Sunday, February 24, 2019
Fasting means going without something, usually food.
MATTHEW 9:14-15 NKJ 14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
The New Testament does not command us to fast. But it indicates that fasting will be done and can be useful.
Fasting can help you, if approached correctly. But if you approach fasting as a way to gain points with God, you are wasting your time (see Luke 18:9-14 where Jesus tells of the religious Pharisee who fasted twice a week).
Fasting will not force God to do anything. There is no need to do that anyway. God is perfect and perfectly willing to help people. God is not the problem.
Fasting is not a magic wand. Nor is it a substitute for studying God's Word or praying.
But we don't want to be among those whose god is their belly. That is, we don't want to allow our bodies to control us.
PHILIPPIANS 3:19 NKJ 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things.
Food and bodily comfort should not be our entire focus in life.
LUKE 21:34 KJV 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
This verse indicates it is possible for a person to be so focused on eating, drinking, and the normal activities of life, that it affects their spiritual life.
Fasting can be beneficial for spiritual growth when it causes you to get your focus off your physical body and physical senses and to realize that the real you lives inside your body.
When you are relieved of the burden of gathering and preparing food to eat, you have more time you can devote to God's Word and prayer.
You can also give some of the resources you saved to help others.
Fasting helps you have a better grasp of reality. You learn that you don't die just because your body does not immediately get everything it wants. You learn that you can control your body instead of allowing your body to control you. It helps you realize that your body is a tool to use here on earth, instead of your master, telling you what to do and what not to do.
So fasting can help you have a better perspective on controlling your appetite. Once you know you can go an entire day without food, it's easier to not overeat or to skip dessert.
And for those of us blessed with sufficient to eat, it can be good for us to remember what it is like to feel hunger -- which multitudes of people do every day.
Also, it can be good to give your body a break, allowing it to rest from the job of digesting food. Then instead of using energy to digest food, other jobs can be done. This is why many people have found improved health by at least moderate fasting.
For most people fasting can be a healthy practice, although there are differences of opinion. Some say fasting used to be healthy for the body, but now that there are so many toxins in our system an extended total fast is not as safe. Each one of us should look to the Lord for His direction and follow it.
In the Bible we read of people fasting food for up to 40 days. Most people can fast that long before they begin to actually starve, because the body can live for awhile from what it has stored. It depends on our stores of fat, but most of us could go a lot longer without food than is commonly thought.
However, unless the Lord leads you otherwise, most people should only attempt shorter fasts of 1-3 days. Anyone fasting longer than that needs to be very careful in how they resume eating.
On any extended fast it is vital to drink plenty of water.
(Interestingly, after about 3 days completely without food, physical hunger will stop. Its return (after maybe 40 days), is the signal that starvation has begun. So in an extreme food shortage, it can be easier, and you will be stronger and feel better, if you do not eat at all instead of eating very little.)
Some people fast to impress people with their devotion or spirituality. Jesus told us not to do that. So if you are telling the world about how much you are fasting, that may be the only benefit you will receive.
MATTHEW 6:16-18 NKJ 16 "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 "so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
What could this mean? How will God reward you? If you are fasting to draw closer to God by being more focused on Him, then being rewarded would be getting what you were seeking, a more intimate relationship with God.
Fasting helps us focus more on the things of God by removing our focus from the normal feeding of our body.
The only instruction on fasting in the Letters to the Church is found in 1 Corinthians 7 which is directed towards a husband and wife. So while fasting can have a place in our spiritual life, it should not be given more of a place than Scripture gives it.
1 CORINTHIANS 7:5 NKJ 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
A person who fasts a lot is not necessarily more spiritual or Godly than one who does not. Fasting, by itself, does nothing to build you up spiritually. It mainly allows you time and opportunity to focus more on spiritual things.
We should not feel guilty about eating, but enjoy our food and thank God for it. For God gave us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
Feasting is not evil and God is not against it. In the Old Testament we find three great yearly pilgrimage feasts, but only one day a year (the day of atonement) that was a fast. In Heaven we will feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And Isaiah 25:6 says the Lord will prepare for all people a feast.
So, while fasting has its place, we should seek the Lord for a proper perspective and balance.
Whether we are feasting or fasting, we should stay focused on the Lord and let His joy flow through us every day.
SAY THIS: Fasting will not change God, but it can change me.
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