5 Biblical Principles For Fasting

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

fasting 101

Today begins Lent with Ash Wednesday when Christians begin a season of fasting in preparation for Easter. In doing a little research into the subject of fasting I discovered that the New Testament only mentions fasting 18 times. The reality is that the New Testament devotes very little attention to this subject. I have observed over the years that fasting has become a popular topic among religious circles and at times has become a popular fad in the modern Church. Don't get me wrong--I believe fasting is an important part of the Christian lifestyle and we should fast. My problem is that we make more of it than it is intended to be. Two extremes we must avoid are the neglect and overemphasis of the practice of fasting. We must not make less of what God intends for us and we must not make more of it either. Read on to discover 5 Biblical Principles For Fasting that I hope will help as you enter the Lenten season.

Jesus gives us some clear guidelines about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. He says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Here are 5 basic principles for fasting laid out in this passage.
  • #1 - Fasting is not a public matter but a private one. If we are fasting to draw attention to the fact that we are fasting, we are doing it for the wrong reasons. According to this passage, the only one it should be obvious to is the Father. In other words, no one should be able to tell.
  • #2 - We don't fast to get something from God but to give ourselves to Him. Often, many fast to get God to do something for them. That is not fasting. It is manipulation.
  • #3 - Fasting does not make you more spiritual. If I believe that I have become more spiritual as the result of a fast, I have completely missed the point of the fast. Fasting humbles us because it reminds us of who we are in light of who God is.
  • #4 - Fasting is not supposed to get God's attention. It should get your attention. Many times we think that fasting somehow makes God pay attention to us. This is wrong thinking. He calls us to fast so that He can capture our attention so that we will listen more closely to what He wants to speak into our lives.
  • #5 - Fasting is the fruit or outward evidence of a daily lifestyle of surrender. We don't live a surrendered life because we fast. We fast because we live a surrendered life. Do you see the difference? Take the holiday of Thanksgiving for instance. Thanksgiving is meaningless if we spend the other 364 days of the year void of a spirit of thanksgiving. Why bother? It only has real significance if we live a lifestyle of thanksgiving and it becomes a celebration of who we are rather than something we wish we were. Fasting is no different. If I don't live a surrendered lifestyle then fasting is meaningless.
I'm not in any way saying we shouldn't celebrate Ash Wednesday or participate in Lent. What I am saying is let's not make it merely an annual ritual but a celebration that points us to a daily existence. If you fast, that's great. Just keep it between you and the Lord. Don't post it on Facebook for all the world to see. That is not the point. The most productive and meaningful fast is one that no one sees but God. Your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Have a blessed Lenten season!

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