The purpose of fasting

I liked this comment made by Selwyn in today’s study: “Without a spiritual purpose, fasting will achieve nothing more than a loss of weight.”

He then lists the main reasons for fasting: ” … to add weight to our prayer life; … to discover God’s guidance (not guaranteed, but it certainly seems to make us more receptive) ;  … to deepen the expression of an act of repentance.”

Fasting is not something that can be used as an aid to draw God’s attention to our attempts to look ‘good’, in the sense that we are attempting to makes ourselves appear ‘worthy’ for His help.

The prayer for today is well worth out time: “Lord Jesus, tender and skillful invader of my soul, You keep bringing me back to reality. By your Holy Spirit and through Your Word – You teach me Your way. Now please help me walk in it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

A furtile fast

In today’s study , Selwyn tells us that a fast is futile if our intention is not based on a desire to discover God in a greater way.

Fasting has no spiritual benefits if it is undertaken just to loose weight or to manipulate others. It also has no benefit if one fast just because it is mentioned in Scripture – as an activity, which ‘good’ people do – fasting for the sake of fasting is then –  another useless, legalistic exercise.

I entirely agree with Selwyn’s conclusion – the motivation for fasting is of crucial importance.

Acts 13:1-5 (NIV): “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.”

As we can see from the text, set for today’s reading and meditation (excerpt above); fasting and prayer was a common element of church life, especially when important decision were being made. The situation hasn’t changed – whenever we seek to be guided by God’s Spirit on important issues, we should actively worship God with prayer and fasting.

Your views?

Fallacies about fasting

Today, Selwyn starts a discussion on fasting by asking; why, should something given such a high priority in Scripture be regarded with suspicion by so many Christians?

Basically, I think the reason is that there has been too little good teaching on the issue.

Selwyn goes onto say that perhaps there is a fear of becoming legalistic – and, there is some justification for this fear and some parts of the church in the past have become far too focused on a formula based approach to fasting as a method to earn credit points with God.  People, who follow such false teaching earn nothing in the eyes of God; even an elementary understanding of Scripture would guard against such nonsense.

I liked the following bit from today’s study: “Fasting is also viewed with suspicion because we are influenced by the propaganda of our consumer society which encourages us to satisfy every appetite every day of our lives.” It’s amazing that, at the moment, there are many TV reality shows based on overweight people trying to loose a lot of weight in a short period of time. However, their bodies go into a sort of biochemical rebellion, which means that it is very hard for them to keep their weight within reasonable limits, for any length of time. Basically, if there is no self-discipline being exercised before they become over weight, then it’s an ‘up-hill’ battle to get back to a healthy body weight. [For the purposes of this discussion – those people who have medical issues, are not included in the general group; those, who eat themselves into an unhealthy state.]

As Selwyn writes in this study – fasting has a role to play in our spiritual lives – this is clearly indicated by Scripture. He writes: “To overlook fasting and ignore its biblical significance is to deprive ourselves of an exercise of the soul that was taught and practised by our Lord, and taken up by His disciples” … and also, by His true followers, throughout our history.