Is fasting still relevant? What is fasting?
Fasting is a spiritual practice not often practiced presently by Followers of Jesus. In biblical times, fasting – or the giving up the consumption of food and/or water – was a seemingly common practice for the above reasons as well as others. It’s in the sacrifice that we acknowledge our deeper need for something even greater than that which was sacrificed. In Christian fasting, it would be God and our relationship with him.
Do Christians Have to Fast?
One, fasting has nothing to do with our salvation or eternal destiny, as with other religions. We are saved through Jesus’ finished work on the cross and our belief in him. Yet it is a spiritual discipline, perhaps a bit akin to service to others, that builds our character, conforming it to resemble more closely that of our Savior.
Two, yet Jesus set a higher standard than that of the Old Testament commandments. He said that its not if we fast but when we fast.
“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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.” – Matthew 6:16-18 ESV
Practical Thoughts on Fasting
First, I find no examples of fasting in scripture of anything other than food and/or water. I’ve heard of Believers going on a “social media fast” or a fast of something other than nourishment. Personally, I have mixed feelings as to whether abstaining from something that I want to reduce the effects of in my life is a fast as is exemplified in the Bible. A personal note here, I abstained from ordering anything from Amazon last week. It might have been easier to go without food for a day. Abstaining in this case certainly can be a good thing perhaps if when you’re mindful of the purpose of the sacrifice and your thoughts turn to prayer when tempted.
Secondly, before doing a fast of food or water, if you have any underlying health conditions, check with your health care provider first, to establish if this is appropriate for you. If a food or water fast won’t work for you, turn to another appropriate sacrifice to make in your life for a period of time.
Third, when we get “pinged” by the hunger or temptation, we turn our thoughts to God, perhaps offering a prayer and asking him in to open our hearts and minds to his will in our lives. When we become hungry is when we are reminded that Jesus is the “bread of life” and “living water” that we need to sustain us.
Lastly, I heard a really useful yet practical tip on the fasting of food. I’ve fasted before but from morning until the following morning. That night’s sleep while hungry was tough. Maybe that’s ok, too? But the suggestion was to have your regular evening meal, then fast until sundown the following day. Then, your awake for most of the discomfort and you’ll sleep better both nights.
I’m planning to fast food at least once and perhaps twice this Easter Season. The events of this world must be lifted up our Father. And my heart continues to need cultivation to strengthen my faith.
Blessings on your journey!
Photo credit: then iv bible dot com