Published on March 3rd, 2014 | by Jeff Price0
Jesus Jargon: What Is Fasting?
Redemption, salvation, repentance; the Christian religion is replete with it’s share of distinctive jargon. The majority of which is so unfamiliar to some that it seems that at times we Christians are speaking a foreign language. So, what do we Christians mean when we say we are “fasting”?
“Onward Christian soldiers
Marching into war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before…”
If you are a Christian, you are a soldier and your life is one long war comprised of many battles, Ephesians 6:12, some large, some small. But, we know that in the end our Great Commander, Jesus Christ, will lay waste to His enemies, Philippians 2:9-11, and concurrently, those within His ranks will emerge victorious with Him, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Romans 8:37. Until then, however, the battle rages on. And whether it be for your own sake or for the sake of others, you will engage the enemy many times and on many fronts each and every day as you pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness and continue to fight the good fight of the faith, 1Timothy 6:11-12.
Any service member will tell you that in a war, battle or minor conflict, battle gear and weaponry are essential to attaining victory. The Apostle Paul assures us of that also and offers sage advice regarding the proper spiritual battle attire and mindset toward the combat we Christians will find ourselves facing in this life, Ephesians 6:13-18. Fortunately, there is one very powerful weapon that we Christians have at our disposal, but often forget; fasting. Fasting is mentioned 75 times in the Bible – 31 times in the New Testament alone – and was practiced by many, such as Moses, Daniel, David, Hannah, Paul and Jesus.
So, what exactly is fasting? It is the practice of abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. Now, in battle, going without food for an extensive period of time is tremendously counter-productive during a fight and offers little chance for a successful outcome to any battle. So how, exactly, does such an action translate successfully toward spiritual warfare? Paul tells us in his first letter to Timothy that spiritual strength is much more desirable than physical strength, 1 Timothy 4:8. Fasting is a way to develop spiritual muscle. For example, Jesus fasted before confronting Satan in the desert, Matthew 4:1-2. Jesus apparently recognized the value of fasting being that it was a fundamental part of His preparation to confront Satan.
We find other reasons for fasting, besides spiritual strength, throughout the Bible. In Esther 4:16 and Ezra 8:21, fasting was observed as a petition to the Lord for protection. In 2 Samuel 12:16, King David fasted in order to intensify his prayer for his dying son. Other examples show us that the Israelites fasted for the purpose of seeking Gods will, Judges 20:26, as well as for deliverance in 2 Chronicles 20:3, repentance in Jonah 3:5, commitment to the Lord in Acts 14:23 and finally worship in Luke 2:37 and Acts 13:2-3 But, why a fast? What is it about fasting that makes it such a powerful tool?
First of all, a fast denies a person of a natural desire of the flesh. The resulting discomfort will serve as a continual reminder of the need to be in fervent prayer to the Lord. Secondly, it redirected one’s attention from the things of this world toward a deeper focus on God, resulting in better spiritual clarity through the closer communion with God. Lastly, fasting expresses to God the depth of concern one has over an issue and the profound desire for His assistance and direction in the matter. That being said, there are some things to be mindful of with regard to fasting.
Bear in mind that fasting is not a means with which to gain approval with God. Some believe that their show of personal sacrifice will prompt God to do something for them. This quid pro quo approach to God is quite common, but quite unbiblical as well. Also, keep in mind that fasting is never to be used to punish yourself for God. Once again, this is not biblical and God is not impressed with such a notion because your punishment was visited upon God’s Son on the cross. To attempt to take on more punishment for your sins is to, in effect, say that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient. Furthermore, fasting is never to be used as your own personal display of your spirituality in an attempt to impress others, Matthew 6:16-18. The reprimand that Jesus gave the “hypocrites” of His day still holds merit today. Notice, also Jesus says WHEN you fast, not IF you fast. This indicates that it is understood that fasting is still both relevant and valuable.
In today’s “If it feels good, do it” society where we Christians are to maintain a mastery over the flesh, Romans 13:14 as we battle to sustain spiritual strength over temptations, Galatians 5:16 and to abstain from sinful desires, 1 Peter 2:11, fasting is undoubtedly a powerful armament for any Christian soldier bent on fortifying his or her spiritual arsenal. As the battle rages on and darkness secures a tighter grip on this world, we Christians can not afford to discount a battle-proven weapon as formidable as fasting.