This is the post in this series that I most want to argue with God about. While giving and praying are a regular part of my life, fasting, sadly, is not. Usually, the only time that I fast is if I participate in a church-wide 21 day fast at the beginning of the year. And sometimes, I don’t even do that.
At the beginning of 2021, I was praying and asking God if there was anything that I should fast. I don’t eat out very often anymore and I generally eat pretty healthy, so I wasn’t sure what food I could give up. I thought about fasting TV or movies, but that’s something I do for fun and enjoy writing about, so I was struggling to figure out how to pull that off. Nothing was jumping out to me for me to fast and I felt relieved.
The truth is that I didn’t want to fast anything. I didn’t want to have to sacrifice something to draw closer to God. Because it isn’t a regular expression of my faith, I didn’t feel comfortable in choosing to fast something.
Then, on January 4th, God made it clear. He told me that I needed to fast Twitter. He didn’t tell me for how long, but he made it clear that this social media app was what he needed me to sacrifice. The steady stream of opinions and ideas from that platform was what I needed to detox from.
Just like giving and praying, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 6 that fasting should be a regular part of the Christian experience. It’s not an action that’s just reserved for the super-spiritual or the professional Christians. Fasting should be a regular occurrence in the life of a believer.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV)
I don’t know about you, but this is about the time when my excuses begin to pour out. I don’t want to fast because it’s uncomfortable. I’m not used to sacrificing something and it can be an unpleasant experience. But Jesus didn’t qualify fasting with an “if,” instead, he said “when” we fast.
The simple truth is that I haven’t been obedient to God’s word. I have chosen my way and valued my opinions over what Jesus plainly said. And I’ve had to repent about that. I’ve had to ask God to reorder my priorities and change my opinions about fasting.
Choosing to give up something in pursuit of God isn’t easy. It’s something that I can quickly make all about me instead of all about him. And I think that’s part of what Jesus is getting at in these verses. When we choose to live sacrificially, it’s easy to put ourselves out there and make sure that others notice—I love to do that! But that’s the opposite of fasting. The goal of a fast is to give something up because we know that God is greater. It’s an act of surrender, worship, and obedience to God. And I believe it’s a moment of deeper intimacy with him.
What is your standard for fasting in 2021?
Just like with giving, I believe we have many opportunities before us when it comes to fasting. Our next steps will likely look very different from person to person and I think that’s really beautiful. Deciding to make fasting a regular part of our year (and beyond) requires us to lean in and listen to God.
I’m still on my Twitter fast because I don’t feel released to get back onto the platform. But I think he’ll give me the okay eventually. I also don’t believe this is the only fast that I will do during this year. But I am committed to listening to God’s voice and following his leading when it comes to fasting, even though it makes me uncomfortable. Let’s be a people who listen to God’s voice and gladly sacrifice when he calls us to!
What is God saying to you about fasting?