My wife and I were talking through the first week of the fast. I was sharing with her how busy the week had been, how much I had been enjoying my reading plan, and what I was learning. But something wasn’t sitting just right with me. I felt like there was more to experience and learn, but it just wasn’t happening.
Then she asked this question:
“Are you fasting or starving yourself?”
Woof. Ouch. Dang. *cringes deeply*
That’s certainly not what I wanted to hear. Talk about a gut-check. That one hurt.
For the next few days, I was constantly thinking about this – the ways I was spending my time off and what I was really doing with these moments away from food. Is this fast leading me to new and deeper levels with Jesus? How am I growing, learning, praying, depending, and experiencing more of Him? What am I missing?
So, I looked to Jesus’ example of when He fasted to learn more. Matthew 4 tells the story of when Jesus was tempted by our enemy after fasting for 40 days and nights.
Here are three thoughts from what I read that challenged me. Maybe they’ll do the same for you:
1. The Holy Spirit should determine the fast.
Jesus was led by God’s spirit to the place, length, and details of His fast. Yes, Jesus is God, but it was the Spirit of God that lead Him to the wilderness, not God Himself. If the Spirit led Him there, it’s also safe to assume it was the Spirit who led him to fast for forty days with only water.
In the same light, our fasts should also only be led by the Holy Spirit; that is, the type of fast you’re doing, what you’re seeking and praying for, and the intimate details of what God wants to do through this time.
We shouldn’t fast for selfish motivations. It’s not a ritual to be followed that becomes a ceremony. It’s definitely not a diet plan. Neither should we choose a certain fast to impress others or try to earn status from God.
Every detail of a fast should be from God’s Spirit not our own ambition. Period.
2. A fast leads to physical hunger but should bring spiritual and mental fullness.
Not eating food will eventually catch up with you. Bodies will decay and die after a long enough time of no food. But as we know, the body weakens on little to no food.
Yet, this time of fasting and abstaining from food – essentially starving our bodies – is not a time for spiritual or mental starvation as well.
Jesus shows us this is possible – both His spirit and mind are sharpened through His fast. As he’s tempted by the devil, His spirit is strong enough to say no. He’s able to withstand the schemes of the enemy and stay standing in truth. His spirit was relying on God, not the things of this world.
Then, three times in a row Jesus is able to recall specific scripture when refuting the devil. These were not random “feel-good” Bible verses, but words and verses of truth that counteracted the exact lie that was being presented to Him.
Jesus was at His weakest physically but His strongest spiritually and mentally.
When we fast, we will also be “very hungry” as Jesus was. But as we pursue God and His word and listen to His voice, our spirits and minds will be strengthened, renewed, and ready for whatever comes our way.
Starve your body, not your soul.
3. A fast is the set up for what’s next.
Did you realize that the verses immediately following this temptation of Jesus are the beginning of His ministry? This wasn’t the midway point or near the end of His ministry on earth. It was before it even started!
I believe that God wants to do the same for us. He wants to use our toughest times in life to strengthen and lead us to greater places than we’ve ever been before. His strength is greatest shown when we’re at our weakest.
Time of going through life’s fires are not coincidence or for loss. They are on purpose, for a reason, and can be used as momentum to change lives.
We’ll be done with this fast very soon, but let’s not allow what God sparks in our hearts and minds to end here. Let’s continue to live out what He is teaching us for years to come, allowing it to continually change our lives and others.
My prayer for you reading this is to be challenged and encouraged by the example of Jesus’ fast. If you feel you’ve missed the mark for any amount of time, don’t worry. Jump in now, fully following His lead and example.