Why would anyone choose not to eat for a day? Or choose to turn off sports talk radio when they drive? It seems un-American! Yet, fasting is a key spiritual practice found throughout the Bible. Since it is such a foreign concept to us, I thought I’d blog about it…
What is Fasting?
Fasting is a spiritual practice found throughout the Bible where people give up or abstain from something (typically food). See Luke 5:33-34, Matthew 4:1-4, and Jonah 3:5-10 for a few examples. Fasting would be a great thing to do during the upcoming Advent season because it causes you to simplify your life during the time of year when things usually get more complicated.
What Should I Fast From?
When people think of fasting, they typically picture giving up food for a certain amount of time. And while that is one way to do it, you can fast from all types of things . . .
- TV – Turn it off (and maybe your DVR too!).
- Radio – Stop listening to your favorite radio station when you’re driving.
- Computer – Unplug your video game or take a break from Facebook or e-mail or the internet.
- Certain Foods, Snacks, or Beverages – You can give up a particular food, snack, or drink that you love whether it’s pizza, french fries, chocolate, Pepsi, or whatever.
- All Food – You can skip one meal or not eat anything for an entire day.
How Often Should I Fast?
There are no rules to follow but here are some suggestions . . .
- If you choose to fast from some form of entertainment (e.g., TV, Facebook), you could do so for just one day per week during Advent or give it up altogether from now until Christmas.
- If you choose to fast from food, there are a few ways to do it. If you give up all food for an entire day, you may want to do that just once or twice during Advent. If you give up a certain food, snack, or beverage it may be best to give it up for all 4 weeks. If you fast from one meal out of the day, you may want to do that once a week.
What Else Should I Do?
Whatever you decide to fast from, take the time you would normally spend in that activity to love God and love others. Here are some examples how to do this. Take the time you normally would be eating (30 minutes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) or on the computer or watching TV and spend that freed up time . . . Taking a walk in the woods. Reading your Bible individually or as a family. Serving your spouse by doing some housework. Praying. Serving the poor. Journaling. Being in community with your small group. Playing with your kids. Sitting silently.
Perspectives on Fasting
Here are some quotations from a handful of authors to help explain what fasting is and what it does:
John Piper – “A Hunger for God” (p.10)
“Desire for other things” – there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.
Richard Foster – “Celebration of Discipline” (p.60)
Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way. It is a means of God’s grace and blessing . . .
Dallas Willard – “The Spirit of the Disciplines” (p.167)
Fasting teaches temperance or self-control and therefore teaches moderation and restraint with regard to all our fundamental drives. Since food has the pervasive place it does in our lives, the effects of fasting will be diffused throughout our personality.
***Join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We are starting a 5-week series where I’ll be teaching the core values of our church. So this Sunday would be the perfect time to attend…and to bring a friend as well. This Sunday will be all about “Experiencing God” and the fact that we are called not to be servants but slaves of Christ. Plus, Chris Cheshire will be leading worship. Sunday. October 30. 10:30am. Shelby Jr. High. More info at tevchurch.org***