Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I Fast - Part 1 of 3

Lent is a traditional time for Christians to fast so I though it an appropriate time to share why I fast and hopefully encourage you to practice fasting.

Fasting is something I used to do a lot. Not long fasts, but for a couple of years I went every Tuesday without eating. After a while however I grew a little bit disillusioned with fasting. I wasn’t really sure why I was fasting or what it was supposed to achieve. My understanding was that Christians were meant to fast and that fasting would probably ‘take your relationship with God to another level’ and/or ‘bring God’s blessing and power into your life.’ This didn’t seem to be happening and I was just plain confused as to why I fasted. I stopped fasting for a few years but maintained throughout that time a real interest in fasting.

Last year after talking with a number of people about fasting and reading a couple of books on fasting, I was re-inspired to practice fasting again. Scot McKnight’s book Fasting was particularly helpful as were conversations I had with friends who were committed fasters. Since October or November last year I have been fasting regularly again; this time every Thursday. I eat on Wednesday as per normal and then not again till Friday break-fast.

This time round there are a lot more ‘whys’ surrounding that which at times feels like a crazy ‘what.’

Let’s begin with Matthew 6:16-18

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The first thing to be mindful in regards to fasting is that it is something that you do before God not before others. Fasting isn’t something that you use to emphasise your superior spirituality to that of people around you. Fasting is something personal. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it with other people and let others know you are fasting etc. Just make sure your not using your fasting to somehow place yourself above others or ahead of others. It just doesn’t work like that.

I’ll get more into why I fast in my next post, for now though, my first reason is that Jesus assumes his disciples will fast. In Matthew 6 Jesus talks about how is disciples are to give to the needy, pray, fast, store treasure in heaven, and not worry. All of those things are characteristics of the lives of those that follow Christ. So for me fasting is just something that Christians do. Next time we’ll get into some more of the ‘whys.’

No comments: