Over the last couple of weeks, you have heard from our pastors about a burden from God to engage in a season of fasting and pursuit of God. There hasn’t been much by way of publicity or promotion because we don’t want this to be about a hashtag, but about hearts yearning for and pursuing God himself. And this isn’t some corporate fast where we are all doing the same thing. Instead, we want to extend an invitation to join us in a zealous pursuit of God, and give you the freedom to decide what you need to or want to abstain from in order to make room for that pursuit in your life.
For many of us, the idea of fasting is just that—an idea. It falls on the list of “good things that I should do, but will do when I get around to it,” like going to the gym, creating a budget, or cleaning the basement. For others, the idea of fasting is merely tied to the idea of abstinence, or a duty to perform by the spiritual elite.
But Jesus seemed to have other ideas about the necessity of fasting for his followers. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus discusses the discipline of fasting as a part of the normal rhythm of life for his disciples. He starts off in v. 16, saying, “And when you fast…” When, not if. When.
In the context, Jesus talks about fasting alongside giving and praying as practices that will mark his disciples’ lives. The goal of giving and praying seems pretty simple—taking care of the needs of the poor, and pouring out our hearts to our father for his provision, protection, and the glory of his name. But what is the goal of fasting?
THE Goal of Fasting
When we fast we deny ourselves the proximate pleasures of this world, and seek pleasure in the presence of God. We focus not on the meals that we miss, but on the one who is the true bread that comes down from heaven who promises “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). During a fast, we pursue God himself and declare our dependence on his sustaining power.
Fasting, then, is at its core about a focused pursuit of God and the goal is not simply abstaining from food (or other things), but to enjoy God and experience his presence and power in new ways. In his new book, Practicing the Power, Sam Storms says that “fasting is feasting on God, drawing deeply upon his presence, depending wholly on his power, enjoying his goodness, gazing on his beauty, and trusting him to do for us what we could never remotely expect to do on our own.”
Our Prayer for this Season
We have tons of things that we are praying for in this season. We are praying that God provides for a number of staff needs, alongside a growing number of invitations that our leaders are sensing from the Lord in this season. But our goal isn’t merely to cry out to God to meet our needs. We want to seek his face and experience his presence and power in new ways. Here’s how I’m praying for our church in this season:
How you Can Participate
A fast can take on a number of different forms. Some may choose to fast from food or drink. Others may choose to fast from social media or other activities. To consider what you need to abstain from during this season, it may be helpful to consider the question, “What do you feel a compulsion to run toward or reach for when you are bored and need comfort?” By the way, if it is sin, to lay that down isn’t a “fast.” That’s called repentance and obedience.
Or maybe you could ask it another way: What in your life, if you abstained from it for a season would create a sense of hunger in you that God could use to draw you in to feast on him in new ways?
And, it is critical to remember that where you create space in your life to feel your dependence through abstinence, be sure to fill that space with pursuit of God. Storms says, “Fasting is about spiritual indulgence! It is not a giving up of food (or some activity) for it’s own sake. It is about giving up food for Christ’s sake. We are always driven to fast because we hunger for something more than food. This means that fasting is motivated by the prospect of pleasure. The heart that fasts cries out, ‘This I want more than the pleasure of food.’”
What is God inviting you to abstain from so that you can pursue him in this season? What might God produce in this church family in this season as we pursue him together? What might God do in our city and this world as we seek his face and pray for his kingdom to break into every corner where sin tries to resist it?
Let’s seek God with restless abandon in this season and not just talk about being satisfied in him but actually find him to be as satisfying as he promises to be.
Resources for Fasting