And He (God) humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognise and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8 v 3).
So today I want to talk about fasting.
Please keep reading. I know that word is one that switches most people off straight away… But just go with me here…
This is in no way attempting to be anything exhaustive and there are a ton of brilliant resources that are way better written and way more advisory…
But, today I still want to talk about fasting.
Because God’s been challenging me a bit on this recently.
And because in total honesty I think it’s one of those things that we either don’t do, or don’t do enough, or just make a shed load of excuses about.
I mean, let’s be blunt… Jesus said, ‘When you fast…’ and you kind of get the idea that He just presumed it would be something that we did as we were seeking Him. Like prayer.
But just like how if we don’t make time for prayer, we don’t pray, so if we don’t resolve to fast, we will never-ever-ever-fast.
There are some common excuses to a more standard go-without-food fast that we see throughout the Bible. (I’m not talking about if you have a serious health problem or something by the way, we’ll talk about different kinds of fasts in a bit.)
1. I’m no good at fasting.
2. I’m really busy at the moment with work/study/family so it’d be too much of a distraction from that other stuff.
3. I get invited out to meals and social stuff to much so it would just be too awkward.
4. I don’t really get why you fast?
Okay. So in short can we just break this down a bit…
1. Who is good at fasting? I mean, really?!? Who is naturally good at giving up something that you really love? I don’t think fasting is something we can claim superiority in… Just to reassure you are not alone, can I confirm that I am so, so, so incredibly bad at this.
2. May I suggest that you are never to busy to fast. Just like you are never to busy to pray.
3. And may I also suggest that the awkwardness is worth it.
4. So let’s crack on with why…
There are truly many reasons to fast, but today I just want to focus on one.
Learning to lean.
When we fast, when we give up something we need or we love, we are voluntarily putting ourselves in a wilderness position. A position where we literally HAVE to lean on Jesus. A position that we come up from changed and that we come up from leaning. On Him. We learn how to lean. We learn how to love Him more fully. We learn how to place our own strength under restraint, and to be meek, in order that He would be glorified in us.
Fasting is when I deny myself out of love for Him.
It’s when I place my heart in the hands of Holy Spirit and pray that He humbles it and moulds it and changes it so that the way I think and act and am also begins to change.
It takes grace, and every time we fast, we need to ask for grace. Some people think the grace to fast means that they’ll never be hungry and they’ll never be weak. But that’s not it! The grace to fast means your resolve is greater than your desire to quit.
We choose to lean on Him.
I’ve blogged this story before, but I once met a pretty-bizarre man who claimed to fast for long periods of time (always be aware of people who boast about being able to fast for long periods of time publically…). Upon further conversation, it became apparent that he actually just liquidized the exact same food that his family were eating at every meal time and drank it in sludge form. Now, that isn’t placing yourself in a position of weakness to lean upon Holy Spirit. THAT IS NOT FASTING. To be honest, that’s just a bit weird. And gross.
Whenever I start a fast, and I mean whenever, I am immediately tempted by a whole onslaught of foods that I never even normally eat. Like, I’m meant to be fasting, but I’m suddenly craving a McDonald’s cheeseburger (and I haven’t had one of them since I was about 16).
What is with that?
And I need grace. Grace to press into the place of prayer. Grace to lean upon Jesus. Grace to read the Word and see what He wants me to take. Grace to take the opportunities He gives. Grace to get up when I fail, and realise that I have to look at the fruit of a fasted lifestyle in the impact of years, rather than the quick days and weeks that I want.
So… Here’s the point…
For those with thirsty hearts.
Some of my friends just called a 40 day fast-season that will last up till Christmas Eve. Some of us are fasting food (most people just for certain days). Some caffeine. Some social media. Some a whole range of things. But the core factor is this: Giving something up that puts us in a place of voluntarily leaning on God.
I didn’t have time to post this yesterday so there’s actually only 38 days or something left, but I’d prayerfully encourage you to join this season.
To cultivate thankfulness. And a willingness to change. And a desire to be more like Holy Spirit.
So, if you want to spent some time in this season in this way then here are some handy hints… 🙂
1. Jesus said not to boast about fasting, but especially if you’re new to fasting, it is really helpful to grab a friend. Like literally grab them, pray with them, be accountable to them, and talk about what God is saying to you. Having a good bunch of friends is awesome.
2. Keep a journal or a note book or a sketch book to write down or draw the things God says to you.
3. You will need some will power. Because yes, you will be hungry. Yes, you will feel like you’re dying. But no, these are all the body’s melodramatic nature of complaint. God strengthens us, but it’s still going to be your choice.
4. Above all else keep praying. Remember fasting without prayer is just a diet, and a not-very-effective-one at that.
So, more than our regulations, and formulas, God wants our hearts. Humble and responsive. Striving for Him.
Praying and fasting.