The Power of Fasting
The only reason I’m even writing this post is because I had a strange encounter with fasting this past week which served for a great topic for The Rebel Christian Readers. Anyone who reads my blog should know by now I’m an avid video gamer, except I’m not all that great. In fact, I’m one of the weakest members of my six-man team—placed third (or sometimes fourth) on our roster. This week my team decided to take on the challenge of going through a group raid on hard mode. Mind you, it took us three full hours to complete on normal so imagine hard mode, right?
I really didn’t want to let my teammates down because our revive ability would be disabled on hard mode, so if I die we’re all basically starting over. My first thought…I’m not doing the raid. My second thought…ok, let’s pray about this because I really want to do the raid. My third thought…let’s pray and fast because I really REALLY want to do the raid.
You can always tell how desperate I am for something when I start a fast. Fasting is something I do quite often but I do not like it AT ALL. No one likes depriving themselves of food though, so that’s a legitimate complaint. So why do I fast then?
Because fasting is something that Jesus expects us to do.
Matthew 6:16 KJV says, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
Notice Jesus says when you fast, not if you fast. Many Christians don’t include fasting in their spiritual life because they don’t read these words as a direct commandment. While Jesus may not have said ‘Thou shalt fast at some point in time’ the scripture Matthew 6:16 clearly demonstrates an expectation for us to fast.
So what is a fast?
The literal meaning in Hebrew for the word fast is to ‘cover ones mouth’ which is interpreted to mean abstaining from food. You might also abstain from other things as a way of fasting; maybe you won’t watch as much TV this week and instead spend Wednesday night in prayer. Or maybe you’ll save that money for your new dress and instead donate a new offering bowl to the church. Those are all good ways to fast but, traditionally, the act of fasting includes staying away from certain foods.
You can pick the food and the time; fast for a day—a month—a year—it all depends on you. But fasting from 11 o’clock at night to 8 in the morning doesn’t count… Let's make that clear right now. YOU CANNOT FAST WHILE YOU ARE ASLEEP.
Why not? Because fasting is a sacrifice. It means giving up something you would normally have and enjoy. You're not giving anything up if you aren't conscious or awake during the period of fasting. Saying... I'm not going to eat from 11pm until 8am is not a fast because you wouldn't normally be eating during that time anyway so there isn't a real sacrifice being given.
Why should Christians fast?
Because Jesus fasted, first of all. Because he expects us to fast, second of all. And because fasting gives us spiritual power. Jesus said many times that He is the bread of life, He’s referred to Himself as food or water plenty of times—which is actually kind of funny to me. So when we fast, we deny ourselves what we physically need to survive in this world and depend on the true fruit of the vine to sustain us, which is Jesus Christ.
Fasting can be hard. You can go days without eating, or even longer. It’s not something to be taken lightly, which brings me back to my story. I absolutely love Coca-Cola, with a passion. My sister likes to joke that I singlehandedly keep the Coke industry afloat. I also drink water, for all you health nuts having a sugary heart attack at this moment. But I love Coke.
So what did I decide to include in my fast?
I decided to give up all soda, including Coke, until my team started the raid. The problem was that I’d expected to start the raid that night. So I was somewhat disappointed when my teammates couldn’t make it and we ended up cancelling. Then we cancelled again…and again. So I’d been without soda for days…
The struggle had gotten real.
So I went to my mother and asked her about it.
Should I end my fast? Because it doesn’t look like we’ll start the raid anytime soon. She looked me in my face and said I couldn’t back out of this. I should have been more specific. So no matter what, if we didn’t start the raid for the next year, I was going to stick to my fast and drink not an ounce of soda for the next year.
Except that was harder than it sounded.
So I started to think of ways out of it but that made me feel bad, like I was cheating God.
Guess what I did next?
I prayed and I even asked my mother to pray. And you know what? God answered.
He didn’t speak to me and tell me it was ok to end my fast, he simply said, ‘Pray for a raid’. And I’m like…duh! Instead of trying to weasel my way out of my fast, why don’t I just pray that my buddies get online so we can get this done??
In a matter of minutes my notifications were pinging on my Xbox that everyone was online and ready to go. Isn’t God great?
I wanted to tell that story because soda is something I take seriously so I was truly struggling with how much longer I had to go without it. I thought ‘God knows my heart, He’ll understand if I break my fast.’ But that wasn’t the point.
Fasting is making a commitment to God Almighty, its depending wholly and completely on Him to get you through your time of need. I needed to take it more seriously, as do most Christians.
Because fasting is so serious, I don’t usually do it unless I’m in deep despair over something—which is quite often lately. BUT what’s important to know is that fasting might be a serious thing, but it isn’t something you use to show off.
Fasting doesn’t show God how awesome you are, or how serious and faith-filled you are about your situation. Fasting is just another way of dedicating yourself to The Lord. Jesus will love you whether you fast or not, you should fast, but He’ll love you nonetheless.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s answer the question; when should you fast?
I fast when I’m in despair, as I said. But sometimes I fast because I want to grow. There isn’t always something wrong in my life when I fast. There isn’t always a raid coming up, or a job interview I need to nail. Sometimes I fast simply to grow in my faith because I realize that fasting isn’t something to do just to grab a quick break-through.
Sometimes I fast to just get closer to God. When you’re without physical food on a fast, you’re forced to focus on the Lord because He’s the reason you’re even doing the fast. When I fast, I desire spiritual food. Just like we’ve come to desire physical food, our spirits need to be fed as well and what better way to do that than to give up your physical sustenance and instead depend on God?
So how do you fast?
There are some traditional fasts out there, the Daniel Fast is one of them. You can find out what that is by clicking here. Or you can design your own. I always give up something that I know I love, like soda, or pasta, even soup for a week. Sometimes I simply go without food altogether for a period of time. Or you can reverse it and only drink water for a week, or add a veggie you don’t like to your diet for three days.
It’s truly up to you but make sure it’s an actual sacrifice. You can’t fast from soda if you don’t even normally drink it. Be sensible about it and don’t take on more than you can handle. If you’re a soda lover like me and you’re new to fasting, don’t go cold turkey and drop soda for the next three months. Maybe you can handle it, but don’t run the risk of breaking your fast because you took more than you could handle.
Even if that’s the case, know that Jesus is the bread of life. He will sustain you in your time of need.