Fasting is the key to spiritual breakthrough. Yet the obvious question is, “How can abstaining from food have any effect on my spiritual life?” I believe that is a fair question because the connection may not be apparent at first.
But before we consider the question, let us create some context. The average christian knows very little about the discipline of fasting. We relegate it to spiritual giants who do it when things get really serious. We do not believe that fasting has a place with the “average” christian. And…we are ignorant of the spiritual effect this discipline can have on us. We haven’t taken the time to consider that fasting was a common practice in the life of Jesus and in the early church.
Jesus instructs his followers, “When you fast, don’t look somber like the hypocrites.” The assumption is that…we fast. again…Jesus responded to some naysayers who complained that his disciples were not fasting by saying, “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.” Jesus…the bridegroom…is no longer with us…so let the fasting begin!
So back to the original question, “How can abstaining from food have any effect my spiritual life?”
There is nothing more central to the life of a human being than food. From the time that we are born…we eat. Our body is dependent on nourishment to function and thrive, and so we continue to eat. When a person does not eat for a time…the body responds. Actually…it begins throwing a fit. The stomach complains and growls as a constant reminder that it needs food. It doesn’t matter what one is doing…the longer we keep food from this grumpy organ…the sounds go from whispers to screams. So we feed it to satiate it (and to quiet it down). A person that is aware of what just transpired knows that the body just dictated the terms of the deal.
But what if the Christian was not controlled by this body? What if there was a way to not be controlled by the urges, tendencies, and compulsions of the body? Where would one start? Where would one begin? It would start by consciously taking away the most central need of the body…food. Yes, the body again begins throwing a tantrum. It begins screaming, “I need…I need…I want…I want.” The Christian resolute in the discipline of fasting responds, “Body, you are not in control of me. You do not dictate the terms. The Spirit is in control of my life, and you do not have power over me.” Fasting puts your body in subjection to the Spirit that leads you. The Christian has taken the first step at becoming aware of how much the body’s urges, tendencies, and compulsions dictate his or her actions and behavior.
This awareness and discipline is critical. It is critical for the man who has urges to look at pornography. It is critical for the woman who can not buy enough and is never satisfied with what she has. It is critical for the person who is overweight and is controlled by the insatiable appetite for more food. It is critical for the person controlled by laziness, envy, addiction, anger, retaliation, anxiety, worry, and getting in the last word. Fasting begins changing the person and allows the light to break through the darkness. The desires of the body have been put to rest, and the desires of the Spirit break through to freedom. This is the kind of fasting that God requires…fasting that changes your life (Isaiah 58).
This same sentiment was echoed by a murderer named Paul, whose life was changed by the power of God, when he said, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
Fasting is the key to spiritual breakthrough.
Fasting until the Bridegroom comes…