One of the recurring questions I get about our week of fasting is, “why?” I don’t sense the motivation of this question is cynical, condescending, or anything other than a heart that wants to know why our church is calling them to an activity that most of their previous churches never did. While I believe yesterday’s post addressed much of the answer, I thought of an additional consideration and wanted to use today’s post to discuss.
Okay, so I really didn’t need to use his name as the paragraph heading, but anytime I get to ascribe honor to the man who has impacted my Christian life the most, I want to do so. I remember hearing MacArthur say that he denies himself an ice cream sundae from time to time. Not that there is anything inherently sinful with an ice cream sundae (and all God’s people said, ‘Amen!’), but it is really the value of the exercise. You see, in denying our body that ice cream sundae – especially when we could really have it, we are sending a valuable message to our body, “YOU are not in control!”
If you really stop to think about it, for most of our life our body could easily conclude it was in control. When you are driving and are cold, what do you do? Turn up the heat. When something doesn’t strike your fancy while watching TV, what do you do? Turn the channel. When your stomach growls, what do you do? Grab something from the refrigerator. We constantly fulfill the desires of our body throughout the day often without even thinking about it.
This is another answer to the why of fasting! Sometimes we need a built-in opportunity to remind our body it is not in control, and fasting is a PERFECT vehicle to accomplish this.
Before I move on, let me say that there is no intrinsic value of one activity being fasted over another.
With that said, most of the examples in Scripture of fasting involve a physical activity, one that is often necessary and enjoyable. Such activity being forcibly extracted from our daily routine reminds our body that it not in control. This is a good thing!
Even more important than the “Fast Tie-In” is the Gospel Tie-In. At the heart of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the concept of self-denial. Take Mark 8:34, for example: “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”
This is the attitude we must have in order to come to Christ for salvation, and it is the attitude of ongoing discipleship. Often, this attitude can crawl off the daily table. We don’t want it to. We don’t plan on it. But, the busyness of life crowds it out, and before you know it, “denying self” fades into the background.
Here is a great benefit of fasting: a built-in exercise of denying self for the purpose of pursuing Christ. Whether this time of fasting is only once a year for you or one of many, I pray that you will acknowledge the value of us putting this before you as a church family and welcome the opportunity it affords.
1. As you fast, is your body getting the message?
2. How can this week of fasting impact you and your self-denial in the weeks and months after?
3. What plan can you make to have built-in opportunities throughout the rest of the year to remind your body it is not in control?
If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)