David Anglin / September 25, 2017
Fasting is an ancient and modern act in which a person abstains from food. Fasting is an activity practiced by many cultures, over many ages, for many reasons. Fasting is not uniquely a Christian or Jewish discipline. In our culture today, one is most likely to hear about fasting in the context of its health benefits for detoxing one’s body. It is not uncommon to hear of people from various world religions fasting.
The one place we seldom hear about fasting is among Christians-perhaps this is because it is difficult to talk seriously about fasting while holding a Krispy Kreme donut and a cup of coffee. Jesus was even asked why his disciples did not fast.
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (ESV, Luke 5:33-35)
The answer from Jesus was remarkable. Jesus was saying his disciples do not fast because He is with them, but when He is taken away from them they will fast for His return! There are many biblical reasons for fasting. We find God’s people fasting for God’s intervention, help, and deliverance (Neh. 1:4, Esther 4:16, Ezra 8:21.) We find the leaders fasting for God’s direction and leadership in the Antioch Church, leading to Paul and Barnabas being sent to plant churches (Acts 13:1-3.) There are other reasons Christians may fast, but in light of the New Testament, the supreme reason to still fast is because of the absence of Jesus.
We should fast because we long for the return of Jesus to fix this broken world. We should fast as a declaration that we need the presence of Jesus in our lives. We should fast to battle our physical longing for food in order to reawaken a deeper longing for our satisfaction to rest in Christ alone. John Piper says, “Fasting is not a ‘no’ to the goodness of food or the generosity of God in providing it. Rather, it is a way of saying, from time to time, that having the Giver surpasses having the gift.” Piper explains how fasting fuels our faith saying, “Faith is a spiritual feasting on Christ with a view to being so satisfied in Him, that the power of all other allurements is broken.”
God could have created our bodies to be fueled in many different ways, but he designed us to be dependent on food and drink. Food is such a massive part of our everyday lives. When you skip a meal, it doesn’t take long before your stomach starts telling you to find a drive-thru window. This hourly, physical longing for food can be leveraged in fasting and praying for Jesus to be our satisfaction, for His presence to fill our lives (daily circumstances and struggles), and for the return of our King Jesus.
The principle of fasting can be applied to abstaining from things other than food. What is it that most distracts you from Jesus? What do you need to lay aside for a season in order to declare that Jesus is more important and more satisfying?
In Hunger for God, John Piper says, “Rising early is a kind of fast. And coming to pray when it is hard to get there is another kind of fast. When we make such choices, we make war on the deceitfulness of our desires and declare the preciousness of prayer and the all-surpassing worth of God.”
In Revelation 22:20, we have the last words of Jesus in the Bible promising, “With certainty, I am coming soon!” What can I fast (abstain) from to best awaken my soul to long and labor for His return? May our lives declare, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
David Anglin is the Lead Pastor/Church Planter of CrossLife Church in Johnson City, TN. He has a Mdiv in Biblical Studies from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Janet, have 5 children-whom they are educating, discipling, and living on mission with.