One of the most neglected spiritual disciplines is fasting. The Scripture is full of instructions and examples of fasting and yet the practice is often absent in the Church.
Too often, people think of fasting as a spiritual diet. Desiring to lose a few pounds, someone will skip a meal and say they are fasting. If you aren’t spending the time seeking the Lord, that’s not fasting – that’s a diet. Fasting is so much more than abstaining from a meal for your figure’s sake.
- Jesus assumes and expects that believers will fast (Matt. 6:16-18).
- God expects believers to use fasting as a way to deny themselves and to give to others (Isa. 58:6-10).
- In her attempt to rescue the Israelites, Esther asked all Israel to fast (Esth. 4:16).
- Before Jesus launched out into his focused period of ministry, he fasted for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-11).
Think about it: How many times have you fasted in your life (don’t be ashamed, just be honest)?
What has kept you from fasting more?
As the early Church began to gain momentum, they had to make critical decisions as they made disciples and established churches. Read about one specific encounter as it relates to fasting in Acts 14:19-23.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.
20 After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
21 After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch,
22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
What were some of the events that were happening in this passage? Why do you think the disciples included fasting into their activity? Because it was major stuff, and they wanted to deny their flesh so they could ensure they were focused on God!
When you fast, you are depriving yourself of food for a period of time of consecration and focus.
You are saying you desire God’s will more than your comfort. Each time your stomach growls or your headache increases, it is a gracious call back to prayer.
Fasting is prioritizing the feasting on God over the feasting on food.
Is there a burden on your heart? Are you desiring God to move in a certain way? Take a moment to plan a day of fasting for that burden. Maybe you could fast for your family. Take some time to commit this to God and put it on the calendar.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.