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Text-Driven Discipleship: Fasting

No one has ever looked at me and thought, "That guy is probably really good at fasting." I'm a stocky guy who powerlifts, and I eat a ton. Of all the spiritual disciplines, fasting is the one I've avoided learning about because if I learned how and why to fast, I knew the Lord would convict me to do it. Well, after telling a joke about fasting for a wife to a friend and being challenged that Scripture doesn't allow that, I studied fasting. What I found was fascinating. In this week's episode of the Text-Driven Podcast, we broadly discussed fasting, and in this article, we'll focus on the why of fasting. We fast because it creates in us three things: desperation, discipline, and deprivation.


When we read the stories of Scripture about God-honoring fasting, we find people desperate for God and to be with God. Moses, in Exodus 34, fasted for 40 days and forty nights. He had the most extreme fast of neither eating nor drinking. Moses simply wanted to be in the presence of God and could not be bothered by the trivial aspects of life, like eating or drinking. Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 1, depressed and despondent by the state of Jerusalem, begins to fast before the Lord. Nehemiah, weeping and mourning, fasted because he desperately needed to be in the presence of God. Desperation is the distinguishing mark of fasting.

Fasting and prayer are intrinsically linked. We can pray without fasting, but we cannot fast without praying. Therefore, the concepts of prayer can be applied to fasting. In prayer, we are in the throne room of God. We get to approach Him boldly. Fasting intensifies at that moment. When we fast, we go into the throne room of God, and, like Moses, we don't want to leave. We wish to tarry there a little while. Fasting removes some of the everyday necessities of life that remove us from the throne room. Instead of eating breakfast, we can tarry a little longer in prayer. Instead of spending time cooking, we can seek the face of God. Everything else gets pushed aside so that we can be with God. We fast because we desperately want to be with God.

Our first purpose in fasting must be because we are desperate for God, but we also fast to become desperate for God. Fasting creates in us a desperation where our hearts crave God, not merely the things He provides. Fasting changes our physical hunger into spiritual hunger, and we can only be satiated by God.

Yet, it is not simply that we become desperate for God; we fast to become desperate altogether. Fasting changes our vision of ourselves and this world, and we understand that the things of this world have nothing for us. Fasting teaches us that our ultimate need is God. We don't need food. We don't even need what we're fasting for. We need God alone. We fast so we can be desperate.


We also fast to discipline our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul writes, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection." The Greek word for discipline means "to strike under the eye" or "to torment." Paul is speaking broadly about how he brings his body under subjection, but it can be applied specifically to fasting. As someone who likes to eat, I think calling fasting the tormenting of the body is a good description. When we fast, our inner man tells our body, the outer man, that it is not in charge. Fasting disciplines the body to know that its proper or illicit desires do not control us. Rather, the Lord controls us. We fast as the outcome of Christ's command in Matthew 16:24, where He says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself..." While our body desires the things of this world, both the good things that God provides and the wicked things that our old man craves, fasting forces our body to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. We fast so that when we tell our bodies to do something in obedience to Christ, the body won't resist. Logically speaking, if our body understands that it is not Lord with its good and right desires, it will even more so understand that it is not Lord with illicit and sinful desires. We fast to discipline our bodies to know that Christ alone is Lord.


We also fast to deprive ourselves of the things of this world. Deprivation is not usually a goal one sets for oneself, but in the economy of God, deprivation of the things of this world is good for the saints. In Ezra 8, Exilic Israel, under the leadership of Ezra, is planning their trek back to Jerusalem. Ezra, desiring for God to show His great power, denied a military escort that King Artaxerxes would provide. Traveling this great distance from Babylon to Jerusalem without a military escort almost guaranteed the deaths of everyone in the traveling party. Ezra emphatically proclaimed that the people of God did not need the world's help. That proclamation did not change the danger, though. Exilic Israel, knowing that they were still in great need, began to fast. Israel deprived themselves of the necessity of a military escort with the belief that God would provide. Israel, then, proved their belief by depriving themselves of the necessity of food. Israel firmly believed that God could and would provide for them. By fasting, they positioned themselves in a place that declared their only hope was if God provided, and they then entreated God to provide.

When we fast, we're depriving ourselves of the necessity of food to say to God that our only hope is if He does something. We're not looking for the things of the world to help us; we're looking solely to Him and are entreating Him in such a way to say, "God, if you don't do it, it won't happen." When we understand our desperation, and we discipline our bodies to submit to the things of God, we then can entreat God with such bold audacity that we can let go of every worldly strategy to accomplish what we desire and instead fast in the presence of God, making it know that He alone can and must provide.


This article began by telling you that this study started with wanting to know what is permissible to fast for. The answer is anything. Philippians 4:6 says that we are to bring anything that causes us to worry to God in prayer and supplication. 1 Peter 5:7 says we are to cast all our cares upon God, for He cares for us. Peter writes verse 7 after commanding the believers to humble themselves, meaning that to not cast your cares upon God is prideful. If fasting is an extension of prayer, and we're to pray about everything, we can fast about anything. If we ensure that our fasting begins with desperation, continues by disciplining our bodies to submit to God, and is founded in truly trusting that God will provide as He desires, we can fast about anything. If you desire to find a spouse, you can fast for that. If you desire a job, you can fast for that. If you desire a child, you can fast for that. If you desire to raise money for the work of God, you can fast for that. There is no limit to what you can fast for as long as your fast leads to desperation, discipline, and deprivation. Otherwise, you're just hungry.


Practical Advice

In addition, here is a short list of practical advice on fasting as well.

1. Start with fasting a meal (your favorite one), then fast a day, then if you desire, three days, then seven days, and so forth.

2. Don't attempt to change your life too drastically. Do the same activities you normally do. If you weightlift, like I do, continue to go to the gym while you fast with similar intensity, but don't try to max out.

3. Prepare for a fast by eating cleaner (less carbs, no fried foods or fast foods) 2-3 days prior.

4. 20% of your hydration comes from food, and most people typically only drink water at meals, so purposefully drink water throughout the day and drink more than you normally do.

5. You will feel tired. It's okay to go to bed a little early but try to stay consistent with when you normally sleep.

6. If your fast is causing you to be sinful (like being "hangry") instead of holy, break the fast.

7. Modified fasts can be helpful when you start but remember that you want to experience hunger during the fast. Modified fasts could also be harder than strict fasts because you'd activate your metabolism.

8. Fasting isn't a diet.

9. Pray with purpose whenever you feel hungry and entreat God with your desires.

10. Expect God to provide.

Written by Klayton Carson

The "Text-Driven Discipleship" series is also on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at New episodes are released every Monday, just in time for your morning commute.


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