Philip Nation begins this chapter with stating the obvious – that we eat a lot. I would add, that Americans probably eat more and more frequently than most people around the world. So, fasting is obviously a huge interruption in our normal pattern of living. He rightly points out, though, that eating for daily sustenance and festival and worship celebrations was huge in Biblical times, so the idea of stopping the normal eating patterns for a spiritual fast may have been even more jarring for them than it is for us.
On page 84, he says, “During fasting we willingly forgo what fuels our body to connect with the One who saves our soul.” Jesus seems to have assumed that most people in His day would fast. Matthew 6:16 begins with, “Whenever you fast …” Nation states that if we never fast, there is a particular purifying and testing of our faith that we will never experience, that means we risk missing out something the Lord seeks to teach us or do in us.
Definition: “Fasting is a spiritual discipline that completely or partially eliminates food and/or drink in order to spend mealtimes in prayer for biblical purposes.” (p. 85) The pull quote on that page says, “Fasting is a biblical practice done for kingdom purposes.” I like that statement better than the official definition. Kingdom purposes connects the spiritual discipline of fasting back to how fasting can impact what God is doing through His people corporately, rather than simply what He is doing in me.
We can appreciate the truth and humor of Nation’s warning to not misappropriate fasting for a selfish purpose. “If you are fasting to lose weight, then you’re just on a bad diet.” (p. 85)
The author includes several pages of helpful and practical guidance on the types of fasts, the need to be sure there is no physical reason that would make fasting unwise or dangerous to one’s health, and the emphasis on making sure a spiritual motivation is driving the fast. Biblical patterns of motivation center on seeking God’s guidance for major decisions, seeking the Holy Spirit’s light to be focused on showing us our sin and then engaging in true repentance, asking for God’s help in a time of calamity, and, fasting for a more engaged time of worship, fasting for the seeking of God’s guidance in choosing a new leader(s).
What are appropriate motivations for Kingdom and Biblically-Driven fasting? Nation speaks of a desire for our lives to be more God-centered than they are; a desire to learn what really controls our lives; and, a desire to confirm our dependence on God.
Nation touches briefly on “fasting together” with our other believers and how fasting can touch our mission to take the Gospel out to the people of the world. The most obvious benefit of fasting with others is the automatic accountability that comes with that decision. Regarding mission, the author suggests that in fasting together, God has the opportunity to show us what is getting in the way of our being on mission.
PRAYER: “Lord, help me love you more than I love eating. Show me where my passions are focused and help me desire you more than anything else in my life. Show me what is blocking you from using me more effectively in your Kingdom.”