When you fast . . . – Matthew 6:16
In Matthew 6, Jesus is speaking throughout the whole chapter. He says in verse 2, “When you give.” Now, just about everybody, non-Christians included, believe that people should give. Christians should certainly agree that all Christians should be givers of their time, money, and efforts for the glory of God. Jesus doesn’t say, “If you should decide to give,” He says, “When you give,” He expects it of His followers.
In verse 5, Jesus says, “When you pray.” Once again, Jesus doesn’t list it as an option. If you call yourself a Christian, it is our Christian duty, hopefully our Christian desire, to pray.
I don’t think I have ever met a Christian who has never given something, nor have I met one who has never prayed. However, I have met plenty who have never fasted. Jesus also says, “When you fast . . .” so when do you fast?
I am not going to get into the details of how I got into this practice (though I will at Lifeline this Sunday), but suffice it to say that it is the hardest spiritual exercise that I do. I will at least give you the verse that made me want to do it.
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us, and our children, with all our possessions. – Ezra 8:21
I can’t think of a better way to start every year than to follow Ezra’s plan here. Yes, the fasting part is difficult, but look at the rewards. First of all, you humble yourself. Pride has a way of diminishing quickly when your stomach starts growling and your head starts hurting from withdrawals. During this fasting process, we ask God for a safe journey. I don’t know about you, but life is kind of hard. I want to ask Him to help me do life one day at a time, help me enjoy the time that I am taking care of my responsibilities, and protect me, lead me, and guide me so that I may do them well. Not only do I want this for myself, but my family as well. During a fast, I call out their names to Him. “Lord, help them pass safely through another year.” I also like how the verse adds, “with all our possessions.” Undoubtedly, fasting can place a hedge of protection around you, your loved ones, and your stuff.
Now, that verse is the reason I got started. I have since added many more reasons. I do want to reiterate that fasting is very difficult. In fact, the worse you eat on a day-to-day basis, the more difficult it will be for you to fast. Nonetheless, if you have never fasted, consider making this at least an annual thing so that you can answer the question: When do you fast?
I do remember my first fast. I thought I’d be like Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days and I just went for it. After about 16 hours I thought I was at death’s door. I wish someone had told me that there were baby steps you could take.
If you have never fasted, start with a partial fast, better known as a Daniel Fast. It is not as easy as you think . . . especially if you eat poorly. It is derived from Daniel 10:2-3. Simply eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Daniel did it for 21 days. Ask God to give you a number, and go for it.
Another great way to begin fasting is to simply fast one single meal. Instead of eating breakfast, spend time in the Word and pray. Then, eat lunch and supper as normal. Later, try to skip breakfast and lunch. Work your way up to a 24-hour fast.
Those of you who eat well should have no problem with this. Once you can conquer the 24-hour fast without a terrible amount of discomfort, you are ready to take on longer fasts.
I hope you all will pray about and consider going on a fast early this year. Ezra and his people received the safe passage he asked for through fasting and prayer.
We can too.
P.S. If you are a Lifeliner, this is set to be a HUGE year for our church! We definitely need “safe passage” from West-Oak High School to our permanent home on our property 3 miles away. Fast and pray. We must make sure our hearts are ready to do all that God has called us to do. Fasting has a way of getting rid of all the junk in our hearts and minds that does not need to be there.