Fasting isn’t just for the superheroes of the faith, the biblical giants who seem larger than life but were really just as human as we are. Fasting is for everyone, a tool and a discipline that draws us closer to God’s heart.

Discipline never ranks high on anyone’s list of favorite pastimes. Yet, we all love the results that discipline can give us. Financial discipline can help us create wealth. Physical discipline helps us get in shape and improve our health. Discipline is never fun at the time, but when we implement it, we can achieve goals that are important to us. Spiritual disciplines are no different: prayer, reading the Bible, worship, tithing, serving, etc., are habits that we can develop to help us grow spiritually, help us grow closer to Jesus, and become more like Him. Jesus even practiced these spiritual disciplines, so we should, too! 

I’ve given you the why, and that should compel us all to put these disciplines into practice more… so why don’t we?

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, writes: 

“...Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NASB)

In this world, it’s easy to focus on the present and become shortsighted. We like instant gratification and immediate results, and if we don’t see those results right away, we become discouraged. But we must learn to play the long game. Sowing and reaping are concepts used throughout the Bible, and spiritual disciplines work just like that. If you want a vibrant prayer life, you must spend time talking to God, even when you don’t feel like it. If you want to know and understand His word, study it. What you sow, you will reap, and Galatians 6:9 encourages us not to grow weary in doing good and promises us that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. We aren’t just developing spiritual muscles for this life but also for the world to come. Think about that! When we sow these spiritual disciplines into our lives, they will bear fruit, and we will reap the benefits for all eternity!

Of all the spiritual disciplines, fasting might be the least popular. If fasting were a household chore, it would be like doing laundry. If fasting were a day of the week, it would be Monday.

Pastor David Kakish, in an article for the Gospel Coalition, says, “Fasting is the kale of the spiritual disciplines. We know it’s good for us, but we don’t seek it out on the menu.”

That made me laugh.

Yet, fasting is modeled throughout the Bible, with some pretty incredible examples.

First, a little history. Fasting from food for spiritual purposes is one of the world's oldest and most widely practiced spiritual disciplines. While not quite so common in our modern American world of excess and abundance, going without food for a designated time to draw closer to God has been practiced throughout the centuries, and we see examples throughout Scripture. Even before fasting appeared in the biblical record, it was already a well-established practice in ancient cultures.

Biblical fasting is a response to God, a humbling of oneself to show our complete dependence on Him. We choose to set aside something that has become all-consuming or a distraction, or we give up the time we would typically eat to give God our focus, time, and attention. As Pastor Jason says, when we fast, we tell God, “I need You more than I need _____. You fill in the blank with whatever you choose to fast. One of the earliest examples of fasting that we see in Scripture is when Moses met with the Lord on Mount Sinai, and for forty days and nights, “he neither ate bread nor drank water.” (Exodus 34:28). It was here that Moses received and wrote down the words from God that would become the Ten Commandments.

Abstaining from food and water for that long sounds wild to us. But Moses, being in the presence of God Almighty, did not require any physical sustenance. God miraculously sustained him during this time. In fact, his encounter with God was so profound that when he returned from his mountaintop experience to the camp, his face radiated with a divine glow (Ex 34:35).

Now, I’m not recommending that everyone go out and do a 40-day fast from all food and water! This event was truly miraculous, but it happened, and it was necessary for Moses to receive these essential words from God. Bible scholars consider Moses to be the author of the first five books of the Old Testament. He played an indispensable role in receiving God's instructions and bringing them to the Israelites, and we still read those words today. When Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, He declared to Satan that we are completely and utterly dependent upon God. In Matthew 4:4, He says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” What might God do through us if we step out in faith and fast? Start small and start now!

Our world is filled with distractions that are incredibly easy to turn to when we seek comfort or find ourselves in need. Fasting forces us to eliminate those distractions and instead look to our true source of contentment. Jesus is our Living Water, our Bread of Life, and our ever-present help, always there for us when we are in need. He can fill us and satisfy us like nothing else can. Fasting reminds us of that.

Take heart. This life is not all there is for us. This world and everything in it will one day pass away, and they pale in comparison to the ways that only Jesus can satisfy the longings in our souls. Our present circumstances are temporary and fleeting, and one day, we will spend eternity with Jesus in a new Heaven and a new earth. Fasting bridges the gap and allows us to reach beyond what is transient and impermanent and tap into the eternal, storing our treasures in heaven. Fasting isn’t just for the superheroes of the faith, the biblical giants who seem larger than life but were really just as human as we are. Fasting is for everyone, a tool and a discipline that draws us closer to God’s heart. 

Like all disciplines, we aren’t naturally good at them at first, and I can’t promise you that you will come away from your time of fasting with a holy glow-up like Moses. You won’t necessarily feel superhuman or ultra-spiritual while you fast. You might even be tired or hangry. But that’s not the point. Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. It’s important to remember that fasting isn’t about us. It’s about God. It’s about willingly setting aside things we assume are rights and privileges and asking God to fill that space with Himself. It’s about knowing Him more and asking Him to align our hearts with His, to seek His will, to find out what matters to Him, and to jump in and be a part of it. God is inviting us to know Him better, more than ever before, in 2024, and fasting is a spiritual discipline that will help us achieve that.

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