WHY DO CHRISTIANS FAST? - Concluding Part
Fasting in Need
Let me give one more passage that gets at the meaning of what fasting is for Christians. In Acts 13:1–3 there is this beautiful illustration of how fasting became instrumental in the laying hold of God for the shaping of world-changing ministry. Here is what it says.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So the leaders of the church were fasting, it seems, in order to express to God their own need and longing and desire with their bodies for God’s guidance in missionary breakthroughs. And God responded with an answer that totally transformed the world, because the mission Barnabas and Saul (or Paul) was one of the most important missionary endeavors in the history of the world, because the advancement of the gospel broke into the western Roman Empire and nothing in the world has ever been the same since that breakthrough.
Fasting As Worship
So let me summarize the heart of Christian fasting and why we Christians do it. One way to say it is that fasting is the hungry Christian handmaid of faith. Fasting is not a replacement for faith in Jesus. It is a servant of faith in Jesus. Fasting is a way of saying with our stomach and our whole body how much we need and want and trust Jesus. It is a way of saying that we are not going to be enslaved by food as the source of our satisfaction. We will use the renunciation of food from time to time to express that Jesus is better than food. Jesus is more needful than food.
“Fasting is a way of saying with our body how much we need and want and trust Jesus.”
Food is good. Let there be no mistake about this. We are not ascetics in that we deny the goodness of God’s creation. Food is good. It is a gift of God and we glorify God with it in two ways, not just one way. We feast on it with gratitude for God’s goodness and we forfeit food out of hunger for God himself. When we feast we gladly taste the emblem of our heavenly food, the bread of life, Jesus himself.
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.
Prepared & Compiled by:
ELD. BRO. ADEOLA ADEOYE (DR. GP).
National Convener/President, Alabaster Youth International Ministry – Interdenominational,
Chapel Leader, Progressive International (C&S), Ogo-Oluwa Parish, Chapel of Glorious Star, Ogun State.