God’s Love the Wesleyan Way-FASTING
Spiritual Disciplines, sometimes we talk about this word discipline and we might get a little freaked out but this kind of discipline is a good thing. It helps us to get into a pattern of focusing on God. Today we will talk about fasting, now don’t turn me off or stop listening. Fasting is not a bad thing but a very powerful and underutilized discipline.
Fasting is a powerful spiritual discipline that aligns our hearts more closely with the heart of God and empowers us to see breakthroughs in specific areas. Fasting is a powerful means of grace and the most neglected. It is powerful because fasting is a physical self-emptying that connects us with Christ (Philippians 2:7) and opens our hearts to his grace.
“John Wesley practiced a weekly fast from sundown on Thursday to sundown on Friday. He refrained from eating food while drinking water and tea during the day. On Friday evening he broke the fast with a light meal (broth, bread, and water or tea). During the fast Wesley spent much of the time in prayer and reading Scripture.”
Fasting is a specific time to stop and remember our dependance on God’s grace. It is also a reminder to stop and focus on God. When we begin to have that hunger ache or itch to pick up your tablet, gaming controller, etc., it is a reminder to stop and pray and spend time with God.
Spiritual fasting is a very neglected spiritual discipline, but it can make big changes in your view of God and sometimes spiritual outcomes.
As an example, years ago planting a church in North Georgia the group of people I was with were trying to discern where to plant this new church. We all decided to take a couple weeks to pray and fast about it. We wanted to take that time to seek God’s heart through hunger especially as we are looking to start a new church in an unknown area to all of us. After the two weeks we had a very big confirmation from God where and when to plant. We ended up in Ringgold, GA and someone donated a large piece of property to help the church get off on the right start.
Now this doesn’t always happen, but I do know that fasting is a way to help us to connect to God.
Elaine Heath in her book “Five Means of Grace” says this about fasting; “As we take up the spiritual discipline of fasting in the way of Wesley, then, the appropriate posture is one of humility and openness to God, both to present ourselves vulnerable to God and to open ourselves to receive direction and blessing from God.”
Matthew 6:16-18 16 “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. 17 When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. 18 Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
As Jesus was teaching on fasting the key in this passage is two things, one is “when you fast” and not if you fast. The second is how we hold ourselves as we fast. We can’t walk around and act solemn and pitiful because we are skipping meals or giving up our Xbox. Fasting is an essential piece in a prayerful life. Elaine Heath says that “Fasting prepares the whole person, body, mind, and spirit—to carry out the missional purposes of God. Fasting literally empties us so that we can be filled with God’s spirit of discernment and authority.”
The story of Nehemiah began with fasting as a part of his purpose. God invites NEHEMIAH to join GOD’s CAUSE. Watch this….
NEHEMIAH 1:3-6 3 They told me, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!”4 When I heard this news, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 I said: “Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you are the one who keeps covenant and is truly faithful to those who love you and keep your commandments. 6 Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant, which I now pray before you night and day for your servants, the people of Israel. “I confess the sins of the people of Israel, which we have committed against you. Both I and my family have sinned.
NEHEMIAH HEARD the news about the WALLS OF JERUSALEM and when he did …… HE….PRAYED, Mourned, and Fasted!
Nehemiah knew GOD was GREAT AND AWESOME and that is why he JOINED GOD’s CAUSE
We need to hear this because in our lives we sometimes LIVE BELOW THE CALLING GOD has for us.
Fasting helps break these barriers of connection between us and God. It allows us to experience God’s grace in a new way because it removes daily distractions that can hinder that connection.
Nehemiah prayed and fasted and understood that connection in that moment. How do we know that? Here is what Nehemiah says, “I confess the sins of the people of Israel, which we have committed against you. Both I and my family have sinned.”
Nehemiah after praying and fasting felt that deep connection to God and repented of all that he, his family, and all of Israel had done against God. It was a moment of real connection without distraction.
By having this connection to God, we see how God wants to use us for the least, the last, and the lost. “Jesus is found in the least of these, people who are vulnerable, suffering, disempowered, oppressed, and at the mercy of others. The call to become angels, the bearers, and doers of good news, is the discernment that emerges along the way. The blessing is that we do so not alone but in partnership with God.”
Fasting allows this partnership to emerge and where we can truly see what breaks God’s heart. Fasting is the primary spiritual discipline that brings us back to our vulnerability. It removes our ego and allows us to experience the grace of God in a new way.
The question you will have to ask yourself is how will you enter into a season of fasting or make fasting a part of your regular spiritual disciplines? There are several types and ways to fast.
Types of Fasts:
Partial Fast: A partial fast is when you fast all food for a set specific time throughout the day. For example, you may decide to fast from sunrise to sunset and eat food only in the evenings.
Complete Fast: Also known as a full fast, a complete fast is when you do not eat any food (and consume liquids only) for a specific period of time. Please consult a medical professional in advance if you intend to do a complete fast for a prolonged period of time.
Daniel (Found in Daniel chapter 1): A Daniel Fast is where you avoid meats, sweets, and treats for a specific amount of time. During a Daniel Fast, you normally consume rice, beans, vegetables, and fruits, while avoiding bread, meats, dairy products, sugars and sweeteners, and alcoholic beverages.
Other Types: Electronics like TV or video games, certain types of food like if you can’t go without coffee or soft drinks then maybe that is what you fast.
Like many of us we have seasons in our lives where we need to hear from God. We want to see more clearly what God is doing and if God is present. Fasting as a spiritual discipline can remove barriers to help open us up to receive what God is doing in and through us.
Maybe this is a season and time to add fasting as a part of your spiritual discipline. Remember the words of Christ it is not if you fast but, Matthew 6:16 says, “When you fast…”
Go in Peace