Monday March 1 – Day 13 – FASTING
Monday March 1 – Day 13 – FASTING
“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.” – Matthew 6:17-19 (NIV)
Fasting was an important part of spiritual life in Biblical times. It was a symbolic of grieving or repenting of sin (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-does-the-bible-say-about-fasting.html_). It is a method, like praying or meditating, that draws us closer to God. In Matthew 9, Jesus is confronted by the disciples of John and asked why His disciples didn’t fast (even though John’s disciples and the Pharisees did). He responds in classic Jesus fashion:
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:15-17 (ESV)
Jesus made clear that fasting is an important part of our spiritual lives, however the disciples would do it after Jesus’ resurrection. He told them that while in the presence of God, in the form of Jesus, they did not need to fast. He also alludes to the fact that fasting is useful once our hearts have been changed and devoted to God. If we fast with our old intentions and old ways of living before becoming believers, it will break us (like the new wine in old wineskins).
Our old vessels need to be READY for Him.
When we looked at Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, we were told that Jesus did fast for 40 days. He met the evil one’s temptations with strength and clarity, not only because He was God but because He did the things that were part of the ways of a spiritual life at the time.
In our 21st Century lifestyles, we spend a lot of time looking at what we put into our bodies and how we take care of them. For some it becomes a religion, for others it is a natural extension of the call in Genesis for the cultural mandate: to prosper, to multiply and to take care of creation. It is good that we take care and keep track of what we put in our bodies. Health experts will tell you that if you lose a meal that it is not always the best thing. However, very few believers fast when they are faced with challenges that only God can solve.
I do not fast. I love food and when my blood sugar gets low, I am not a very nice person to be around. However, I have been feeling personally convicted lately about fasting and the potential spiritual benefits it can bring. However, fasting doesn’t have to be restricted to just food. It can be anything that we deny ourselves that affects our physical lives. It could mean fasting from watching television or from binging on a favourite Netflix show. It might be not spending money on a certain thing for a period of time. The idea behind fasting is to allow the body to join the mind in focusing on God and listening to the still small voice of Jesus.
You might ask: how does this line up with giving up something for Lent? You said earlier that it is better to do right in God’s sight than to give something up? Yes, I did. However, when we look at the life of Jesus, fasting was one thing He did and He also instructed the disciples that they could fast after His death. Does Jesus say you MUST fast? No, he doesn’t. For me, it is one spiritual discipline that I have struggled with and simply share with you all the fact that I believe there can be benefits to fasting.
But, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 6 is that we cannot do it to gain attention from others. Plastering the news of your fast all over social media might not be the best way to do it. Jesus also makes clear that during a fast you are not to complain or to do it begrudgingly.
If we decide to fast, it is because we want to do if for God as a sign of our love and adoration for Him.
This is a thread that runs through pursuing a God shaped life: do everything out of conviction and with a willing heart. If you do it because you feel God requires it, and you complain all of the time and are completely miserable, you are not honouring God but in fact looking rather foolish.
New wine into new wineskins, right?
For some, fasting is not possible due to their own personal health and I would not recommend anyone do it if their health dictates they cannot (in this case, I would always caution you to talk to your family doctor and ask them about fasting). But there are different kinds of fasting that might be ideal for you. I recommend this web article as a starting point: (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-christians-need-to-know-about-fasting.html) Remember, whatever you decide to do, if you are abstaining from food and drink, consult your doctor before starting.
During Lent, I want us all to be aware of what we DO and what we DON’T do. If fasting every Friday will help you to draw closer to God and your health allows you to, then wonderful! If you cannot fast, think about those things that you ARE doing in the right spirit and make sure they are God honouring and glorifying.
Share the Good News with others by sharing with someone a miracle you have experienced in your life that you attribute to God.
When talking to a friend on the phone that is struggling, ask them if you can take time during the call to pray with them.
If you see friends on your social media posts that have been struggling with something and they are not walking with Jesus, then message them privately and ask them if you can pray for what they are struggling with. To this day when I have done this, I have never had anyone say “no thank you” to the offer of praying for them. Allow God to lead you with the right words and to be confident not in your abilities but in God to guide you.
As we do these things, it begins to open up our world to the movement of God and for others to contemplate on who God is. It creates opportunities to share Jesus in gentle, loving ways. May the Spirit guide you this week in the things you do and don’t do for Him.