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You're Not Doing It Alone

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

I am pretty sure I have shared before: I am not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. The whole "new year, new me" declaration is, well, an illusion. As a person who spends a lot of time working with data, I can attest that the data reveals, most people "ditch" the resolutions by the end of two weeks and the majority by the end of the month. The few who stick with them can barely remember them come June. The ironic part is, more often than not, more work is put in coming up with the resolutions and the reasons behind them than following through with the actual resolutions.

An important aspect of Lent is fasting. So many Christians, regardless of their denomination, do not understand Biblical fasting. One of the first things that needs to be understood is it is nothing, not even remotely close, to a "new year's resolution." A new year's resolution is, for all intents and purposes the decision and self-promise to make a change or commitment to initiate a certain behavior. While fasting is, by its truest definition a resolution (a firm decision to do something,) it is very specific, has a time period entering it, has parameters, has a purpose, is not self-centered, has accountability and when done correctly, not performed alone. It happens in the physical realm to move the spiritual realm. In the simplest of terms, a new year's resolution moves your hand; a Biblical fast moves the Hand of God.

In our previous blog, we reviewed Matthew 4:1-11 and saw how Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Other examples of fasting in the Bible include:

  • Moses fasted 40 days on behalf of Israel’s sin: Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29; 10:10.

  • David fasted and mourned the death of Saul: 2 Samuel 1:12.

  • David fasted and mourned the death of Abner: 2 Samuel 3:35.

  • David fasted and mourned the death of his child: 2 Samuel 12:16.

  • Elijah fasted 40 days after fleeing from Jezebel: 1 Kings 19:7-18.

  • Ahab fasted and humbled himself before God: 1 Kings 21:27-29.

  • Darius fasted in concern for Daniel: Daniel 6:18-24.

  • Daniel fasted on behalf of Judah's sin while reading Jeremiah’s prophecy: Daniel 9:1-19.

  • Daniel fasted regarding a mysterious vision from God: Daniel 10:3-13.

  • Esther fasted on behalf of her people: Esther 4:13-16.

  • Ezra fasted and wept for the sins of the returning remnant: Ezra 10:6-17.

  • Nehemiah fasted and mourned over the broken walls of Jerusalem: Nehemiah 1:4-2:10.

  • The people of Ninevah fasted after hearing the message of Jonah: Jonah 3.

  • Anna fasted for the redemption of Jerusalem through the coming Messiah: Luke 2:37.

  • The disciples of John the Baptist fasted: Matthew 9:14-15.

  • The elders in Antioch fasted before sending off Paul and Barnabas: Acts 13:1-5.

  • Cornelius fasted and sought God’s plan of salvation: Acts 10:30.

  • Paul fasted three days after his Damascus Road encounter: Acts 9:9.

  • Paul fasted 14 days while at sea on a sinking ship: Acts 27:33-34.

  • The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33).

Please know: Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, over fifty times!

Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food (most scripture references fasting from food but not all.) Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Fasting should not be considered a way to diet. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example. It is important if you choose to go without food, you do so with deep conviction of the Holy Spirit and doctor especially if you have medical conditions and if it is your first fast. Giving up certain foods is different from a complete or partial fast.) Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God. We must never loose sight that the purpose of our fast is ultimately to gain deeper fellowship with God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. It changes us, not God. It is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. It must be done with a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, 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 men 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.” (Remember new year's resolutions? It is all about you. You tell everyone what you are doing. A Biblical fast is between you and God.)

Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. One thing I have learned from my fasts is my reliance on God. I think this is an important aspect. I can easily say, "I will fast from bread." For some, this would be difficult. I like bread. Here is thing: I have celiac disease. I cannot have bread, well, unless it is gluten free. This "fast" is no problem for me. I can do it with no thought, sacrifice or inconvenience. Technically, I am fasting. Yes? I can "check off" all the boxes and go through the motions but am I truly getting my heart right? No. Not even close. Now, I love Coca-Cola. Coke, for me, is water. I go from coffee to coke. I can easily guzzle 5 per day and not blink or think twice about it. Most days, I do. Sometimes, more. Knowing caffeine withdrawal is dangerous especially for those of us who have migraines, I chose to fast from coke by only allowing myself one coke per day and 1 day a week I cannot have any. That is a huge sacrifice for me and very difficult. I took it further - if I spill it, misplace it (I am old and it happens) or someone takes a drink or asks for some I have to share no complaining and it is STILL MY ONE. What is worse, I had just bought 2 cases so it sits there tempting me. Coke is everywhere, too, luring me. To stay true, I NEED the strength of the Holy Spirit. I have a couple more things but that is between me and God. You see the difference, yes?

Let's take a quick moment and review "food" fasts.

  • Specific - fast from a specific food or a food group (i.e. sweets, meat)

  • Time - fast for a specific period (i.e. no food between 8pm to 8am, no food 8am - 6pm)

  • Day - fast on certain days (i.e. no food on certain day(s) like no food on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

  • Partial - fast from food but allow drinks like water, juice, smoothies

  • Total - fast from everything meaning no food or drink

Let's take a quick look at a few things you can fast from that are not food:

  • Television

  • social media/internet

  • secular music

  • addictions

  • gossip/negative speak

  • talking - this is extreme so tread lightly

  • spending money (going out, shopping)

  • phone

  • physical comfort (comfy clothes, naps)

  • make up

  • video games

You see, in a Biblical fast, you're not doing it alone. When you are truly, at your core tuned in to God, led by the Holy Spirit - with the right motives - full of prayer - He is there. He is your strength. In your weakness, when the enemy circles, you are strengthened and the power you have to tell satan to flee is backed by the mighty hand of God! You will not fail as long as you keep your eyes and your heart focused on Him. The tricks of the enemy will not and cannot succeed, even in the moments of weakness, because your focus, your mind, your heart is firmly planted, focused and rooted in our Lord. You are renewed, revived and enlightened! You need only be still and He will fight for you.

I think one of the most miraculous things about a Biblical fast - in addition to growing closer to God, discerning His voice and His Will - is getting to see and experiencing His Grace, His power and His promises. It will drive you to your knees if you aren't already there. We are all familiar with Matthew 17:20 which reads: "He replied, “Because your faith is much too small. What I’m about to tell you is true. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, it is enough. You can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” I ask, do you know what comes next? Matthew 17:21 reads, "“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Remember when I said earlier fasting moves the hand of God? When coupled with prayer and genuine faith, this is how you know it to be true.

There is no requirement to participate in Lent. No, there is no command to fast. By the same token, I realize and accept Jesus did not have to die for me. He was under no obligation to suffer and take my place. He freely chose to. Everything He did, He did for me. Know what? He did it for you too. He does not expect you do anything in return. He offers you the gift of eternal life and the promise of salvation. It comes down to a choice - do you chose to accept it? I do. Along with that choice, we can choose to cultivate a relationship that will make our earthly journey bearable. I choose to do what I can to cultivate my relationship. Do you?

It is never too late. If you haven't started your Lenten journey, you can start now. But more important than that, if you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, there is no better time than right now to meet Him. He meets you where you are. If you aren't sure or maybe you've strayed a little, it is OK. He just wants you to come home. He is waiting. Just ask. If you are tired, overwhelmed, stressed, hurt, struggling, wounded, unsure, bent, imperfect, feel unloved, underappreciated, frustrated, lost - you are not alone. He is there. He loves you. He can mend what you are struggling with. Just take His hand. Jump from the physical realm to the spiritual realm. Let your resolutions become His promises instead.

Join us next week as we continue our walk through Lent and the Lenten season! Be sure to share.

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