Jesus Expects Us to Fast, but Do We?
Jesus fasted (Luke 4:1-2). Should we follow his example? Though his disciples didn’t fast (Matthew 9:14), he said when he returned to heaven, the time for fasting would resume (Luke 5:34-35).
In his well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about fasting. He says, “when you fast (Matthew 6:16-18).” He doesn’t say “if you fast.” It seems clear that Jesus expects us to fast. How’s that going for you?
Here are eight tips about fasting, that I’ve learned the hard way through experience:
1. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Get God’s Attention
If our intended outcome of fasting is to get our Lord to notice us, we’re missing the point. We don’t need to do anything special to garner his attention. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. We don’t need to earn his consideration. Fasting so that he will grant us favor may irritate him more so than win his appreciation.
2. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Abase Ourselves
When we fast, we do not deprive our self of food as an act of mortification. We do not seek to degrade ourselves. Fasting to produce pain accomplishes nothing of merit.
3. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Suffer
Fasting isn’t about us suffering as an act of devotion. Though it’s correct that as we stay true to our faith we may suffer as a result, this suffering is what others impose on us. It’s not self-inflicted.
4. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Gain Respect
Some people who don’t fast are in awe of those who do. But the intent of fasting is not to win the approval of others or garner their admiration. If the opinion of others is why we fast, their esteem becomes the only outcome.
5. Don’t Fast to Achieve Side Benefits
Fasting often has positive physical outcomes. Aside from possible health benefits, fasting can produce weight loss and boost productivity. But if these become the motivations for fasting, forget about realizing any spiritual outcomes.
6. The Goal of Fasting Is to Connect with God
When we fast, we push aside the physical to focus on the spiritual. As we do, we draw closer to God and experience him in a more intimate way that might not have otherwise been possible.
7. The Goal of Fasting Is to Pray and Listen
When we fast, we can take the time we’d normally spend in meal preparation and in eating and use it to pray and listen to God. By denying our physical desires, we heighten our spiritual awareness.
8. The Goal of Fasting Is to Better Align Our Perspective with God’s
When we fast and connect with God, pray, and listen, we can better comprehend reality through his eyes. Instead of trying to get God to see things our way, we can better see things his way. Fasting helps us to relate with the viewpoint of our Creator more effectively.
When done the right way for the right reasons, fasting helps us connect with God through prayer and listening to him. As we do so, we better align our perspective with his.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
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