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Fasting.

 Hold the press!  I said the only word in Christianese marked restricted.  Fasting is just something we don’t discuss.  We all know it’s supposed to be important.  It’s just that most of us don’t do it.  So, really, I would venture to say that many Christians don’t believe it’s very important at all.  And, we figure it’s quite convenient that we aren’t supposed to talk about it because we really would rather not.  Fasting is supposed to be done in secret, right? Only there’s an unwritten rule that says part of the secret is that if we don’t ever talk about it, we won’t ever have to do it.

 I hate to rain on the hush-hush parade, but after studying the scriptures I have to say that there is no way possible for a Christian to avoid the subject of fasting.  This taboo-ness has been a frustration for me for a number of years.  Therefore, I thought it best to put down in writing what fasting is and what it is not.  Here is the fruit of my Saturday morning geek session with Mr. Strong and none other than my B-I-B-L-E.

The first question I sought to answer was, “Why fast?”  If we do not get the “why” right, we will not glorify God in fasting.  Fasting is not a ritual or a way to manipulate God.  Historically, fasting was the characteristic response of God’s people to crisis or major transgression.  I’m not sure what people do today, but I’m almost positive that fasting isn’t on top of the list where it absolutely should be.  There were many other reasons for fasts as well.  These are the reasons found in scripture regarding why and when fasting is necessary:

Fasting accompanies true worship.  The sincerity of our worship is made manifest when we are willing to sacrifice. (Matthew 4:2, Acts 13:2)

Fasting accompanies prayer and commissioning.  If you’re setting out on a new leadership position, mission, journey, or idea, fasting is very appropriate, and, more accurately, very necessary.  If you are sending another out to the field, whether in evangelism, service, help, or teaching, every minister of the gospel should be covered by the prayers and fasts of his fellow constituents back home.  (Acts 13:3, Acts 14:23)

Fasting is an important part of the act of true repentance and earnest confession.  Fasting helps us to recognize the weight and the pain caused by our sin and rebellion to God.  Fasting makes both our sin and our God more real in the day to day.  (1 Samuel 7:4-6, Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1, Joel 1:14, 2:12, Jonah 3:5)

Fasting is a way to show gratitude, respect, honor and mourn after a death.  There is no better way to identify with suffering than to be willing to suffer alongside them.  (1 Samuel 31:12-13, 2 Samuel 1:11-12, 1 Chronicles 10:12)

Fasting should accompany earnest prayer on behalf of another’s well being, during times of acute pain, sickness, distress, or life threatening illness of our brothers or sisters.  This is putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak.  Bearing one another’s burdens is more than a trite, “I’ll be praying for you.”  It is a serious, sacrificial, committed, other-centered relationship towards our brothers and sisters.  (2 Samuel 12:16, Esther 4:16, Daniel 6:18, Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29)

Fasting is most important when we want to hear from God, understand his Word, or listen for his voice.  It’s when we cannot seem to see or hear God that fasting is most imperative.   (Nehemiah 9:1, Jeremiah 36:9, Mark 2:20, Luke 5:35)

Fasting is appropriate when we are afraid or under attack, either militarily or spiritually.  Fasting works to dispel the fear of man by pursuing trust in God.  (2 Chronicles 20:3, Esther 4:16, Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29)

Fasting is a way to humble ourselves before a holy God and seek his favor regarding specific requests for protection and well-being during travel or uncertain circumstances.  By tangibly acknowledging our great need for God’s protection and preservation, we are debunking our tendencies toward self-sufficiency.  (Ezra 8:21-23, Esther 4:16, Daniel 6:18, Daniel 9:3, Joel 1:14, 2:12)

The second question I researched was, “How should we fast?”  Some will argue that fasting is always to be a singular, individual, private act carried out secretly.  Some will fast out of a sense of duty or obligation.  But what does the Bible teach about how we ought to fast?

While fasting is often times an individual act carried out privately, it should also, often times, be carried out by the believers corporately.  Uh, oh.  Does this mean we have to talk about it now? 🙂  Fasting is not a show or a religious parade of piety, however, it is a necessary task of every body of true believers.  (Acts 13:2-3, 1 Samuel 31:12-13, 2 Samuel 1:1-12, Esther 4:16, 1 Chronicles 10:12, 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Ezra 8:21-23, Jeremiah 36:9, Joel 1:14, Joel 2:12, Jonah 3:5)

Fasting must be done in humility and unselfishness.  It must be carried out alongside justice, goodness, sharing materially, and a right attitude in order to be honored and recognized by God as a true fast. (Isaiah 58:6-14, Zechariah 8:19, Matthew 6:6)

When fasting is done inappropriately in selfishness, pride, a lack of repentance, in an effort to manipulate God, a wrong attitude, to honor men’s traditions, for self recognition or alongside injustice or accusation, God is not honored and will not honor a mere cessation of food intake.  (Isaiah 58:1-5, Jeremiah 14:12, Zechariah 7:5, Matthew 6:5, Luke 18:12)

To that end I ask, why do we so seldom ever hear the word “fast?”  Why are we, as the church, by and large not submitted to this part of our calling?  I would that every church would see the value and utter necessity of this discipline.  Not to say that fasting in and of itself will bring any change by mere determination or duty.  Rather, that fasting, when coupled with the the truth, the humility, the love, the perseverance, and the very lives of true believers can only serve to assist, embolden, and enlighten us as followers of Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian, I would love to hear your take on this.  The floor is yours.  Let’s talk about fasting.

Related: https://lorirodeheaver.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/lent-fast-or-fiction/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzIjMcCQF9Y

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