03 Apr A New Way to Fast
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus tells His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”
I think we can all agree that we want to follow Christ, but what does it mean to deny yourself?
Some translations say “turn from your selfish ways,” others say “you must forget about yourself.” But at the root of it all, it’s about say no to ourselves. Saying no to something that we want in order to say yes to what God wants.
That’s the essence of being a Christian, it’s saying, “Lord, not my will but Yours be done.”
One way we can deny ourselves is with fasting.
There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding the idea of fasting. Most people think that you have to go weeks on end without eating, and yes that’s one form, but it’s not the only way.
God has called all His followers to fast and pray, but the task can seem daunting if you’ve never fasted before. So today I want to share a some new perspectives on fasting that will hopefully give you the courage and motivation to start one of your own.
WHY SHOULD I FAST
First, God calls us to fast and pray. We know that when we fast, it gives an extra dose of power to our prayers.
There are several instances in the Bible where people fasted and prayed. And it usually came right before something big in their lives happened.
Jesus fasted for 40 days before He was tempted, and then commissioned to ministry (Matthew 4).
Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted in order to seek God’s wisdom for the next steps they were supposed to take (Acts 14).
Ezra and the people of Israel fasted and prayed for deliverance and protection against their enemies (Ezra 8).
In another occasion (Joshua 20), the Israelites cried out to God for help and fasted to gain victory over their enemies.
When we fast, it can be for a number of reasons. If you are struggling with something in your life, if you have a huge prayer need, if you are about to make a big decision, all those are great times to begin a fast.
Fasting opens up the door to God’s power in our lives. It keeps us focused on Him instead of ourselves. When we deny our physical selves, we start to see things through God’s eyes. We’re more open to hearing His voice and more willing to say yes to Him.
All great reasons to make fasting a part of our lives.
WHAT SHOULD I FAST
Now that you’ve decided that you are going to fast, you have to determine what you are going to fast.
The first obvious answer is food. The traditional form of fasting involves not eating for a specific amount of time.
Some people fast all calories, and only drink water, some allow themselves soup or protein shakes. Fasting is a very individualized process and those kind of decisions are between you and God. (Make sure to talk to your doctor about your spiritual convictions and get cleared by them before fasting, some physical conditions and medications can be negatively impacted by this type of fasting.)
If you want to stick with this traditional form of fasting, but can’t abstain completely from food, don’t give up fasting completely.
You can fast from a type of food instead of all foods. Maybe give up your nightly bowl of ice cream or give up pasta for a week. Get creative. God knows your heart, He knows that you desire to obey Him and deny yourself. He’ll give you wisdom to know what to give up.
Another way you can fast is fasting an activity instead of a food. My family has done a 30 day television fast to begin the year. Sometimes this is harder than a food fast! Another activity you can give up is social media. Think about any activity that really commands a lot of time and then choose to give that up for the sake of your walk with Christ.
One more way you can fast, is by having a spending fast. Choose a week and don’t spend any money that entire week. Don’t go to a particular store for a month. The possibilities are endless.
Sometimes, food doesn’t have a hold on us the way shopping or Facebook does, so we can choose to give those things up for the sake of following Jesus.
WHEN SHOULD I FAST
Okay, now you know that you should fast, and you’ve decided what to fast, now you have to decide when to fast.
It’s important to have a start and end date. Knowing that you are committed for a specific time and reason will help you to stick with it.
HOW TO FAST
Start small and be faithful. If you’ve never fasting, I wouldn’t recommend you going on a 30 day abstinence of all food. Start small. Maybe fast lunch one day. Say no to television for a an evening. Start small and be faithful.
Be prepared. Make plans, especially if you’re doing a full food fast. If you have a family feed, plan a few slow cooker meals so that you’re not tempted to eat when they do. If you want the entire family to give up TV for a week, make sure it’s not during the week of the Super Bowl!
Be cautious about telling tons of people. You should definitely tell your family about your plan so they’re not caught off guard, but no one else really needs to know.
The Bible cautions us about receiving accolades for fasting. The temple leaders in Jesus’ day were really good at fasting and making sure everyone knew it. And Jesus said, “They have received their reward in full.” When we fast and pray, it should be between us and God.
Don’t just give up food or an activity and think that’s the end. Use the time you would be eating or scrolling social media and spend that time in prayer. Every time you see the remote and want to turn on the television, say a prayer for the struggle you’re going through or the victory you want to see in your life.
Keep a journal. You’ll want to chronicle this time. You’ll want to see the prayers that you prayed and the answers God gave. During these days and weeks, you’ll find that you gain wisdom that could only come from prayer and fasting. So make sure that you document it!