After the destruction of the second temple, nearly 600 years before Christ, fast days increased amongst the Jews. Fasting became ordered and specific days were designated fast days.
Post AD, fasting along with other Jewish legalism and piety weaved its way into the Christian doctrine and it was administered as a form of penance, and the Popes ordered that quarterly fasts be undertaken which if broken led to torture!
In 1303 King Philip IV of France brought down Pope Boniface VIII on charges of heresy, blasphemy, sodomy, sorcery … and not fasting on fast day!
Fasting seems to have lost its beauty somewhat in history. It has become what Jesus spoke against. It has been gloriously disfigured by hypocrites. We need to recover it as a natural part of our discipleship as much as praying and giving.
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, 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 others 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.” (Matthew 6 v 16-18)
There are reasons to fast that are beneficial and it is not to look good amongst the crowd.
Fasting must be centred on God. It is not a means to get our own way, to somehow manipulate God to do what we want.
Fasting is not a way to earn favour with God, to impress God or to earn his acceptance, for that is given through the work of Jesus Christ not our works.
Fasting will also identify to the ‘faster’ the things in their life that controls them, for example, pride or anger.
We are often unaware of being controlled, but fasting brings those things to the forefront, so that they can then be dealt with. So fasting isn’t necessarily from food but that will be the most popular form of fasting.
Fasting is a reminder to the Christian that our dependence is on God alone and not on food or the thing we happen to be fasting, that it is God who sustains us. Fasting unto God therefore is feasting – feasting on him and on doing his will. Fasting also helps us to recognise that the nonessentials really are nonessentials. So often they can take over our lives; fasting helps to maintain balance again.
Fasting strengthens prayer because it helps to focus more clearly on what we are seeking God for. It doesn’t bend his arm it helps to bend our knee.
Fasting makes us more receptive to understand what God is wanting from our life.
Fasting can best express to God the depth of our feelings. Fasting can express the grief and confession of our sin that words cannot.
Fasting is often used in the Bible story to seek protection from enemies or circumstances
Fasting can indicate a new season has begun.
Fasting is a physical expression of humility before God.
Fasting can be used to overcome trials and temptations.
Fasting expresses love and worship to God. It is an act of sheer devotion to God.
How do you incorporate it into your discipleship?