Followers of Jesus have chosen a new way of life – living not according to instinct, but shaped and directed by God’s Holy Spirit. Part of this “following” involves re-learning how to deal with our different appetites, so we have a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit.
Once we begin to be able to reject immediate gratification of our instinctive appetites, we become more free to concentrate on matters of our Father’s Kingdom – often with a sharper sense of focus. The Bible links the practice of fasting with justice, with discernment, and with answered prayer. Jesus commended it – so it deserves attention!
We’ll probably need some wisdom and support to explore this Healthy Habit for the first time – considering the sort of “fasting” to do (food? social media? consumerism? television?), the pattern of our lifestyle, duration, and maybe health issues. Like many Healthy Habits, we might start with the simple and achievable, and then extend.
“There's nothing in (this old do-it-yourself life) for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons.”
Romans 8:12-14, The Message
This can feel a form of discipline that is rather foreign to us. Fasting is not a way to “twist God’s arm”. Answers to prayer are rooted in his grace and not in our performance. Nonetheless, Jesus clearly endorsed the habit of fasting and linked it to clear spiritual benefits.
- As Jesus encouraged it, fasting is personal and private, discretely undertaken not publicly broadcast.
Fasting may have some side benefits to health and wellbeing, but it’s important to know from the Bible what it is for and not for. Check out the Resources for this.
For most people, fasting means abstaining from food but it can be other things, like TV, social media. Start with something manageable, e.g. going without solid food for a day or two.
If you start fasting with (or to be precise, without!) food, take your doctor’s advice if you are pregnant, or have medical conditions like diabetes that might be affected.
- When your fasting saves you time or money – consider how to use these savings wisely!
Whether it's your first time fasting, or you've been fasting regularly for years, there are some helpful resources out there which we would recommend:
For both beginners through to those more established in fasting; here's an excellent, accessible, practical website by Bill Bright, with answers to questions such as, "Why fast?" and "How do I fast?".
Fast Forward: The Untapped Catalyst to Spitiual Growth. A short free booklet by Lisa Bevere, on the topic of fasting (especially for women). It's partly biographical, partly inspirational/educational. See it here.
- As ever, Bridgetown Church resources are also fantastic - they are free but a little harder to access as it's part of a programme (you can create an account/sign up). However, you can find their main PDF resource on the practice of fasting here.