Yes, I am fasting.
No, I am not a performance-oriented legalist.
And the fact that I have mentioned out loud that I am fasting has already offended a few because of misunderstandings around this passage:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus is not saying to hide that you are fasting. He says, don’t be “obvious”; essentially don’t show off for self-righteous reasons.
But what about the cliché “I believe in feasting not fasting!” Typically this is said with the following passage being badly paraphrased:
“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matthew 9:14-15
So while Jesus was on the earth for 3.5 years, His disciples didn’t fast, but did they fast after Jesus ascended into heaven?
“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.” Acts 13:2
“So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." Acts 13:3
“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:23
Yes, the early church did fast, and no it wasn’t performance-oriented legalism.
Also the Apostle Paul says of himself.
([I have been] …in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.” 2 Cor. 11:27 (WEB)
Paul is referring to self-imposed fasting, by choice. In the previous words he says hunger and thirst, but here the wording is “fastings often.” The fact of the matter is that the Apostle Paul spoke in tongues a lot and fasted a lot. He also raised the dead, survived poisonous snakebites, and his clothing cast out demons!
Throughout his letters He tells us that he “speaks in tongues more than you all” and he was in “fastings often.” And he ALSO tells his readers to follow his example. (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1, Phil 3:17, 2 Thess. 3:2, 7, 9, Heb. 6:12, 1 Peter 5:3)
It has become trendy to reject fasting, and trust me, that is much more comfortable! But just because a young person makes a YouTube video that says fasting isn’t for today, that doesn’t mean they are right. We have to go back to the Word. And then because of the confusion about how fasting is supposed to be hidden, those who fast never end up setting an example, but remain hidden. Paul seemed to think it was okay to tell the Corinthians that he fasts often. This helps us follow his example.
The follow up question that I keep getting is “why fast?”
I personally hold to the following three reasons:
Fasting has always been about humbling yourself. Humbling yourself is a directive in the New Covenant and as you lower yourself, you place yourself downstream to receiving more grace, favor or promotion in your life. Humility makes promotion safe. (James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6)
- Fasting also connects us to awareness of His presence. Daily He feeds us, and by fasting He feeds us in a different and even more direct way. (John 4:34)
- Fasting removes unbelief and increases faith in our life. It is by faith that we encounter and receive the things of the unseen realm. (Mark 9:29, Mt. 17:21)
(PS. This was written recently, but I have since completed my fast at 24 days. It was wonderful. Be blessed!)