Fasting For Real
Thereâ€™s something about the topic of Christian fasting that makes people defensive. I know Iâ€™m that way. When someone starts to talk about it, you can never be quite sure where theyâ€™re going or what burden they may try to lay on your conscience. So let me put your mind at ease as we open a short blog series on the topic. If you donâ€™t want to fast, donâ€™t fast. I have no hidden agenda that Iâ€™m going to spring on you in the last paragraph.
I do have an agenda to clarify the biblical teaching on fasting and call attention to bad habits some men have developed when they teach on fasting. Have you ever noticed that teachers who promote fasting often have a way of telling you about their own practice of fasting (even as they make you feel guilty about your lack of fasting)? That is wrong. Christians should not be badgered into fasting. Itâ€™s more important that we understand why biblical saints fasted than for us to mechanically skip a few meals simply so we can say we have fasted. When you understand the principles behind fasting, you have a better idea of how to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in your own life circumstances.
2 Samuel 12: 16-18: David fasted and wept for his dying child.
Esther 4:3, 16: The Jews fasted when threatened with extermination at the hands of Haman.
Jonah 3:6-10: Nineveh fasted when Jonah pronounced judgment on them.
Notice the common thread from those examples, which could be multiplied from other Old Testament passages. Those who were fasting were faced with extreme circumstances of impending death or Godâ€™s imminent judgment. Greatly distressed and conscious of their utter helplessness, they suspended their normal eating habits in an urgent, extraordinary seeking of God who alone could deliver them from their distress.
What does that mean for you today? Ask yourself some serious questions. Do you turn to God in your trials or surrender to fear and grumbling? Do you repent of sin or tolerate it in your life? Are you confident in your own strength or do you see your utter need for the grace of God?
The true answers to those questions say much more about your sanctification than whether you have fasted recently. Ask the profound questions before you worry about eating food. If the internal reality is in place, external fasting will ultimately take care of itself.