On Sunday, Michael Small did a great job laying out what the Bible says about fasting, and how we are called to do so throughout our lifetime by God. As a church, we are embarking on a period of time when we will be fasting together and yet separately in different ways as God calls us. Before we get there, though, I think there are somethings you should understand before going on a fast. I will give you a quick list of things up front, because this will likely be a long post. I do not want you to miss some important notes, because you know you will not read the whole thing. So please, read the bullet points and feel free to pass on the rest if you must, but don’t miss these things.
- Before you fast, you should know your body limits. Consult a doctor if you must. If you are a diabetic or hypoglycemic or whatever, a whole fast is not a prudent choice.
- One type of fast is not more holy than another type of fast.
- Fasting is a private issue. It can be entered into corporately, but the decision to do so and the loss you feel throughout are private matters. It’s not something to brag about, and it’s not your business to ask someone else why they are not fasting. You are not the food police.
- Make sure it is God calling you to your fast and not someone else. But you said the church was going on a fast, so our church is calling me to one. Here’s an inside secret: the last time a group of elders and church leaders did a fast, I didn’t, because God wasn’t asking me to do it. I felt no peace about it. So please, consult God.
It’s a matter of faith
When you enter into a fast, you are placing your faith in God to sustain you. Whether you’re going without food, caffeine, technology, or whatever else, you are asking God to fill that void and expecting that He will do so. It is also a matter of obedience. When God asks you to do something, big or small, you do it. Well, you should do it. So when He calls you to fast, you fast. Simple as that.
But not everyone can fast in the same way. God created your body, and that is the framework in which He has called you to obedience. Do not tell God that you will do something He has not called you to, and you are expecting Him to take care of you. That is called testing God, and the Bible tells us in Deuteronomy – and Jesus reaffirms this when speaking to the Devil in Luke 4 – that you are not to put God to the test. What does that mean? It means you put expectations on Him to follow your will and come through for you like a miracle worker. It means you put Him in the precarious position of performing at your command. 1 Corinthians 10:9 says not to test Christ, or you may end up destroyed by serpents like the others. This is in reference to an old faith act of picking up a snake, as Paul did, and not dying if the venomous snake bit you. Likely some Christians said, “look, we’re going to do this to prove God, and He will keep us safe.” I’m guessing He didn’t call them to do it, didn’t promise protection, and they got to meet Him earlier than expected. Do not test God by saying, “I will go on a whole fast for 40 days, and God must sustain me,” if He’s not calling you to it. Especially don’t do it if you have health reasons that you know should keep you from doing it. Seek Him and be wise. Bravado does not equal faith.
It’s a matter of obedience
Jesus fasted for 40 days on nothing but water. God could call you to that, I suppose. I’m actually grateful He has never asked me to do that. But Daniel fasted for 10 days, and his fast basically consisted of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. He still was able to take in the necessary amount of daily calories and protein his body needed. He just wasn’t eating meat or dairy. Nothing with a face or a mother. Was his fast less holy than yours if you go on a whole fast (water only)? Certainly not. He carried out the fast God had called him to do. But mine is more holy, because I am giving up everything but water. It’s a bigger sacrifice. It is a big sacrifice, but God’s looking for obedience. 1 Samuel 15:22 tells us that to obey is better than to sacrifice. So if God’s leading you to fast a particular way, and you go another way so you can get more out of it, you’re missing the point.
It’s a private matter
Here’s a really sticky issue related to fasting. Some people get all fussy and pharisaical about other people’s following God. Let’s look at the passage that usually gets people all worked up and see what it says and means.
People will often say that when you go on a fast, you can’t tell anyone about it, because Jesus said not to do that. He did not. He said that when you fast, you can’t put on a big show of how miserable you are. Don’t let people know how bad it is for you. Don’t tweet, “I really want this donut, but I can’t. #fastinginfaith.” Don’t brag about it. It is okay, however, to let others know that you are fasting and to pray for you. Daniel’s fast wasn’t private. He told the head guard what he wanted to do, he entered into it with a group of friends, and they fasted for ten days with everyone else knowing what they were doing. Was he not rewarded for it? Did he not excel and grow stronger than his friends that didn’t take a stand? Was he not commended for his faith by God in the Bible?
Privacy is key in keeping your struggle with fasting to yourself, and it also plays another role. Let’s keep looking at Daniel. Was there any record of Daniel circling the room – a room filled with Jewish young men who all had the same dietary laws to follow – and saying, “Hey, why aren’t you doing this with me? Don’t you have faith?” Of course there’s not. He’s not the food and fasting police, and neither are you. What if God didn’t give someone else peace about fasting? Should they do it because a lot of other people are? Should they do it because the call has been given by men? Absolutely not. Let God call you to what He will call you. As you prepare to fast, and as you are fasting, let yourself be so focused on God that you don’t have time to notice what someone else is or is not doing. Worry about God and you.
But when you fast
You really should fast at some point in your lifetime. It was an assumed. Jesus said, “and when you fast,” because it was an understood that you would at some point. If God never calls you to fast from anything ever, you’re probably not tuned into the right channel. Seek God, be willing to follow Him, and WHEN He makes the call, give up what needs giving up and let Him be sufficient enough for you.