Mar 1: WHY WE FAST – “THIS MUCH, O GOD, WE WANT YOU!”

Lent season has begun. Some of you are leveraging this season of Lent to intentionally focus on God in prayer by renouncing some pleasures of life (like food, drink, or entertainment). You are emptying your stomach or your mind in order to fill them with God’s Word and his presence. Some Life Groups are fasting together and encouraging one another to seek the Lord with more intentionality during this season. Others of you have been living out a life of discipleship that is already marked by self-renunciation and hunger for Jesus, so you are not making this season to be anything special. Whether or not you are making this season of Lent to be a special season in your faith journey, there are good reasons why you may want to consider fasting.

Before I share reasons for fasting, first the definition: Fasting is abstaining from food for some special period of time (whether 1 day, 3 days, 10 days or 40 days) for some specific spiritual purpose. It is a temporary renunciation of something that is in itself good, like food, in order to intensify our expression of need for something greater—namely, God and his work in our lives. It is an exceptional measure, designed to channel and express our desire for God, and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those who want more of God’s grace and for those who feel truly desperate for God. We see that people of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (including Jesus) fasted—personally and communally, publicly and privately, regularly and occasionally. People of God fasted with good spiritual reasons. 

Here are three biblical reasons for fasting:

  1. Expressing repentance and returning to God: In the Old Testament people of God fasted corporately one day a year—on the day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31). On that day God’s people “denied themselves” and repented of their sins corporately. There are other occasions when God’s people fasted and prayed corporately as an expression of repentance (1 Sam 7:6; Jonah 3:5-8).
  2. Expressing desperation for God’s help in crises: In 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 we read about king Jehoshaphat privately setting his face to seek the Lord and publicly proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah. In response, the people of Judah, young and old, all assembled to seek help from the LORD by fasting and praying. Throughout history, when the going got tough for God’s people, the faithful didn’t just get going; they also got fasting. In light of the global epidemic of coronavirus we may want to seek God’s help and mercy by fasting and praying.
  3. Seeking God’s special favour: In Ezra 8:21-23 we read about Ezra proclaiming a fast, so that the people might humble themselves before God and “ask him for a safe journey” for them and their children. They fasted and petitioned God for his favor and he answered their prayer. In light of the upcoming Winter Retreat, we are inviting all of you who are going to the retreat to fast-&-pray together. Unless you have a medical issue, I ask you to participate in fast-&-pray relay in preparation for the retreat, asking for God’s special favour over the retreat.

Fasting expresses our heart of repentance and utter dependence on God. Fasting expresses our trust and hope in God who will shine his face upon us with his favour and mercy. When we fast, we are basically saying, “more than our stomachs want food, our souls want you!” We are saying to God, “This much, O God, we want you!” I invite you to fast in order to feast in God. 

This week’s bible reading schedule:

Sun: Exodus 12:21-51, Luke 15 Thu: Exodus 16, Luke 19
Mon: Exodus 13, Luke 16 Fri: Exodus 17, Luke 20
Tue: Exodus 14, Luke 17 Sat: Exodus 18, Luke 21
Wed: Exodus 15, Luke 18 Sun: Exodus 19, Luke 22