Let’s talk about an unpopular topic. Fasting.
Unfortunately fasting has come to mean either sorrow or self-righteousness for most Christians. It’s either a burdensome drudgery that I have to endure to manipulate God into doing as I ask, or it’s a self-centered discipline designed to demonstrate how devout my faith is.
Fasting is not about making a show of disciplining myself, nor is it making sure God listens to what I am praying.
Jesus nails both of these approaches in Matthew 6 “When you fast (it’s not something to avoid) don’t be as the hypocrites (it’s not something for self-exaltation).”
The heart that motivates fasting is supposed to be a heart for God. That’s what fasting means: a heart-hunger for God.
“We tend to think of fasting as going without food. But we can fast from anything. If we love music and decide to miss a concert in order to spend time with God, that is fasting. It is helpful to think of the parallel of human friendship. When friends need to be together, they will cancel all other activities in order to make that possible. There’s nothing magical about fasting. It’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with him, sorting out whatever is necessary, and you have canceled the meal, party, concert, or whatever else you had planned to do in order to fulfill that priority.”
Your Father Loves You by James Packer
Isaiah 58 describes the kind of fast that God chooses. The people were fasting, but they were getting it wrong. They seemed to be seeking after God, but they were really in it for themselves.
The fast God chooses is a fast that brings us closer to Him and causes us to help others. God calls His people away from a self-focused religious ritual to a God-focused spiritual sacrifice that results in an others-focused ministry. The soul that has found its satisfaction in God no longer makes its own fulfillment its highest goal. It seeks to provide that same satisfaction to other searching souls. Let us pray with ACTION! Let us be Jesus to those in need.
The fast that God has chosen (intends) is one that will result in the joy of feasting because it will produce a spiritual satisfaction of our heart for him just as food satisfies our physical body.
“It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living waters flow. Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting.”
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
The fast God chooses isn’t primarily about what we do without, but who we want more of.
And the satisfaction He will bring our soul is far greater than any satisfaction food has brought our body.