Not a Hunger Strike
There are those who think that fasting is an add-on or a booster to get more of what they want from God.
The Jews had that wrong idea. They complained to God, “‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’” (Isaiah 58:3a, NLT)
The Lord rebuked them for fasting for the wrong reasons. He answered them, “I will tell you why! … It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. … This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. … Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?” (vv. 3b, 4b, 5b. Emphasis mine.)
Sadly, such mindset is not biblical. “Fasting among the pagan peoples who surrounded the ancient Israelites was far different. The followers of these religions thought they could obligate their gods to behave in specific ways if they fasted. Unsurprisingly, many Israelites adopted this belief in relation to their covenant Lord”. (Source: http://www.ligonier.org/. Emphasis mine.) Also, the nation was disobedient to God. (vv. 3b-4a) That’s why “God’s people should not expect Him to answer their fasting and prayer as long as they knowingly and obstinately refuse to repent and follow His will.” (Ibid)
Yes, as evangelical pastor and best-selling author John Piper wrote in his book, A Hunger For God, “God rewards fasting because fasting expresses the cry of the heart that nothing on the earth can satisfy our souls besides God.” But it’s not to get more from the Lord. It is to give more to Him. We fast to please God, not ourselves.
Fasting is not a hunger strike to force God’s hand. It is to submit to God and His will. Piper added, “If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.”
God made it clear that fasting is more than getting hungry. It is also to feed the hungry. It is not just to forgo food. Much more, it is to follow God. “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” (vv. 6-7) Fasting makes our heart sensitive to our need for God and the need of the people around us. It is an expression of our love for God and for others.
Brethren, let us fast for the right reasons.
NOTE: Our church, Filinvest Community Christian Fellowship, will have a prayer and fasting week starting tomorrow, Monday (January 26), until Sunday (February 1). The only agenda is to set our hearts aflame for God. Our theme for this fast is “Detox,” based on Dr. Edmund Chan’s “Toxic Spirituality” (from his “Cultivating Your Inner Life: Reflections on Spiritual Formation in Discipleship Today.”) I will post the daily devotionals starting Monday.