Seeking God Together (by Brent Flory)
I'll never forget the first time I fasted.
I was a freshmen in university. I had just been led to Christ a few months before, and found out that people in our Christian group were doing a 36 hour fast, and I was encourage to join in.
I was game to try just about anything, but I had no idea what a fast was. I was told that to fast meant that you didn't eat food during that time. That lessened my interest substantially. I couldn't imagine why in the world would anyone do such a thing.
But then they said that Jesus commanded us to do it. I'm pretty sure that was the only reason that could have motivated me to participate. So despite a nineteen year track record of enjoying food, I agreed to do the fast.
Those were the longest 36 hours of my young life. I didn't know what I should be doing with my time (or hunger), so I played Mario Kart obsessively. Which wasn't much different than my typical freshman existence, but I digress.
At the end of the 36 hours, a number of us who had endured to the end went to Hardee's to break the fast. And break it I did. That night I ate two double cheeseburgers, a large order of French fries, a half a bag of chips, and drank a large soda.
I wasn't done. I had calories to catch up on. The following evening, I went to a party where the host had made sloppy joes for everyone. Unfortunately, five of the people who attended didn't get any. That's because I ate ten sloppy joe sandwiches by myself. It was like my stomach had become a bottomless pit, and the only thing that could fill it was sloppy joes.
Even at the tender age of nineteen, I knew that wasn't a sustainable dietary pattern. I thus concluded two vital lessons about fasting: 1. Fasting is bad for my health. 2. Fasting is dumb.
Thankfully, it was only two years later that I learned I had fasting all wrong. My mentor Nick taught me a lot about biblical fasting, including; A) the purpose of fasting, B) what to do during a fast, and C) (a crucial lesson for me) how to properly end a fast.
What's the purpose of a biblical fast?
To draw us closer to God.
Proving "I can do it" was the point of just about everything I did at university. But that isn't the point of fasting. The purpose of fasting is to draw us closer to our heavenly Father. When we fast from food or something else we lean on heavily (social media, television, etc.), it helps eliminate distractions and brings things to the surface that get in between us and God.
What do I do during a fast?
Spend extra time seeking God.
I like eating food. When I am not eating food, I like to think of the next time I will eat food. I spend a lot of time with food on my mind or in my mouth.
Perhaps I am alone in that regard. But I am guessing I am far from it.
A healthy fast takes the time we typically spend eating (or doing some other activity we are fasting from) and redirects it toward focusing on God. Fasting gives us a chance to spend more time in prayer, in the Bible, and engaging in other spiritual disciplines that help us experience God's presence.
How do I properly end a fast?
Slowly, with healthy food. In other words, the opposite of how I ended my first fast. We will go into much greater detail on this and more before our fast begins.
Some of the most powerful experiences I have had with the Lord have been during fasts. With that in mind, I am really excited for our church's 19 days of prayer and fasting in January. I trust that it will be a deeply meaningful time for each of us individually and as a community. There's no better way for us to kick off 2018, humbling ourselves before Him and seeking Him together!