This is the first full week of the New Year and as is the custom in recent years many are beginning the New Year in a 21 day fast.
Many years ago Chuck & I practiced this form of worship and have done several fasts to see God to move in our lives. I will never forget the first time we did a water only 21 days fast, in the midst of it we took our daughters to Six Flags over Texas in the May heat. The only thing that kept us going was the adrenaline rush from the rides. I will never forget leaving the park that day about to collapse. We learned a lot of do’s and don’ts of fasting since those early days.
Years later after coming to the understanding of God’s finished work through Christ I put aside fasting because of my understanding that when Jesus came to the earth living for 33 years then sacrificially dying for us and three days later arising from the grave that he once and for All time perfected us through His blood so that we no longer needed to keep giving sacrifices year after year. His last words on the cross were, “It is finished!”
Heb.10:4 In the end, the blood of bulls and of goats is powerless to take away sins. 5 So when Jesus came into the world, He said, Sacrifices and offerings were not what You wanted, but instead a body that You prepared for Me.
So many times in our Christian culture we tend to segment our life into categories. Church, Family, Work, Play…etc. When I came to this understanding of the finished work of Christ I realized that God is not asking me to become a Christian and serve him, He is asking me to completely give him everything. My whole life and this body that God prepared for me so that He could live through me and accomplish His work in this world through my life. I can imagine to an unbeliever this sounds controlling. But when you spend time with your Creator you begin to realize that He designed us a particular way and when we surrender our lives completely to His will that all those things that He placed inside of you that gives you pleasure He wants to use to accomplish His perfect plan in the earth. Your love for cars, your love for the beach, your love for movies, your love of your family, all those were placed inside of you so that God could use your dreams and desires to bring maximum glory for himself. When I realized that Christ came not to condemn us but to give us life (john3:17), I knew that as I give him everything about my life that he could be trusted with it and I need no more worry about any sacrifices that I thought may be required from me for God, so fasting became less important to me. Years ago we fasted because we wanted God to do something for us. It was our way of trying to get God to move.
This blog is not a debate of whether this is true or not, but more a revelation of what God showed me this year and why I chose to spend 21 days in January 2018 to fast once again.
Mark 9 gives us great insight on why and how we should fast. Mark tells the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. Coming down the mountain Jesus finds his disciples and a crowd arguing, while a desperate man is wanting his child to be delivered from a mute spirit. The man tells Jesus that he brought his son to his disciples to cast it out but they could not. Jesus answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.” They brought the child to Him and when he saw Jesus immediately the spirit convulsed him and he fell on the ground, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “What do you mean, If I can? Jesus asked, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Jesus rebuked the spirit, telling it to come out and not enter the boy anymore.
After this happened his disciples asked him privately why they could not cast it out? So He said to them, “This kind can come out with nothing but prayer and fasting,”
If we read on in this chapter Jesus talks to his disciples about his death & resurrection but they did not understand what he was saying and were too afraid to ask him. While traveling on to Capernaum, the disciples were continuing their argument between themselves and Jesus asks them; “What were you arguing about on the road?” It says that they didn’t answer because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.
This gives us insight into what the argument was about when Jesus first came down the mountain. Possibly arguing about who was the best, or the most powerful, or possibly why so and so couldn’t cast the unclean spirit out. Each of the disciples jockeying for position in their self-importance is what kept them from healing the boy. It was their focus on themselves and not on the child that kept them from having power. Where was the love for their fellow man? Division and self-centeredness ruled in them at that moment. When Jesus tells them that some of these only come out by prayer and fasting, it wasn’t for us to build a religious theology of prayer and fasting.
This story has great insight into our devotion to God. Jesus continually spent time seeking the Father’s heart and spent many hours praying, praying and more praying. He had just came off the mountain having an experience while praying with God.
In the story where he goes into the wilderness for 40 days fasting and praying at the end, it says that he came out with power. So prayer & fasting isn’t for God, it is for us, to change our perspective. To realign us to what our true north should be. To put us back in tune with the God of the universe and to practice the discipline of hearing his voice. When we abstain from anything; food, diet coke, social media, tv…and use this time to focus on him it shifts our heart towards him and puts our focus on, ‘not my will, but His will be done.’
Self-sacrifice creates a tenderness within us that not much else does. When that happens we can’t help but become more like him, we act more like him, and our nature becomes more of His nature.
So if you have felt called to fast this year I pray that you will not fast to see others changed but to see yourself changed and when you are changed the world will be changed as well. You will begin to see and feel the power of God, but you will not glory in it, you will glory in Him because all good things come from the Father above.
Happy New Year!