What’s the one thing you can do that is guaranteed to focus your faith and help you discover God’s will for your life? Here’s a hint: it may be the spiritual discipline most often ignored in Western Christianity. Figured it out yet? It’s fasting. And it can help you more than you can imagine.
Thanksgiving is hardly gone, and here I am talking about going without. Maybe some of us need to take a few days off from eating at this point to preserve our waistlines. But the kind of fasting I’m talking about is not for dietary reasons; it’s for the many other benefits it can bring to help you discover God’s best for your life.
Fasting may be the most underutilized spiritual discipline the Christian has in his or her backpack for the journey to live an authentic life with abundant faith.
The Benefits of Fasting for the Christian
The spiritual practice of fasting is not a popular one in our desire-driven culture that markets instant gratification as the key to happiness—but it is an effective means for strengthening faith.
Fasting is simply going without something good (usually food) for a season in order to focus more fully on something else, usually God. As John Piper warns, “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie.”
Here are a few benefits for FaithWalkers who engage in this timeless discipline:
- Fasting sharpens your ability to see the unseen. Jesus said, As long as I am with you, you don’t need to fast. But when I am gone, that’s another story (see Matthew 9:15). Fasting enables you to see more clearly what is not physically before you.
- Fasting focuses your faith. Like a malfunctioning digital camera that keeps zooming crazily in and out, our faith often loses focus. Eventually, our faith will become self-focusing, but fasting helps return it to its factory settings.
- Fasting conditions us to trust. Many Christians’ faith muscles have atrophied because we don’t seem to need them very much. When you make fasting part of your regular faith-building regimen, you condition yourself to be godly, just as Paul advises in 1 Timothy 4:7.
- Fasting trains us to live by faith. Fasting forces our faith to be strengthened before it is tried. When we make a habit of depending on God in the little things, we find it easier to trust him with our life story.
- Fasting accelerates our growth. When united with prayer, fasting acts as a catalyst for faith transformation. It strips us of our reliance on ourselves faster than would otherwise be possible.
Most importantly, fasting frees us from distractions and causes us to realize how utterly dependent we are on God for all things.
When we fast for a season — for a day, for a few days, for a few weeks — we position ourselves to hear God speak.
And though fasting is usually associated with foregoing food – or even just a certain food (I’m looking at you, chocolate) – there are other ways to fast that could be just as effective.
What would happen if you fasted from social media? What could you do with the time you spend mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest? I’m betting that you’d quickly find that you turn to social media out of habit more than out of a real interest in what you find there.
How about taking those moments of down time and make a habit of checking in with God instead?
(Note to make all the legal folk happy: Always consult a physician before undertaking a nutritional fast.)
Question: How have you engaged in fasting as a spiritual discipline when faced with significant life decisions? What tips can you offer fellow FaithWalkers? Share your thoughts by clicking here.