“Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? ‘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.’” Isaiah 58:5-12
It’s the beginning of a brand new year and your pastor has called the annual corporate, church fast, which is now to be expected, a thing of tradition. As you get ready to fast both mentally, physically, and spiritually, it’s important to make sure that you’re not wasting your time. Whether your spiritual goal for fasting is to grow in God or to have God intervene in an area that represents a stronghold in your life, God calls His people to participate in a true fast. A true fast is one that is not concerned in the least with natural benefits like losing weight, detoxing, or otherwise purifying or cleansing the body, but it’s concerned with the spiritual benefits of the purification and cleansing of the heart. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 58, Prophet Isaiah asks the self-righteous people of the day a loaded question as they went about their fasting ritual, he asks, “Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?” You see these pious people were going through the motions of fasting, but they were not pleasing God nor getting ahead spiritually. Isaiah goes on to share what would actually please God and I suggest that you read the entire chapter in its context, and you will discover that God is not looking for a fast in which we simply forego our meals, but he’s looking for one in which there is changed behavior through a purified heart. Take for instance King David, a man regarded as being after God’s own heartand described as such with good reason. After David committed adultery by sleeping with Bathsheba, a married woman, he asked God in Psalm 51 to create in him a “clean heart” and to “renew a right spirit” within him. God honored the brokenness of David’s heart and like David, God desires for us to get to the place where we want to be made clean of our ways that don’t please Him and to be so broken by our shortcomings that we desire to be renewed spiritually so that we can be used for His service. Essentially, God wants us to fast or turn from our evil ways and start doing right and doing good work for Him.
So, don’t view your personal or corporate fasting as a religious formality, but rather as a purposed act of pure worship that shows God that your temporary abstaining from food and or from other things that distract you or bring you pleasure (i.e. sex, social media, online shopping, or Netflix), is just the beginning of your future practice of abstaining, for good, from the type of living that does not please Him. Again, this results in us becoming more useful to God for service. Through a true fast, you will experience God’s blessings and He will, among other blessings, restore areas in your life that need restoration and He will hear you and answer you when you pray (Isaiah 58:6-12).
Make 2019 the year that you embark on a true fast, fasting that not only benefits us, but humanity. Fasting that goes beyond our own personal growth and becomes concerned with how we can be of service to God’s people through acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity for this is what truly pleases God.
*Some excerpts taken from The Christian Girls Manifesto: A Declaration of Faith‘s chapter, “True Fasting.”
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