Its about four oclock in the morning and the house is peaceful. The kids are asleep. I can hear the central heating humming rhythmically in the back ground; besides my laptop, the only other thing I hear in the house is my son rustling in his bed. This is a good moment for me. My heart is at rest. I slow down and reflect on what is going on in my life.
This time is essential in helping me develop into who God has called me to be. The solitude is satisfying to my soul. Wait, what is that beep, beep, beep I hear? Its my twitter notification. Like an object being sucked through a vortex, I am taken out of my solace and pulled back into the hustle and bustle of my very busy world. No worries, the Scriptures have an answer to my problem. God has prescribed a way where we can find satisfaction even if we live our lives seemingly opposed to tranquility.
Gods solution is fasting. Merriam-Webster says fasting is to abstain from food or to eat sparingly11. Richard Foster describes it a discipline2 and Dallas Willard calls the practice a spiritual discipline3. Biblical fasting is considered by many as a physical means of producing spiritual fruit.
Fasting, a Normal Part of the Christians Life
Jesus lays the foundation in Matthew 6:1618:
First, He says, When you fast, implying that fasting will be habitual and encompass all who follow him.
Next, Jesus commanded us to not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. The implication here is our motivation for fasting. We should examine the reason we are fasting if we intend to receive any positive results from the practice.
Finally, Jesus statementBut when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face and your Father will reward you, indicates that God will reward you in the process.
Based upon Matthew 6:1618, the foundation for biblical fasting is clear: it is expected of every believer. However, the believer must be aware of his or her motives for fasting, for an untimely God will reward him or her.
The Spiritual Rewards of the Right Kind of Fast
Isaiah 58:6, concludes with Gods intended benefit for Israels fast: to loose the chains of injustice, to untie the cords that bind, to set the oppressed free, and to break every yoke.
1. Freedom from the destructive self ?
Fasting sets us free from ourselves. One of the hardest things to do is to get a selfish person to see something other than their own situation. Have you ever tried to convince a selfish person they were wrong? Good luck! I would rather go 12 rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime than to do that. We all struggle with selfishness. A form of pride, it is the biggest wrestling match a Christian faces in maintaining healthy relationships.
In Matthew 9:15, Jesus focuses on another benefit for the practice:
Jesus disciples were eating well when the religious leaders and Johns disciples were fasting. At this point Jesus is questioned about his disciples actions. The primary point of what Jesus says is simple; they dont need to fast when I am here with them. But, the peripheral point is appropriate for our discussion. Jesus says, The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. What is the benefit for fasting in this case? It is for perseverance.
2. Ability to persevere; sustain energy
Early in my Christian walk there was a saying I often heard repeated: If you pray you stay, if you fast you last. Fasting is like water in a desert. It gives you the strength to continue. Many times in our walk we get into stagnant areas because of various reasons. Regardless of why we find ourselves there, God says that fasting will help us to maintain and persevere until the race is done.
3. Ability to hear God speak
In Acts 13:2-3, another benefit is shown:
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:2-3).
Hearing God is a vital benefit you receive from fasting. How can you have a relationship with a person whom you can not communicate with? You cant. Thus hearing God is the most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy relationship with him. Fasting is like removing the wax from your ears. It is clears the way for you to hear God. I am not saying you always need to fast to hear from God. But, there are times when fasting is necessary for obtaining directions from Him.
Fasting helps bring us to the point of clarity! It brings you to a place where you can free yourself of yourself, gain strength for the journey, and hear the God who has your best interest in mind. Fasting helps you live this busy life in a way that can bring satisfaction to your soul.
Where is that snooze button?