Oct 10, 2013

Fasting. What have I been missing?

(I write this blog not to boast in myself, but rather to share something I've experienced that I hope you will be encouraged by.)

Fasting from food is a spiritual discipline that I steered away from most of my life. l love to eat. I am not happy when I don't eat. I neglected fasting because I was lazy and afraid of not eating. I recently began to put fasting back into my walk with God on a more regular basis and I have been amazed at what I've been missing.

What I've learned from fasting

1. I deeply need the grace, mercy, and strength of Jesus Christ. I can't live without him, and I will never live a nanosecond in heaven without his salvation.

2. God is more important than even food

3. God can satisfy and fill me in ways that food cannot

4. Controlling the desires of my flesh is very similar to fasting from food. I've learned how to more effectively discipline my body and resist the temptations of my flesh and mind.

5. Prayer really works. God wants to answer my prayer and will answer my prayer. I've seen Him answer prayer in ways I've never experienced during a fast.

6. Man really doesn't live on bread alone and really does live by the Word of God.

7. Just like I fill my stomach with so many unhealthy foods daily that I don' t need, I also realized I fill my life and mind with so many unhealthy things daily that I don't need.

Here’s a few words of advice on fasting from personal experience.

1. Don’t broadcast your fast. Keep it a secret and only tell those that absolutely need to know (husband/wife, accountability partner). Make plans and appointments the days that you fast that will not involve food. Don't talk about your hunger, don't draw attention to yourself. Matthew 6:13-18

2. Have a purpose and plan for your fast. Fasting is the abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind. Fasting seeks to pursue God and to show yourself that He is greater than your desire for even food. It should draw you closer to him as you physically realize that He is all you really need. Plan a prayer plan for your fast. If you don’t have a specific purpose and reason for fasting then you will find yourself more tempted to quit. Write down what you plan to pray for during your fast. Take some time to prepare this plan

3. Don’t over commit yourself with your fast. Start out with a one day fast, progress to more. Don’t commit to a week or longer for your first fast. It’s not easy and you don’t want to quit and be discouraged. I did this. My first fast was in college, I attempted a week long fast and only made it 4 days and then quit. I was overcommitted, I was weak, immature, and didn't have a plan and purpose for my fast. I didn’t try another food fast for 13 more years. I had over committed and had gotten discouraged and I didn't see the point. As a result, I limited my fasting experience to fasting from other things and missed out on the benefits of fasting from food for 13 years because of my lack of preparation and immaturity.

4. Slow down your schedule during your fast. You will get a little tired throughout the fast and a little irritable especially at the beginning (I always get a few headaches and am short tempered at first). Day two and three are the hardest. You are hungry and your stomach is not used to discipline like this. Your stomach acts like a crying baby. You have to remind your stomach that it will be just fine. When my stomach growls and wines during a fast, I learned to just tell it to shut up. After day 2 or 3 it gets the message and the hunger pains will subside. Towards the end of a fast you are tired. Get rest, take it a little easier. Slow down your schedule and life a little. Pace of life is one of the reasons that we don’t hear from God like we do during fasts. During your fast you control your stomach, so put up the extra patience to control your temper and attitude during this time as well.

5. Do a food fast. The examples of fasting in the scripture always are with food. You can fast from TV, social media, internet, or other things. You can accomplish similar results with these other things. You will certainly realize your over dependence and obsession with these other things as you fast from them and you can grow closer to God by neglecting them. However, there is nothing quite like fasting from food, which is a basic necessity. I would even include these other things along with a food fast. Don’t be afraid to fast from food, you are missing out on an incredible journey.

6. Use the time you would normally eat a meal to focus on the Lord. I have a longer quiet times at breakfast time during a fast. I do an additional reading, prayer, and bible study at lunch, and do focused prayer at dinner when I have fasted.

7. Have a friend join you with your fast. I recently fasted with a friend and we met each evening at dinner to pray together. I always went to those prayer meetings really hungry, but when we left I was not hungry at all. I was greatly encouraged by his faith and prayer though our fast. Some of the greatest prayer times I’ve ever had were with that friend during our fast. During those prayer times we literally met with God and saw him answer prayer!

8. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts. Insights from the scriptures you encounter during your fast. Write out your prayer requests and keep a copy of your prayer plan. Look back on it a few weeks after the fast and be amazed at the prayers God answered.

9. Don't be arrogant about your obedience in fasting. It's not about you. Fasting reminds us that we deeply need Jesus Christ. Fasting should lead you to greater humility and less boasting not arrogance. Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought. Don't draw attention to yourself before, during, or after your fast.

I encourage you to engage in a food fast. Have faith, walk in obedience. Enjoy the journey of fasting. Don't miss out on what God has waiting for you.