Spiritually Healthy Habits: Fasting

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“I just can’t fast from food!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this—and before last year, it was all coming from my own mouth! So I tried to fast from other things: Internet, Facebook, television, hockey, gossip, judging others…you name it, when my church (or some other church) did a fast, I was all over it. However, I never felt spiritually better afterward…I always just felt like it was 21 days without television or hockey or whatever. And I couldn’t wait to get back to whatever I fasted from. Then last summer, I decided to do a real fast—from food. So I did a Daniel Fast, a modified fast that allows you to have certain foods but give up anything that is considered “choice food” (Daniel 10:2-3).  Quite honestly, it meant a lot of cooking and discipline on my part, but I completed it—and loved it.

Fasting is a great spiritually healthy habit to practice for those who are ready to try it. Everyone knows that fasting is about denying yourself, but here are three other things that fasting is about:

  • Fasting is about God. Because the definition of fasting talks about denying ourselves, we may think fasting is about us! But it’s not—fasting is about the Lord. We don’t fast so that we can say, “Hey, look at me! I’m so spiritual!” We fast so that God can say, “Hey, look at Me!” And for once, we can hear Him clearly without the distractions that crowd out His voice. Some pray every time they feel a hunger pang; others spend extra time in prayer. For me, it is a combination of both while really designating time to hear the Lord. I try to make my fast about God—how He can increase in my life, how to be more like Christ, how to decrease myself. I don’t focus on the lack of food—but instead on every Word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
  • Fasting is about FOOD. The very definition of fasting means to abstain from food. That’s the real issue with why people don’t fast these days, isn’t it? Because food is everything to us—especially to those of us in first world countries. We fight about food, we watch TV shows about food, and 50% of commercials are about food. Food is an important commodity for all of us, which makes it extremely difficult to give up—even in small portions. And yet at the same time, it is one of the things we waste the most. But to follow God, He asks us to surrender those things that are most important to us—and that includes food. And while it is not wrong to fast from news or gossip or judging others, Jesus set the example for us with fasting: He went without all of those things AND food.
  • Fasting is about self-control. Another excuse I hear about fasting is people say they just don’t “have the discipline to fast.” This simply means they lack motivation to just do it! Once during a church-wide fast, a friend told me that he was fasting from breakfast until midnight every day, but noted he would just stay up until midnight every day so that he could eat. He admitted this was defeating the purpose of the fast, but he couldn’t exercise the self-control to go to bed hungry. I know how hard this is! But Galatians 5:23 lists one of the fruits of the Spirit as self-control, and the verses following that note that we are to crucify the desires of the flesh. These desires include more than just lust and envy, but greed for everything—including food. How much self-control do you have when it comes to food?

Fasting from food is an important spiritual discipline that allows us to decrease so that God can increase in our lives. To be spiritually healthy people, we should fast as an act of self-control and worship that allows God to speak into our lives and make us more like Christ. I challenge you to try fasting from food—and watch your spiritual health soar!

You can read my past series on fasting here, here, here, and here.

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