by Matt Schroeder
In some ways, this entry is a follow up to the post a few weeks ago called, "Victim or Warrior?” In that post, the call and challenge was for us as Christians to rid ourselves of the victim mentality that many of us walk in. The victim mentality is passive about fighting sin and often makes excuses for a lack of growth by saying things like, “well it’s just the way I am.” The warrior mentality doesn’t make excuses for sin, but rather, aggressively fights sin for God’s glory and for the advancement of His kingdom.
So, now that we understand the unhealthy mindset we often fall into and the mindset we need to pursue, it’s time to actually go to war against our sin and go to war for the kingdom of God.
Aggressively going to war has many forms, but I want to specifically build the case for what I believe to be one of the greatest weapons we have, fasting. I highlight the word, “one” because I want to make sure from the beginning I do not build up fasting to be the silver bullet you have been missing for your whole life. I simply want to emphasize it is a powerful weapon, and one I believe is often neglected in the church at large.
Why is fasting so often neglected in the church, especially in western cultures? Why is it something that was so assumed and so frequently practiced in the book of Acts, yet rarely seen in the west? There are probably many factors at play here, but it seems to me there are two main reasons we don’t fast: one, we aren’t sure if it actually does anything, and two, we may have a misunderstanding of what fasting is at it’s root.
So, what is the deep-down real purpose of fasting? As I’ve been discipled by godly men and been reading the Scriptures with a kingdom-advancing mindset, I’ve concluded fasting is all about declaring our allegiance TO God and declaring our need FOR God.
I don’t believe there is anything mystical or magical about the act of fasting. I don’t believe fasting releases some chemical pixie dust into your body that make you no longer want to look at pornography or no longer deal with anxiety. I believe fasting is spiritual. I believe fasting is about declaring our hunger, thirst, and passion for God. I believe fasting and praying is one of our most powerful spiritual weapons. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
It seems to me fasting is more about making a declaration of love and allegiance to God, then it is about fulfilling some religious obligation. God has moved in powerful ways in my life through fasting. He has broken many strongholds and addictions that I couldn’t break through anything else until I started fasting and praying. And I don’t believe God broke those strongholds because I simply checked the fasting box in my list of Christian duties. I believe God moves in power through fasting because He is honoring and blessing the pursuit of Him. I believe God moves in power through fasting because He is honoring and blessing the hunger for Him.
One of the phrases I often say out loud to God when I am fasting is, “God I want you more than I want food. I need you more than I need food.” It’s a powerful thing to say over and over. After that, I’ll often declare how much I want God to move in certain areas: “God I want you to eradicate fear in me more than I want food. God I want you to rip lust out of me more than I want food. God I want you to save this person more than I want food. God I want to see this person healed more than I want food.”
Why food? Why do we see the pattern in Scripture be fasting from food?
I know plenty of men and women who will fast from things like social media, TV, and music. They often come back with great reports of how refreshing it was to their soul. I want to applaud and build up those of you who do those things! That is an excellent thing to do and I know first-hand it is a valuable thing.
However, I want to make sure we don’t neglect fasting food. So again, why fast food? What’s the difference between food and other things like TV? I believe fasting food is significant because food is a necessity. The truth is you and I could never watch another TV program for the rest of our lives and be healthy flourishing human beings (some of you might object to that!), however, if you or I fasted food for more than 40 days, we would die!
I believe there is something significant in declaring our love and allegiance to God by giving up a necessity. I believe giving up a necessity is such a powerful demonstration of how serious we are about fighting sin and seeing the gospel spread throughout the earth.
For me personally, fasting is no longer something I have to just “get through.” Fasting is no longer something I feel like I should do. For me, I look forward to the days I fast with passion, because I know during that time I am pleading for God’s Spirit to move in my life like never before. I look forward to the days I fast, because I am expectant of God to do things I can’t do on my own. I look forward to fasting, because I simply get more of my savior Jesus, and He’s all I want!
So, brothers and sisters, fellow laborers in the gospel, co-heirs with Christ, are you ready to leave behind the victim mentality and burn that old dirty cloak we talked about? Are you ready to embrace your role as a redeemed soldier fighting for God’s kingdom? Then fast! And then fast some more!
Practical Tips For Fasting:
- Start out fasting one meal each week. Move to fasting two meals each week, then three. Then move to fasting a whole day.
- You don’t have to be praying literally every waking second you are fasting. Again, fasting is about your heart, not the check-boxes.
- Pick something specific you are fasting for during that time: your overall affections for Christ, sin struggle, salvation for a friends, etc.
- Repeat out-loud what I shared earlier, “God I want you more than I want food.”
- Read Acts 4 and other passages about what our priorities should be when we pray and fast.