As we prepare for Easter during the season of Lent, I want to invite you to renew your spiritual life by taking on the discipline of FASTING. There is not much discussion about this Biblical and historical personal discipline in the modern Church, but it is a necessity for going deeper in the spiritual life and creating a listening ear to what God might be saying.
Fasting is the voluntary giving up of food and drink for a specific period of time. The idea is to say “no” to the physical desires of the body. However, there are variations of this concept. Dr. Elson Haas defines fasting as “the avoidance of solid food and the intake of liquids only.” Others teach that you can fast other things: your favorite television show, listening to the radio, sex, going out to eat dinner, and other favorite activities.
In the Bible, fasting connotes several things: 1) dwelling in the Lord; 2) denying oneself; 3) disregarding of our sins; 4) direction from the Lord; and 5) spiritual power. The main reason we fast is to dwell with the Lord; to remain “fast” in Him; to dwell in the shelter of the Almighty.
Fasting also involves denying one’s self. Many times in Scripture the words “deny oneself” actually meant to fast. See Leviticus 16:29f; Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:7,8. Jesus actually wove this into His instruction on discipleship: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
When we fast, we should be ready to disregard our sins, to forsake them, and to turn from them. This is called repentance. When people did this in the Old Testament, they often would put on sackcloth and ashes to mourn their sins or the sins of the nation. David is a classic example when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin, he began to fast and weep (see Psalm 51).
Fasting can also be helpful in seeking God ‘s direction, wisdom, or counsel. There are times in our lives when we need to have clarity, gain understanding, and received knowledge and insight from the Lord about specific issues we are facing. Daniel fasted and had visions from God. Joel and the people and Israel fasted to restore the land after the locusts had devoured everything. Jehoshaphat and his people fasted when they learned they were about to be attacked. Jesus fasted when he knew he was going to be tempted by the devil. All yielded help or direction from the Lord.
The Bible encourages fasting for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit. The word “power” translated from the Greek word, dunamos, meaning explosive power. The English word dynamite comes from this word.
In Matthew 17 a man brings to Jesus his son and asks him to heal him. He tells Jesus that he brought his son to his disciples, but they couldn’t do anything about his condition. Jesus then heals the boy from demon possession. A little later Jesus is alone with his disciples and they ask him why they couldn’t deliver the boy. Jesus says to them: "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt. 17:20). Most Bibles list a reference to verse 21 which is not in many texts, but is usually printed in side-notes. It says: This kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting. While it is not my purpose to argue the placement of this text, its truth is important: Fasting releases spiritual power.
With your doctor’s permission, I invite you to join me incorporating Fasting into you spiritual discipline. During your fast, read your Bible and pray about the issues in your personal life, your church, your community, and our nation. Ask God to reveal to you your sin. Ask God to grant you His wisdom. Ask God to pour out His power on specific situations. Let us together use Lent to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.