Why Christians Are Slow to Fast
By Kristen Feola
Apr. 8, 2012
You won’t find “Thou shalt fast” anywhere in the Bible. However, several examples of fasting appear in both the Old and New Testaments. One of the most telling passages occurs in Matthew 6:16, as Jesus is teaching His disciples basic principles of godly living. Addressing the issue of fasting, He says, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.” Jesus’ words imply that fasting will be a regular practice in the lives of His followers.
Despite the fact that fasting is taught repeatedly in Scripture, many Christians have yet to embrace this powerful spiritual discipline. I believe there are several factors that cause believers to be hesitant to fast. However, before we examine such reasons for resistance, let’s first take a look at what fasting involves.
What is fasting?
When you fast, you deny yourself food, or certain foods, for a specified period of time as an act of surrender and worship. Someone who commits to a fast is saying, “Lord, nothing is more important than You. I’m ready to sacrifice my time, my physical comfort and my desires so I can hear from You.”
There are basically three different types of fasts*:
• Absolute — no food or water
• Liquid — water, fruit and vegetable juices, and/or broth
• Partial — eating certain groups of foods and restricting others (i.e., a Daniel fast)
Why we don’t fast
Anyone who has done a fast — whether absolute, liquid or partial — would agree that fasting is difficult. Physically, you may suffer from unpleasant side effects, such as headaches, fatigue and intestinal discomfort, as your body attempts to adjust to the reduced caloric intake. Spiritually, attacks from the enemy increase in frequency and intensity, resulting in a barrage of frustrations and setbacks that can seem overwhelming.
However, the same people who would be honest about the challenges of fasting would also concur that the sacrifices are well worth the rewards. As you draw near to God, you experience a whole new level of relationship with Him. You become more sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and can hear His voice more clearly.
Why, then, would believers refuse such an opportunity to enjoy sweet communion with the Lord? In most cases, it’s not due to a lack of desire. Instead, they hold back because of fear, ignorance or rebellion.
They’re afraid. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of feeling hunger pangs. Afraid of starting and not finishing. Afraid of fasting alone. The enemy has them bound up in fearful thoughts, convinced they could never do it. Instead of looking to the Lord for strength and help, they become consumed with their own weaknesses and paralyzed by fear.
Many Christians simply have not been taught about the importance of seeking God in this way. Churches often do not encourage fasting and, in many cases, never even mention it from the pulpit. For example, I grew up in a Bible-believing church, but I don’t remember hearing a single message on fasting until I was an adult. I wish I would have learned about fasting at a much younger age.
A large segment of the Christian population is aware of the benefits of fasting, yet they’re unwilling to submit to the Lord in this area of their lives. Their hearts are hardened when it comes to the idea of fasting. When God invites them to draw near to Him through a time of focused prayer, they dig their heels into the ground and stubbornly reply, “No!”
Why we should fast
When accompanied by fervent prayer, fasting will help you develop intimacy with the Savior in a powerful way. God promises in Matthew 5:6 that when we seek Him wholeheartedly, we will be richly rewarded: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (NIV). The following are a few reasons why you should make periodic fasts part of your relationship with the Lord.
Fasting is the example set ?by Jesus.
First and foremost, we should fast because Jesus did. Our Savior spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). During that time, the Lord was able to defeat Satan’s attacks because He was prayed up and armed with the Word of God. Jesus’ example shows us how fasting equips and empowers us for victory over sin. If Jesus, the Son of God, recognized the importance of fasting in His life, shouldn’t we as well?
Fasting helps you grow in faith.
Self-denial does not come naturally to us because the flesh is wired for indulgence. Therefore, when you commit to a fast, you understand and acknowledge that you can’t do it on your own. You realize how completely dependent you are upon the Lord’s strength and learn to lean on Him for the perseverance you need to finish strong.
Fasting changes you.
Whenever you spend time in the Lord’s presence, you are changed. Fasting allows you to experience a greater sense of the Lord’s presence in your life and the indescribable joy that comes from walking in obedience. You’ll be transformed as you meditate on the truth of God’s Word and apply His promises to your life.
Fasting is for anyone who is hungry for the Lord. As you empty yourself — physically and spiritually — you open the door for Him to step in and do the miraculous in your life. Don’t let fear, ignorance or a rebellious spirit keep you from seeking God through prayer and fasting. Accept the Lord’s invitation to draw near to Him today.
*Note: A popular Christian practice in our culture is to declare a media fast (abstaining from Facebook, computer games, television, etc.). Although these forms of self-denial certainly have benefits, they are not fasts according to the examples found in Scripture. With every instance of fasting in the Bible, people either went without food or a combination of water and food. Therefore, to fast means to reduce food intake as you spend time seeking the Lord in prayer.
KRISTEN FEOLA is the author of the best-selling book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. She has worked as a personal trainer, nutritional consultant and fitness instructor. Kristen lives in Springfield, Mo., with her husband, Justin, and her two daughters. Her blog is found at www.ultimatedanielfast.com.
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