seems like a lot of hard work and self sacrifice. Truly fasting is not about weight loss or eating healthy for a short period of time. Many people think fasting is about giving up something you like that you know is not good for you. HMM. I know it is not good for me, but I need a special occasion to give it up for a little while. Is this how Christians are called to live? Is this the biblical purpose of fasting. In the bible there are 3 main reasons to fast:
1) To repent and seek God’s forgiveness
2) To seek God’s help
3) To seek a closer, committed, and submissive relationship with God.
I want to seek a closer, committed, and submissive relationship with God. If you read the entire 6th chapter of The Gospel According to Matthew you will notice 5 seemingly unrelated themes – Giving to the Needy, Prayer, Fasting, Treasures in Heaven, and Do Not Worry. Though they seem unrelated they are closing tied together. In Isaiah 58 God emphasizes the fasting he respects is taking care of those in need. So when we read Jesus teaching his disciples the importance of giving to those in need and giving for the sake of love not to impress other men, in essence Jesus is teaching an important tenet of fasting.
Tenet #1: Fasting is giving to those in need out of love and not out of show.
Throughout the bible we see that fasting is also associated with prayer. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached their impending doom the king Biblical fasting tore his clothes, put on sack cloth, fasted and prayed commanding the people to do the same. Before Esther approached the king to save her people she asked Mordecai to join her in fasting and prayer for 3 days. So we see Jesus teaches is disciples to effectively pray before he teaches them about fasting.
Tenet #2: Effective prayer is necessary for an effective fast.
When we truly fast we connect with God and we take our prayer life to a higher level as we seek a closer relationship with Him. Even as we pray Jesus taught us to start with honoring and worshiping God. We start by submitting ourselves to Him and we pray that His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Our fast is to remove self. Our fast is to deny self. Our fast is to recommit to God. Our fast is about a direct relationship with God and has nothing to do with people who sit next to us in church. We do not seek approval of man. So Jesus says do not be like the hypocrites. Wash your face, fix your hair and straighten out your clothes so that it is not obvious you are fasting.
Tenet #3: This is only between you and God!
The things you do for God is between you and Him and only those things will last. Approval of man is temporary. Earthy treasures will not last. A position of authority is temporary. Only the things you do for God will last. You cannot serve 2 masters. Fasting focuses your attention on God and His Will. Fasting helps us to realize that God requires us to put nothing before Him. The main reason we deny ourselves is to put God first. To put God above all things. When you fast remember God’s 1st commandment; “You shall have no other gods before me”.
Tenet #4: Have no other gods before me.
Many times the cares of the world make it hard for us to truly seek God. We worry about the rent, food, clothes, how our hair looks etc. We worry about our daily needs and this is understandable. As we grow in Christ we realize worrying hinders our growth. But be encouraged. God is the creator and keeper of the earth. The earth is His and the fullness thereof. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The Lord IS your Shepherd and in Him there is no want. If he takes care of the birds and the flowers how much more will he take care of you His Child? As we fast, as we seek a closer relationship with God he wants us to be comforted and not to worry. God wants us to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and he will take care of all our needs. To seek His Kingdom reflects us building a closer relationship with God and becoming submissive to His Will. To seek His Righteousness goes back to how we treat our brothers and sisters. God says Love Him first and foremost and to love each other as we love ourselves.