*This blog post requires tools: Go get your Bible, my sweet friend!*
Fasting, One might think about Lent, along with something they plan to give up (chocolate, meat, smoking, alcohol, etc). One might remember Jesus who fasted for 40 days in the desert, or maybe you think about Passover and fasting from leaven or yeast. What these all have in common is giving up food, all or partial, for a set amount of time in order to achieve … … … in order to achieve what?
I’m hoping to answer this question along with some others you didn’t know you had about fasting. What is fasting really? Why do we fast? How does fasting make us more like Christ?
The answer to these questions can only be found in Scripture. Let’s start in the beginning, the institution of fasting. In Exodus 12 when the Lord is instituting Passover, He tells the Israelites they must remove all yeast from their homes, and they must only eat unleavened bread. If you’ve been in the Church for some time it’s possible you’ve come across the concept of yeast and leaven representing sin, particularly in the New Testament. If we apply the idea of leaven representing sin to fasting, what do we end up with? Fasting is necessary in repentance. 1 Corinthians 5:6, and Galatians 5:9 both say that a little bit of yeast will affect the whole batch of dough. A little bit of sin in your life is going to affect all of your life. There is no such thing as a “little bit” of sin, or a “little white lie.” Sin is sin. When we sin we are separating ourselves from God. That separation then requires action on our part to mend. God is always right there waiting for us.
Take a look at Isaiah 58. Read the whole chapter.*Spoiler alert: Isaiah 58:6 and 8 are my favorites!* Go ahead…I’ll wait right here until you’re done. … It’s powerful isn’t it? As Sheri Hollinger and I have done many personal studies on Isaiah 58 we have found that when we confess our sins to the Lord we are allowing Him to lead us through a time of fasting, especially if it’s a life dominating sin, a generational sin, or one that you continue to struggle with. As we rid our lives of our sin we are allowing a chance for the Lord to fill that place in our heart with His love, His joy, His peace, His light and His life. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have all those wonderful things than be chained up, weighed down, and held captive by sin.
What is the Lord prompting you to give up? Do you already know? What was the first thing that came to mind? Can’t think of anything? Let me phrase it this way then: what is blocking your joy? Take some time to prayerfully consider what He may asking you to fast from or turn away from. Maybe it’s something that you give up for a season, like T.V., or maybe it’s something you need to give up for life, like alcohol (both examples from my own life).
Jesus is serious about sin in our lives. Look at Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 18:8-9, and Mark 9:43-50. You must cut it out! It’s better to be marred for life than walk around with sin infecting your heart. Now obviously, He’s not advocating actually dismemberment, and neither am I. But the point is we can not accept complacency.
Once you’ve given up your sin, you’re fasting from it now. But what are you going to replace it with? Many of us might have heard that when you are trying to break a habit, you have to find something to fill that void. Otherwise, you could end up trading one bad habit for another, or go straight back to the old habit during times of extreme emotions. We have to be proactive in changing our habits. Sin can become a habit. Therefore, we need to be proactive when we are in the process of fasting. The most practical thing you can do while you fast, while you repent, while you change your life is to look to the One who gave you life. Seek the Lord with all of your heart. Love Him with all that you have. How this looks in your life is going to be different than how it looks in mine. I choose to take my first hour or so of the morning to sit with and seek God. And let me tell you what, since I have begun this journey of fasting and repenting from my life dominating and generational sins (selfishness and addiction), I have found that an hour isn’t near long enough. The Bible has come to life in a whole new way for me. I also attribute this to the way that I have changed my actual application of study , but that’s a whole different topic. I will simply say this: do not think that there is only one way to study the Bible. If there is a topic you want to know more about, do the research yourself and see where the Lord takes you. It’s a beautiful, joyous, crazy awesome adventure!
And remember, fasting is not about you. Wow, wait! Really? Yes, really. Just look at all we’ve talked about. Fasting isn’t for our gain (or loss, if you’re thinking about weight). We will be posting about what fasting is not later. Let this truth sink into your heart and mind, meditate on it: your life is not your own.
Isaiah 58 is very clear about what fasting is and what fasting is not. In verse 6, we begin to see the consequences of proper fasting. And we know that consequences are not just negative results from choices, they are also positive results from the choices we make. Isaiah 58:6 are the promises God will fulfill when we properly fast.
Who, in their right heart, wouldn’t want that? I have lived a life of wickedness, I have walked with a heavy yoke and burden, I have been oppressed by my very own thoughts. God is saying there’s freedom from this? And that I can find that through proper fasting? Sign me up! When we discipline ourselves to fast, to repent, and ultimately submit to the Lord, freedom is the outcome. But that’s not all folks! Jump back to your Bible and read verses 6-9a. Great. Now reread verse 8.
Hope. Joy. Light. Healing. Righteousness will guide you. And the glory of God will guard our backs. After reading that verse, if you’re not convinced it’s time to give it up, whatever it may be, then may the Lord break down your walls.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of God will be your rear guard.”
What sweet promises the Lord gives here. All we have to do is submit to His will.
The next set of verses 9b-14 then speak of the outpouring of our love. When we are properly aligned with God we are so full of life, light and love that we can’t help but to help and serve and love others. Have you ever been so full of God’s joy that you can’t stop smiling? Or so full of God’s love that it was as natural as sleeping to hand that homeless person your lunch? When we live a life submitted to God, those acts of service and the joy, are just absolutely overflowing. It’s a byproduct of the fasting that you’ve done.
If this is what proper fasting is, why don’t we do it more often? Why is this not a common practice within the Church? Furthermore, why would we want to continue being friends with the world? James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” I don’t want that in my life. No, thanks!
“Jesus came to give us a life to the fullest; He came to set us free, and those who are free are free indeed.”
So, what is it you’re struggling with today? What healing needs to happen in your heart? What healing needs to happen in your physical body? What healing needs to happen in the relationships around you? These are questions we all have to face, and we face them every day, whether or not we’re actually acknowledging them. Questions you must face in order to properly and successfully fast. When we choose a proper fast the bondage, sin, oppression, guilt, and shame will be broken!
If you’re feeling as if there’s a veil over your eyes, over your mind, over your ears, or even over your heart, then consider a fast. When you fast the Lord will be faithful to let your light break forth like the morning. What hope, what joy comes from the promises of God’s word. I cannot implore you enough to take this journey with us as we fast for 40 days. Because we must break those chains of bondage, we must allow our healing to spring forth quickly. If we stay stagnant any longer as children of God our nation is going to crumble. We will lose an entire generation of children to worldly passions. And those we know and love who don’t know and love the Lord will be lost in an eternity of damnation. I am no longer willing to sit down and be quiet and allow our enemy to have control in my family, in my life, or in my Church. Who’s going to stand up with me and fight the enemy?