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Fasting in faith

April 1, 2019

 

Life without Jesus is bland. It’s not just without flavor, though. It’s spoiled rotten. Dead fruit unworthy to be offered at the table of grace. Fasting enlightens you to this on a deeper level.

 

When your stomach aches and yearns for something more, it’s a shadow of what should be our longing for Jesus to come. We should join all of creation and groan for His return, eagerly awaiting the day when we can feast together as a Church in the new heaven and earth.

 

And sometimes we do groan. With news of another terrorist attack. Come, Jesus, come. When the use of a gun turns horrific and cuts down the masses. Come, Jesus, come. When our own world implodes with a diagnosis or a betrayal. Come, Jesus, come.

 

But if we truly hungered and thirsted for His righteousness at this intensity all the time, it would transform the way we live, make decisions and interact with one another. Fasting gives us a sense of urgency for the empty and brokenhearted. It gives us the gift of the reality of our total dependence on this sovereign and all-powerful God.

 

Fear of fasting

 

When I was in high school, I developed an eating disorder. It was a sudden disturbance, like an airplane hitting unexpected turbulence. In the vulnerability of my teenage years, a light was switched on exposing all the darkness that hid inside of me.

 

The withering away of my body was a reflection of my inner soul sickness. With a disorder, it’s never about the food, or the cutting, or the … pick your toxic release. It’s about control. And oh how I longed to control what hurt me.

 

But by God’s infinite mercy, the anorexia was short-lived with no relapses. As I healed and matured physically and spiritually, I hungered for the Bread of Life that I knew was the only way to sustain and satisfy. 

 

Eventually, with God's grace and redemption, I longed to withhold food again - but this time not as a form of control and self-loathing but as an act of obedience and worship.

 

Isn’t that just like Jesus, in all His authority and redemption, to turn something that was meant for evil into something gloriously good?

 

Yet my past stronghold with food made me fearful to fast. What if it triggers the disorder? What if I do it wrong? Plus, the past 10 years I’d been either pregnant or nursing, and while my heart desired to go deeper with the Lord through fasting, the season didn’t seem right.

 

And now, who has time to skip a meal to pray when you have a perpetually hungry household? Honestly, I could think of so many reasons why not to fast.

 

Fasting in obedience 

 

But Jesus said not if you fast, but when you fast (Matthew 6:17). He gave this command knowing the many benefits fasting would offer His spiritually starved children.

 

With the education and encouragement from my church family, I have been able to fast the past three years in faith. The revelation it has given me about my spiritual diet, my appetite for the unhealthy things of this world and the pure cravings I should have as a follower of Christ have been a needed shock to my system. My conclusion?

 

I’m not hungry enough for Jesus.

 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6). 

 

Biblical fasting

 

It’s no mistake that the Promised Land of the Bible is described as flowing with milk and honey. That Jesus is the Bread of Life. And that we, as mini-Christs, are to be salt to a sin-rotted world. The Bible is full of food metaphors. Food is a life source. It can be comforting, satisfying, even intoxicating. It nurtures and fuels us.

 

Shouldn’t this be how we view Jesus -- as our Life Source, Comforter and Sustainer?

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good,” the psalmists encourages (Psalm 34:8). There is nothing sweeter than experiencing the power and promises of God through Scripture and prayer.

 

When we meet with the Giver of all good things - desperate and hungry, receiving and ingesting with nothing to give back but adoration, confession and thanksgiving - we are nurtured and our cup overflows.

 

Emptying ourselves of excess 

 

Conversely, when we stuff ourselves on the temporal things of life trying to fill our voids with food, money, achievements and entertainment, we become spiritually anorexic, deficient of the fruits of His Spirit. And the result will be heart failure.  

 

Fasting highlights areas where we are prone to binge, and it’s not always about food: Facebooking. Instagramming. Shopping. Errand running. Working. Volunteering. Exercising. Our children’s activities. The list goes on and on.

 

The excess threatens to distract us from feasting on Jesus and His Word. It can fatigue our spiritual palate to such a degree we can no longer discern between pure and artificial nutrition.

 

When I reset with fasting, I am more inclined to taste the Lord’s goodness. Instead of defaulting to the filler items, I can pause and practice prayer. I can ask God, “What is it that I’m trying to fill, or avoid, in place of You?

 

Logic reasons that something must be emptied before it can be filled. John 3:30 agrees: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

 

Feasting on the Savior

 

The excess in our life is part of what must decrease. Whether it’s food, finances, even friends, fasting helps us make more room for Jesus. It gives us the appetite to long to be holy as He is holy. And it’s certainly not about doing it perfectly. It’s about doing it out of obedience and expectation for Him, Heaven’s Manna. 

 

The irony of fasting is that it can actually be filling.

 

Blessed will be those servants the master finds alert when He comes. I assure you: He will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them … They will come from east and west, from north and south, to share the banquet in the kingdom of God” (Luke 12:37, 13:29).

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