Did you resolve to lose weight in 2018?
If so, (according to one survey I read) you have joined the plethora of Americans who made a New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Sadly, another source cited that 80% of people will give up on their resolutions by the second week of February. So, if your belly is rumbling and you miss the sweets, maybe you are already thinking about fasting. However, Biblical fasting is not a diet plan; it’s a spiritual discipline. It is not a means of salvation. It should not be legislated by man or church (Colossians 2:16-23). So to the Christian leaders pushing for Lenten fasts, I say, with Christian love, go jump in a lake, or the Tiber. The Bible doesn’t command certain days or seasons for fasting. In fact, the only command in the Old Testament for a legislated fast was the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29) and even then, the focus is on the soul, not the body. But that doesn’t mean God’s people only fasted on that one day. Moses fasted when he received the law. Samuel fasted asking forgiveness of the sins of Israel. David fasted when he mourned Saul’s death and when he earnestly prayed for his dying infant. Esther fasted when she was about to go unannounced before the King and her life hung in the balance. Nehemiah fasted mourning the state of Jerusalem. Daniel fasted in the study and meditation of God’s Word. In the New Testament, Jesus fasted after His baptism, John the Baptist and his disciples regularly fasted. Paul and the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2-3) fasted in preparation for a missionary endeavor. The assumption in the Bible is that God’s people will fast (I Corinthians 7:5), but when and why?
In the examples of godly men and women fasting, you find that the common denominator is prayer and an earnest desire for God, not a regularly scheduled diet regimen or legalistic ritual. Fasting is not as much about denying the flesh, but spending more time with God. Fasting is desiring God and his Word and His fellowship more than our “necessary food”. It’s a dedicated time seeking God’s will, using the time we would normally eat and feed the flesh to be devoted to prayer and worship instead. When we are in great need or about to undertake a great work, or heartbroken about our sin, or overwhelmed over the sins of others, it’s appropriate to set aside small things, like food and drink, to pour out our requests to God. It’s about worship, not works. You cannot punish your body into holiness. You cannot whip yourself into godliness, or starve yourself into salvation. Fasting is temporarily putting everything to the side to spend time with God. You cannot fast while you watch TV. Biblical fasting isn’t the doctor telling you not to eat after midnight before a test. Instead of filing your belly, you fulfill your hunger for God with prayer, worship, and Bible study.