Fasting isn’t a popular topic. The moment the subject is broached you almost see people become physically uncomfortable. The conversation switches rather quickly.
We live in a world where we worship pleasure and entertainment. We are forever on the quest for what feels good, what we want to do, and what is fun for us. Enjoying life isn’t wrong. God loves a joyful spirit, but when our focus rests predominately on orienting our worlds around what we want, then we know we are out of line with the will of God.
Fasting reorients our will with God’s will.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
A follower of Jesus is instructed to deny himself before bearing the cross. We can’t pick up a cross while carrying our self-pleasing, flesh-serving desires. There is a proper order of operations. Deny first, pick up second.
To deny yourself is to humble yourself. To realize you don’t sit on the throne of your own life. To choose to put yourself behind your desires for the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment.
Only then, in this state of humility, can we possibly receive the strength to pick up the cross of Christ and follow Him. The cross is a symbol of sacrifice over selfishness. It’s a sign of humility over pride. It’s a sign of service of meism.
To pick up the cross is the ultimate act of humility. When we fast, we are laying down our pride and choosing a posture of humility. It’s a choice to deny ourselves of what we want.
My first fast was a 24 hour food fast. The closeness I experienced with the Lord, the mental clarity I received, and the restful soul I embraced caused me to extend my food fast another 24 hours. The Lord gave me a dream that night. I remember realizing how much I’d missed out on all the years I chose to disregard the gift of fasting.
I tried writing a list for you of the benefits of fasting. It was too long and I deleted the entire list. I decided I want you to discover the benefits for yourself. Each fast reveals a new reason to set regular seasons of fasting.
Instead of giving you all the reasons I find fasting of great value, I will share my top four.
4 Benefits of Fasting:
- Self-control. Choosing to go without something forces me to exercise self-control in an area I don’t normally. But what I’ve found with fasting is that like muscles that are exercised regularly, they strengthen with repetition. When I fast, I become more disciplined in all areas.
- Mental clarity. When I fast, I quickly realize how much I think about myself. All day long I’m thinking about what I want to enjoy, what I need to relax, what I want to do for fun. I would never have believed I thought about myself so much until I took things out of my life that took up mental space. When that mental space was cleared and I was released of the burden of thinking of myself so much, my thoughts became clearer. I began to think deeper rather than on the surface of my desires.
- Soul rest. Feeding our selfish desires is tiring. It wears a soul down more than we realize. It’s a beautiful gift to our soul to break from what we think we want and need. Inside a calmness settles in.
- Strength. We can do hard things. When we choose what is easy, we become weak people who can’t handle the bumps of life. Fasting is hard. Hard grows us stronger.
4 common types of fasts:
- Most obvious is food. This is also one of the hardest. When I fast from food, I enjoy a deeper, richer prayer life. I am face to face with my weakness all day long. When my stomach aches, I turn to God and pour my heart out to Him. It’s a beautiful way to connect with His tenderness and allow Him to actually be my bread of life and my living water.
- Social media. I do this a couple times a year. Each time I wonder why I don’t make it permanent.
- Alcohol. I just did an 8 week alcohol fast I plan to share about with you in more detail. If you are a christian who drinks alcohol, I think this one is an absolute must.
- Sugar. Incredibly hard if you have a sweet tooth, but so rewarding.
- Choose a type of fast. Be sure it’s not an easy one. Don’t fast from chocolate unless you are eating it A LOT! Choose something that is hard. It’s worth it.
- Choose a period of time. 24 hours, 7 days, 1 month.
- Set start and end date.
- Tell your spouse or an accountability partner so they can pray for you during your time of fasting.
- Dedicate your fast to the Lord. Pray without ceasing. Be open to what God reveals to you.