We've found ourselves on the other side of Resurrection Sunday and will resume our normal, everyday activities absent of the observance of Lent. Children (and maybe some adults) have frolicked in their Easter apparel; we have enjoyed watching Easter egg hunts and basked in spending a day (or more) with the people we love celebrating the Savior we love. And now, back to reality it is. I know you're probably thinking, it's a little late to be talking about Lent and Easter now, isn't it? If you bear with me, we'll end up on the same page soon. Trust me.
While people do fast when they are seeking direction or instruction from the Lord or are looking to strengthen their relationship with Him, we most often hear fasting openly mentioned as a means to observe Lent. Fasting for 40 days is the believer's spiritual parallel to the Savior's fast before He began His public, earthly ministry. When we fast, we are giving up something to achieve one of the reasons previously mentioned. Fasting takes discipline, focus, and obedience, and the hope is that we draw closer to Christ during our period of fasting. During Lent, the 40 days and 40 nights we fast should be a constant reminder of the sacrifice of Christ and how His love for us drove Him all the way to Calvary to die so that He could redeem us from a life of sin. But as we fast, as we observe this sacred time, are there things that we can’t or shouldn't consider fasting from? Beyond the observance of Lent, as we seek to draw near to God through fasting and praying, are there things that should be excluded?
Over the years, I’ve talked to several people who have mentioned that they were looking for God to move in their lives and they decided to fast and pray for the answers they sought so intently after. But something that would cause a slight shift in my applause for the endeavor was what they were fasting from. Their boldness to express the object/activity that they were briefly stepping away from was a grand undertaking to them, but it was an invocation of sadness and disappointment to me. Sadness because the possible zealous naivety they operated with had need to be corrected. Disappointment because maybe they knew better and just didn't want to let go of this part of their life permanently. Maybe 40 days and 40 nights was all that Jesus was worth because that's all they wanted to give.
As believers, who have been converted and freed from a life of sin, our fast should look different than those of the world who may decide to take breaks from engaging in certain activities in their lives. Believers subscribe to the truth of the Gospel—that Jesus Christ came, died, and was resurrected in order to redeem us. He came to take on the gravity of judgement that was meant for us. That belief causes us to seek to live lives that reflect Christ's sacrifice and our deliverance. So, knowing this has led to this inquisition: How can a person who has subscribed to the Christian faith and has chosen to fast, fast from things that are sinful?
As much as it pained me, I had to be real with myself and answer this question with Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment. While some may find it commendable to fast, no matter what from, the truth is, it is impossible to say that you are fasting and it be from sin. If you are fasting from a sinful act, it should be something you never go back to. Hence, this wouldn't be considered a fast; it would be deliverance. Fasting should involve you setting aside a period of time to step away from something that is a part of your new, everyday life as a believer so that you can spend time with the Lord in prayer, consecration, and communion with Him. God will not honor a fast if the plan is only to temporarily step away from sin. As professed believers, we are made new. We die to our sin and our flesh daily. This means that we can't try to exploit God to get something from Him if we aren’t willing to completely give up a life of sin for Him.
So, when we fast, what’s the goal? What’s the real aim? What are we doing? We are focusing our attention on God, mostly in prayer and constant communication with Him. Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us that man should not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This calls attention to our dependency as human beings and shows that it’s not food or earthly things that sustain us but that our help, the things we need, and our sustenance comes from the Lord. Without Him, we have very limited access. Yes, we may have the money or connections to acquire certain things, but those things alone will prove very ineffectual without the Lord in our lives. This is one of the many reasons why we give up certain things when we fast. In doing this, we acknowledge who we need most, and we also draw closer to God in an intimate way. A way that shows us our flaws as the offspring of Adam but reveals our true beauty as sons and daughters of God.
It's an immutable fact that all people came into this world as sinners, and some still are. But if you are professing to be a part of the body of Christ, it is understood that you have already given up a life of sin to please God. You’re no longer taking a break from your old life. You’re living on the other side of it completely. God has delivered you, and He has called you to holiness to live a life free from the bondage of sin. So, as you fast, commit to giving God more than just 40 days and 40 nights so that you can partake in the forever He's so graciously offering to you.