Appreciating that scripture points to fasting as something that Christ followers do and appreciating that as reason in itself to fast, why else would you fast? What are some rational reasons for fasting because at times (especially when you are fasting) it can often seem irrational? For me there are a number of reasons.
1. Fasting is the most appropriate response to certain sacred moments we experience in life.
Fasting is that which is done in response to a sacred moment of some sort. One experiences some sort of sacred moment (a burden for something from the Holy Spirit, conviction of the Holy Spirit, challenge of the Holy Spirit, call of the Holy Spirit and so on) and the most appropriate response is often fasting.
I’ve long felt the stirring and prompting of the Holy Spirit, in many different ways, in regards to so many in the world oppressed by injustice, trapped in poverty, dying from lack of food and clean drinking water. At the same time I’ve been greatly challenged in regards to issues of consumerism, materialism and greed in my life and in the western world. There are a number of ways in which I have responded and continue to respond to this such as changing my spending habits, adjusting my lifestyle, purchasing ethically when I need to purchase, giving more to projects and organisations that are dealing with these problems. As well as these things fasting is a natural response, especially a weekly fast. Each week I remember these issues even though I’ve moved on from the occasions where I particularly felt the Holy Spirit speak to me.
As I fast, in a small way I identify with those that are hungry and poor. In a small way I stand against consumerism and materialism. In a small way I stand against greed, gluttony and the lust of the flesh. In a big way though these issues remain on the forefront of my mind and are not forgotten as fads or ‘once upon a times.’
Scot McKnight describes three potential phases in regards to fasting.
A - Sacred moment
B - Fasting
C - Results
He describes fasting as a movement from A to B, not a movement from C to B. In other words we respond to the work of the Spirit by fasting rather than responding to needs or results we need in life and so fast in the hope of achieving them.
I have come to the conclusion about fasting; when the grievous sacred moment is neglected and instead we focus on the results, fasting becomes a manipulative device instead of a genuine Christian discipline. Scot McKnight
When people tell us they are fasting our question should be, ‘in response to what?’ rather than ‘what do you hope to get out of it?’ Scot McKnight
2. Fasting integrates the immaterial with the material.
I fast because it is a tangible, physical, touch, taste, feel way of out working my faith (well not taste). The Christian life is not simply and inner life of belief, an inner spirituality disconnected to our physical life. We are embodied beings. Prayer, faith, trust, repentance are all spiritual/physical immaterial/material realities. Fasting helps me to actually ‘live’ my faith.
Fasting is a tangible way of expressing and feeling repentance, the turning from one way to another.
Fasting is a tangible way of affirming one cannot live by bread alone.
Fasting is a tangible way of expressing hunger and thirst for God.
Fasting is a tangible way of identifying with the poor and developing God’s heart for the poor.
Fasting is a tangible way of denying the flesh and maintaining discipline, resolve, inner resolution and strength in your character.
For me, along with tithing, the practice of Sabbath, and other disciplines, fasting is a real life action, initiative, discipline, rhythm and way of living that ensures my inner convictions and Christian values and beliefs are continually established as reality in my life rather than so easily forgotten or overcome by the values of this world.
More to follow...