This title is admittedly not one that I came up with. This is the sermon topic of one of my favorite preachers as he was teaching on fasting. Like most churches and parishioners in America, assuming you did a 21 day fast, you are likely either finishing up this past weekend or this coming weekend. But what is the actual purpose of this time that you have fasted? While it IS awesome to do it because the church as a whole is participating, what does it mean to you as an individual? Today I want to look at a couple things that fasting is and a couple things that it is not.
Fasting is not, or should not, be a burden. For so many it is a time of begrudgingly abstaining from your favorite foods and counting the days until you can have those things again but that’s not the true spirit of fasting. Instead we should look at fasting as a time to deny ourselves of certain pleasures in an attempt to put our body in submission and to hear from God. Fasting is a time of sacrifice and if we aren’t doing that in the right spirit, it may hinder our ability to hear the things God wants to say to us. In Matthew 6 it specifically spells out some guidelines as to what fasting should look like and one thing it says in verse 16 is that we shouldn’t look somber or disfigure our faces to show that we are fasting. When we fast it is an opportunity to draw near to God and that should bring a joyful spirit and a willingness to do whatever it takes to enter into his presence.
Fasting is not transactional. When we enter a fast there is usually at least one thing on our mind that we are praying for. For some it is answers to any of life’s many problems but for others it is physical things. God I need a home, or a car, or more money and while all of those things are reasonable asks, sometimes our desired method for obtaining these things is a little off. I was born in the 80’s and grew up, of course, in the 90’s and I remember this thing called publishers clearing house. It would be these commercials where they would knock on an unsuspecting person’s door with a big check. Some of the prizes were like $5000 a week for life or a lump sum, 10 million dollar prize. And I remember thinking how my life would change if that knock was ever on my (parents) front door. This is what we often want from God. A miraculous check to appear and take all of our debt completely away or to give us that thing we have been wanting but what if God is going to show you how to use what you already have or place a business model on your heart to get the desires of your heart. It’s not that he doesn’t want us to have things but he wants you to get them His way.
Lastly, when we fast and pray, our faith may be stretched. It’s like the widow in 2nd Kings chapter 4, her husband died and left so much debt that her sons were going to be taken as slaves to pay for it. She speaks with the prophet Elisha and he doesn’t give her anything tangible. Instead he tells her to gather pots from everyone; neighbors, family, whomever she can and to begin to pour the little oil she already has into every pot she could get. Miraculously, the oil flows until all the pots are full and then she is instructed to sell the oil to pay the debt. The widow wasn’t tryna be rich or get a brand new Mercedes donkey, she wanted to pay her debt so that she could continue with her normal life and although the solution was miraculous, the process was natural. She allowed God to speak to her situation, not in the form of money but in the form of her faith. She gathered all of those pots and stood in her home and began pouring all in faith. Is your faith strong enough to do something that has no direct resolve for your problem because God said so? That’s something we have to be open to as we hear from God, the solution could be in the form of a faith test.
So if you are preparing to come out of this fast or preparing for the next fast, let us all keep in mind the spirit in which we are doing it, with a spirit of joy and not to just get something from God but to get closer into his presence and to allow him to speak to our situations.