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Monday, October 31, 2016

Fasting ... Is it Still Relevant to Christians in 2016?

I love food! I don't like to cook, but I do love to eat! Growing up I was a pretty picky eater, but these days you can put just about anything in front of me and I will happily gobble it up! Mmmm!

So when God started calling me to a day of fasting each week, I wasn't exactly hopping for joy. Shamefully, I had only fasted a few times in my life, despite having grown up in the church. (Here's a link to my testimony.) Fasting isn't fun. It is sacrifice. And like most of you, I'm not too anxious to sacrifice what I hold dear. Some folks fast from something during Lent, but God was calling me to something more regular. Like ... one day every week. Every week?? Wow. Could I do that? I hadn't been too great at fasting in the past, so I didn't have much confidence in myself.

But God wouldn't let it go. After a few weeks of knowing in my spirit what He wanted me to do, I gave in. That doesn't sound real spiritual, eh? Giving in. But that's kinda how I felt.

"Okay, Lord," I said, already missing my favorite meals. "You're gonna have to help me do this."

I decided what day of the week I would fast and what meals. I won't spill the details here, because fasting is not supposed to be a public display for all the world to see. It's between you and God. It is a very personal act of worship and obedience.

From the get-go, God led me to Isaiah 58, a chapter with the heading "True Fasting." I encourage you to read it, because God has some very specific things to say about what fasting is and what fasting is not. I read this chapter each week on my fasting day to remind me that what I'm doing is not about me. It's not even about food. It's about being obedient to what the Father asked me to do.

Some Christians don't believe fasting is relevant to us today. "Isn't that an Old Testament practice?" they ask. Why should Christians in 2016 fast? Well, the answer I give to that question is the same answer I give to a few other questions:

Why should Christians in 2016 pray? Because Jesus did. (Matthew 6:9-14)

Why should Christians in 2016 be baptized? Because Jesus was. (Matthew 3:13-17)

Why should Christians in 2016 read the Bible?  Because Jesus loved the scriptures. (Luke 4:17-21)

Why should Christians in 2016 go to church? Because Jesus did, regularly. (Luke 4:16)

Why should Christians in 2016 fast? Because Jesus did. (Matthew 4:1-2)

If we are going to wear his name -- Christ -- then we must be Christlike. In all things. No where in my Bible do I find an expiration date on fasting or praying or attending church. On the contrary, I find plenty of instructions to do these things continually. In Matthew 6:5 Jesus said, "When you pray ..." He didn't say "if" you pray. In verse 16 he said, "When you fast ..." Again, he didn't say "if" you fast. The Apostle Paul also encourages us--New Testament Christians--to pray, to fast, to attend church regularly, to read the scriptures, and to be baptized.

So, let's answer the question I posted in the title of this blog. Is fasting still relevant to Christians in 2016? Answer: a resounding YES, it is!!

In my prayer journal, I wrote down the date I started fasting: September 28, 2015. I am happy to say I have kept up with fasting once a week for an entire year now. I don't say that to get pats on my back, or to toot my horn, or to claim to be holier than thou. I simply state it with a grateful heart for what God is teaching me through my day of fasting. I truly, truly look forward to that day now. Instead of eating a meal, I spend time in prayer. When my tummy starts to growl in the afternoon, I stop and thank God for the provision he has always given me. Several HUGE prayer requests have been answered in the past year, too. If you have never fasted, or if it's been a while since you fasted, I highly encourage you to incorporate fasting into your regular worship time with God.

I'll leave you with these beautiful promises from God found in Isaiah 58:8-9. Promises to those who are sincere in their fasting:

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, "Here am I."

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