Four Questions on Fasting
This article is on fasting. How about that for an introduction? What are some of your immediate reactions to the word “fasting”? Perhaps, when you read the first sentence, you clicked somewhere else on your computer/smartphone. Perhaps, your reaction was “that’s weird”. Or perhap, you said in your mind, “what’s that”? Let’s talk about it.
John Wesley wrote, “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason and others have utterly disregarded it.” I am under the presumption that followers of Jesus today have leaned more to the side of utterly disregarding it.
I would venture to say that if we have disregarded it, it has been because of the tension that Jesus says to do it in secret or else you loose your reward in heaven. Not really knowing how to train others/disciple others in this area in our life, we have neglected to talk about it. Therefore, it has become a lost discipline of the faith.
For example, if someone comes to me struggling in their walk with Christ, I listen to them as Christ would listen. I typically ask them some of my diagnostic questions in order to learn more of the status of their heart. Some of the questions are typically, Do you have any sin in your life that you are holding onto? How’s your time in the word? How’s your prayer life going? Are you consistently sitting under the word of God with God’s people? But what if I asked “Well, are you fasting and praying on a regular basis? That would feel like such a random question this day and age, would it? But with the way of Christ, it is not…or it should not.
So let’s start off with a few questions about fasting to gain a better understanding of it.
Question #1: Is fasting biblical? It sounds a little hindu or mystical…
The Bible is chalk full of men and women who fasted and prayed. Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna the prophetess, Paul, Jesus Christ.
Yes it is. In fact, the Bible links prayer and fasting together many times.
Lots of good men in the faith also fasted: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd. This is to name a few.
Question #2: Is fasting a biblical commandment?
There are no biblical laws that command regular fasting. Many Christians have wonderful experiences fasting and urge it upon Christians to do it as a regular occurance. HOWEVER, our freedom in the gospel does not give liscense but rather opportunity.
2 Corinthians 11:27 states that we are to engage in “fasting often”.
Question #3: What is fasting?
Abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. That is to say, not for physical purposes…to shed a few pounds and pray on the side. There are tremendous physical benefits, but the purpose of fasting is spiritual. That is also not to say that fasting from other things is not a bad thing, but that is not the kind of fasting that is talked about in scripture.
Question #4: Should we even be talking about this? Isn’t this just a private thing between you and God?:
In most cases, we see fasting as a private matter between God and the individual. Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:16-18 like this:
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
However, there are examples of corporate fasts in the scriptures. How can it be a secret if it is corporate? So the idea is this…if you are joining in on a corporate fast, pray your heart attitude would be for the Lord and not to make it known to the world that you are fasting.
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