Longing for more? Have you ever tried going with less instead? Not too long ago, I asked my kids if they knew what it meant to fast. We tend to joke around in our house from time to time, and my middle son says, “Isn’t that when you wake up in the morning and have “break–fast?” We laughed and I said, “Well yes, actually. It is.”
The word breakfast literally refers to breaking the fasting period of the prior night. It has its origin in the Judeo-Christian custom of fasting from food between the supper meal of one day and the morning meal of the next. Fasting though isn’t one of those spiritual disciplines that many Christians practice for one reason or another. Nonetheless, it is a spiritual discipline worth considering, especially if we have a longing for more in our lives, whatever that longing may be.
Most often in the life of the church, you’ll hear of people fasting during the season of Lent, giving up something. In the Bible, food is the central focus of fasting. However, many consider fasting from things like T.V., the internet, screen-time, playing video games, or engaging in certain hobbies. Maybe we fast from news media, chocolate, or immediacy even, the need to have something… “more” … right now. There’s a lot we can fast from.
Paula White in her book “Fasting Made Simple” defines fasting as “choosing not to eat, which is an act of self-denial where our motive is to free ourselves to seek God with all our heart and soul.” Essentially we fast to better understand that it is the Lord who sustains us, and nothing else. Sure, we reason that we need bread and water to live, but even more than that, we need the Lord to live. For it is the Lord who satisfies our greatest hunger and longing.
In Matthew 6:16-18, we know that we should fast because Jesus mentioned it and invited us to. In verse 16, Jesus says, “When you fast,” not, “If you fast,” implying that Christians should indeed fast. Fasting can be a means of seeking and knowing God and God’s Will. All throughout the Bible there are references of those who went through periods of prayer and fasting during seasons of discernment and challenge. (2 Chronicles 20, Exodus 34, Deuteronomy 9, 2 Samuel, Nehemiah, Luke 2, Acts 13, Matthew 4).
Often times in scripture when fasting is mentioned, it’s defined as a means of denying oneself, most often food. But again, fasting is more than denying oneself of food. It is denying one’s self. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The word “deny” in this particular verse means, to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, in this case, ourselves. To deny oneself is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.
There is a transition that is intended when we fast; that we are laying aside; our own interests, our own desires, our own will, and seeking the interests of God, those things which God desires, and ultimately the will of God. Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Food does not sustain us, GOD sustains us.
Whether we fast for several days, for one day, or from one meal, or one thing, when we have those cravings and longings for food or for that which we have given up, might we consider slowing down for a moment to reflect on the Lord. For it is the Lord who truly satisfies our greatest hunger for more.
When we simplify our lives, cut out those things we indulge ourselves with, and forgo those natural cravings our self desires, it strengthens our resolve, our faith, and our hope in believing that it is indeed God who satisfies our deepest hunger, longing, and desires. And so, this week, might we consider slowing down, and fast. Pray and seek the Lord and invite Him to fill you up, and satisfy your every need.
Rev. Mark Muckler is minister at Central United Methodist Church in Mount Airy.