Fasting--what is that? And why should we do anything so seemingly ridiculous? What does going without food have to do with one's spiritual life? Why is it considered to be a spiritual discipline? And how do we preach on this subject in today's culture?
Well, when in American culture do we EVER practice self-denial, self-control like this? We are in a Super Size me culture. The microwave culture. The instant gratification culture. And as the above SuperSize Me video shows, the results are not pretty, either physically or spiritually.
Think--why is Apple now the largest company in the world? Yes, they have great products and fabulous designs. But they are also the largest company in the world because they have tapped into impulsive desires. Apple knew that if they could make it where people could buy a song or album that they just heard for $1/$10--or put out a new phone each year that people had to have--they would make a lot of money. And they have.
Fasting and self-denial is counter-cultural. And for that reason, we need it even more. Our focus upon ourselves and instant gratification shows up in our credit card debt, affairs, and what we eat. Fasting teaches us that we can wait, that our cravings do not control us, that God is above all.
There are numerous passages on fasting, and fasting is almost always linked to PRAYER. Jesus himself fasted before facing temptation (Luke 4:2). And while physically weak, if fasting draws us closer to God, he may have been spiritually strong THEN--maybe even fasting so as to be able to face Satan's temptations. Jesus also says, "when you fast..." (Mt. 6:16f).
I think that what Dallas Willard said about the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence--you practice these, so that when you need to be silent you can be--can be applied to fasting. Fasting is a form of self-denial, and we practice this in fasting so that when we are called to self-denial, we have practiced this and have asked God's help in this.
Finally, I think that 1 Corinthians 9:24f is a good passage/approach to this subject when preaching: "24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
Fasting is a type of training of our body, mind, and spirit, not as an end goal, but as a way to help us in drawing closer to God and for our sanctification as we seek the prize of eternal life.
What are your thoughts on fasting?
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Dr. James Nored (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a preacher, evangelist, church consultant, writer, and missional leader located in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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