Fasting (v): to abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.
Has anyone ever thought about the purpose of fasting? Maybe you viewed it as a requirement because of obligated to join in with your friends because they're fasting and you're not? Or maybe because you're living in guilt and remorse, so in order to feel good about yourself, you say, “Yeah, I fasted for Easter this year. What about you?”
To be honest, fasting has never been a significant part of my faith. It was something that was good to do but not necessary. Something that I’ve heard that we SHOULD do as christians, but never really gave too much thoughts about. However, I came across this podcast by pastor Piper recently. It gave me a new approach on why fasting holds such a noteworthy value to us and how we should go about it the right way.
WHAT IS FASTING?
"Fasting is a temporary renunciation of something that is in itself good, like food, in order to intensify our expression of need for something greater; namely, God and his work in our lives." - Piper
Fasting isn’t just physical torment/punishment that you put onto yourself to satisfy God. It’s a disposed sacrifice where you lift something that has a huge importance to you and say, “God, you fulfill my needs even more than this!” It’s an interaction strictly between you and God and no one else.
WHY SHOULD WE FAST?
Piper states that fasting is not explicitly commanded to us in the Bible. However, fasting should still hold great value for us as Christians because Jesus expects us to fast. For instance, chores that I do for my parents don’t define my relationship with them, yet it shows my loyalty and affection towards them. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus says,
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus says “when” you fast, not, “if” you fast. Fasting puts the essential stuff (food) that we need to sustain us through our life and replaces it with God, metaphorically. For this reason, Jesus makes it clear that fasting must be done in secrecy to keep others from knowing that we are fasting.
HOW SHOULD WE FAST?
Jesus insists that fasting will not be for the sake of impressing others. We should go out of our way to make sure that our brothers and sisters have no idea if and when we are fasting. This gives the fast a radically Godward focus.
Another perspective of fasting is that we do it for the second coming of Jesus.
"Christian fasting is a way of expressing our longing for the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ our King, to return. That is the connection between the fasting and the second coming of Christ. One of the meanings of Christian fasting is that we are expressing our hunger for the Lord Jesus to come back and to take up his kingship in this world. What sets Christian fasting apart as unique — new wine that can’t fit into the old wineskins — is that Christ has already come. The Bridegroom, the King, has already been here. We have seen him and known him. We love him, because we have tasted of his presence. We have already tasted the presence of the kingship of Jesus.” - Piper
Amidst the hunger and the temptation we go through while we are fasting, our yearning for the day when Christ comes again should be our main motivating factor. In this way, we can rest assured that neither hunger nor man's approval are the main foundations of our fast. At the same time, we must remember that He has already forgiven us, He already came and died for us, and He is risen and alive in heaven. Fasting holds a much deeper impression on us than solely just longing for him when we understand who He's been and who He will be.
“And when we fast we say: I love the reality more than I love the emblem. Both feasting and fasting are worship for the Christian. Both magnify Christ. And, of course, both have their peculiar dangers. The danger of feasting is that we fall in love with the gift. And the danger of fasting is that we belittle the gift and boast in our willpower, our discipline.
But at its best, Christian fasting is not a belittling of the good gift of food. It is simply a heartfelt, body felt exclamation point at the end of the sentence: I love you, God. I need you more than I need food, more than I need life.” -Piper
I feel like it's nice to reevaluate the reasons why we’re fasting, especially in this season of Lent. From a personal experience a few years back, I tried to fast with some of my friends. We did a juice fast for three days and prayed for a friend of ours, but it felt more like an obligation rather than sacrifice. But looking back at it now, my mentality was too shallow. My motivation for that fast came from a place of hurt and loss. But thankfully, God revealed to me a much deeper meaning of fasting. I am reminded that the beauty of fasting is that it comes from a place of love, longing, and thankfulness to what Christ has sacrificed for us. At this point in my faith, I long to show God how much I want more of Him and it brings me joy when God is delighted by the little things we do like giving up food for x amount of days to understand how much He is able to satisfy.