Today’s going to be a little bit different because we’re going to talk about an aspect of the Christian faith that I am not only bad at, but pretty ignorant about as well. Truthfully, I almost skipped this whole thing and just moved ahead to my next section of Luke that I wanted to write about. However, the fact is that I’m not an expert on every aspect of the faith and I’m not perfect in the execution of the Christian lifestyle. So today let’s ponder a subject that has been a real struggle for me and gets generally ignored by a lot of Christians. Fasting.
We’re still in Luke chapter 2 here, and we’re introduced to a new figure.
Luke 2:36-37 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.
What caught my eye and challenged me was the way this is worded. She worshipped God, which so far I get, I’m into that, but part of her worship was fasting. That’s where I had to stop. Fasting is a form of worship? Here’s my exact note I wrote down when I was originally studying Luke. I wrote, “I really need to pray on that and seek God’s heart on it.”
So, first of all, let’s look at what fasting actually is. Google defines a fast as “abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.” Fasting is talked about a lot in the Bible, and no, not just in the Old Testament. One of the first things Jesus did as he began his ministry in the New Testament was go on a 40 day fast. Later, when challenged as to why his disciples weren’t fasting, Jesus made it clear that once he was no longer around, they would.
Mark 2:19-20 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them.20 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
So many great people in the Bible addressed fasting. Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Elijah, there are verses about each of them fasting. The reasons vary. Often it’s accompanied with great distress or a deep need for God. Often it accompanies a deep sense of repentance. David spoke in Psalm 35 about using fasting as a way to humble himself before God. Someone told me once that it draws you closer to God because it forces you to rely on Him more than usual. When we are weak, we are strong, as Paul so paradoxically wrote in 2 Corinthians. If God fills in our weaknesses, it makes sense that that the weaker we are, the more of God we have in us. Another person told me that fasting forces a deeper faith, that it forces you to be fulfilled by God only and not food.
There’s more than enough evidence in the Bible to show that not only is fasting beneficial, but that it’s something that’s expected of believers. How often, what you fast from, how long the fast lasts, I think all of those are up to you. But my question is this, and this is for me as much as anyone else. If fasting is a clearly directed spiritual discipline that was used throughout the Bible and by Jesus, why don’t I (and many other Christians) fast regularly?
As much as I’d love to just toss out tons of excuses here, the fact is that I don’t have an answer for why I don’t fast regularly. This is an area of my faith and my walk that I’ve gotten wrong so far, and this Bible did what it does as I studied it and helped me realize that. I’ve taken part in two church wide fasts before. One was fasting from television and movies, which I decided I couldn’t take part in because at the time I was still a movie critic and entertainment reporter. The other was earlier this year, and I honestly can’t remember the specifics of it. It was food related, I think it was up to each of us to decide the specifics of how it worked for you. It doesn’t speak well of my success that I can’t remember the parameters of my own fast, but I do know that it was an incredible struggle. There was no honor in how I went through it, no worship, it just sucked. I felt sorry for myself, felt sick, felt mad, felt sad, I was essentially just a huge baby for the entire thing. Whatever spiritual benefits fasting can bring, I assure you, I received none of them.
Do you know what I love about God? I never feel terrible when He corrects me. I trust Him, I know that if fasting is something He wants us to do from time to time, then there’s benefit to it. There are probably some of you reading this who fast regularly and I applaud you. There are probably others who, just like me, haven’t done a good job at making this part of our lives as followers of Jesus. If that’s you, then I just encourage you to take the leap with me. Pick something meaningful in your life, something that will be hard to give up, and give it up for a bit. Just remember the following scripture.
Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
That’s Jesus speaking, and notice that he doesn’t say “IF” you fast, he says “WHEN” you fast. It’s not about getting the pity of those around you, it’s about privately giving something up so we can get closer to God. I don’t know about you guys, but there’s literally nothing in all the world I want more than being closer to God, so I’m gonna give fasting a shot.
Well, that’s it for today. I love all of you, and I thank you for reading. I love the Bible so much, and I even love it when it does what it did today, and points out areas in me that need to be addressed.
If you have any prayer requests or just want to talk about faith or life, I am always available by email firstname.lastname@example.org