|The leaves have fallen... by Stephen Barrett|
Let me just start off by saying that this post is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of fasting, but as an introduction and encouragement for it.
There are many times in our lives when we are in need. These may be times of financial need, physical need, spiritual or emotional need. When we are in need we begin to search for a way for our need(s) to be satisfied. Fasting is a discipline that can be used to simplify life so that we can hear the voice of God, or in some circumstances appeal to Him through our suffering (fasting) and repentance. However, fasting does not suppose God to be a genie. Fasting just to get what you want or for the sake of pride will do nothing for you. It is meant as a means to wake ourselves to the reality of necessity for God.
I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
However there are times when we have everything we need. We feel the satisfaction and comfort of blessing in our lives and this should overflow into a heart of gladness and gratitude. It is important to note that God may call us to fast for a specific spiritual reason or for others in such a time.
Fasting is not an empty act but is done with a specific intention. The purpose of fasting can be two fold, one can be the path to provision, blessing, revelation for ourselves and the other can be focused towards others and their needs. See Isaiah 58
When we choose to give up our money, time, or resources in a fast we will instantly have a surplus at hand. So what does the Bible call us to do? We fast so we can give. We refrain from buying so we can provide. This is a whole new approach on fasting compared to merely spiritual enlightenment. This type of fast is one that truly pleases the LORD. (Isaiah 58) It keeps us from greed and brings balance to our lives and our communities. It teaches us not to trust in riches and abundance of worldly possessions.
It should be noted that fasting is not just common to Judeo-Christian tradition, in fact recently it has become popular as a way to improve or maintain health. Also many other religions practice or require fasting. That puts it right up with prayer as a standard spiritual discipline shared by religions around the world. It is unfortunate that some fast merely as tradition or fad without thought. The true blessing of it becomes lost without the intention.
My own personal experience with fasting has taught me that it really is a discipline that brings blessing. I have never looked back and regretted a fast. Sometimes the outcome or result was not what I expected but there was always blessing for me in the sacrifice. Something was always learned or revealed.
Many of my fasts are to gain wisdom or understanding in an important time (example: Daniel in the Old Testament or Apostles in the New Testament). Fasting slows down my thinking and stills my heart. It gives me ears to hear. It gives me time to meditate on what God requires of me in His word.
I encourage fasting for such reasons and also for the call of repentance (Book of Joel and other various Old Testament accounts) and to help or bless others (Book of Esther).
Remember as you walk out your faith and consider fasting, that ultimately it is a discipline that reaps blessing for others, as well as ourselves.