Faith, food and fasting

Published 30 July 2019  |  
(Unsplash/Rachel Park)

If we don't spend much time thinking and reflecting about the different parts of our lives and how they relate to our discipleship journey, it can be easy to adopt the dominant values of the society around us.

The discipleship process involves challenging ourselves to die to self by submitting to the Spirit, biblical truth, the wisdom of the Christian tradition and the community of God's people. As we do this we are empowered to discern between what we are absorbing from our culture and how God wants us to live.

One of the ways that God has challenged me this year is in my attitude to food. Over the years I have tried to live a healthy lifestyle, sometimes successfully and often unsuccessfully. But in the last year I have begun to experience a greater degree of God's empowering grace to seek breakthrough in this area.

I have realised that there are two subjects relating to food that are biblical but don't get a whole lot of attention in the modern church. They are gluttony and fasting.

The sin of gluttony

Gluttony is the misuse of food. Whether it be overeating, not having proper regard for health, poor stewardship of money spent on food or depending on food for comfort instead of God, all of these are sinful in God's eyes I believe.

In a culture of excessive consumption of food, it is a sin we conveniently don't talk about much and don't hear a lot about in the church. We often hear criticism of our culture's materialism and consumerism. But is not one of our culture's most blatant and obvious forms of consumerism our addiction to food?

Of course God has given us food to enjoy and we should enjoy it. This is not about putting a guilt trip on anyone or being legalistic but we should make sure we have the balance right.

I believe God wants us to challenge this idol of our age because misuse of food can lead to all kinds of problems: bad physical, mental and emotional health, low energy, poverty and comfort eating that creates weakness in us that can also impair our discipline and resistance to temptation in other areas of our lives too.

Fasting and drawing closer to God

If gluttony is an extreme that we should avoid, an extreme behaviour that the Bible commends is fasting.

Fasting is going without food for an extended period of time in order to focus more intently on seeking God. Jesus fasted and the practice was taken for granted in early Christianity. Monastic desert mystics who lived a rigorous, ascetic lifestyle were honoured.

I have spent more time fasting this year than any other time and I have found there are many benefits. These include mental clarity and focus, saving money, losing weight, physical detox and having a greater sense of self-discipline and self-confidence.

Most significantly it has made me more spiritually attuned. When we make the flesh submit our spirit comes more alive. Fasting has helped me to have a deeper union with Christ and hear His voice more clearly. It has greatly increased my faith and expectancy for breakthrough in different areas of my life and is increasing my awareness of the unseen spiritual realm.

Fasting is counter-cultural

Fasting is the antidote to gluttony. To a consumer culture that is constantly trying to entice us to over-indulge the flesh and suppress the spirit the Bible says 'God blesses those people who want to obey him more than eat or drink' (Matthew Chapter 5 verse 6) – and 'man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' Matthew Chapter 4 verse 4.

God doesn't want us to be in bondage to anything and saying no to a junk food culture is making a statement about your life and a statement about the world. You are saying you will not be controlled or dumbed down. You are saying you reject the corporate indoctrination that you have received since you were a child, selling us unhealthy destructive foods and instead exercising self-governance.

It is especially relevant when we consider the epidemic of disease and ill-health in our society and the massive burden on the healthcare system that poor habits are creating.

I am no expert on the subject but I suspect that our ancestors ate a lot less than we do today and it wouldn't hurt us to limit the amount we eat. We are told about the importance of eating regularly but let's not forget that the Son of God himself, our ultimate example, ate nothing for 40 days.

Catholics and Orthodox Christians take fasting for granted as a normal part of the Christian life and often Pentecostals understand the spiritual value in fasting as well, but it is neglected in some parts of the Church.

God often stirs us up to fast and pray more fervently when He is wanting to create a greater sense of desperation and hunger for His moving.

If you haven't fasted before give it a go. I believe you will notice the difference it makes in your life.

Courtesy of Press Service International

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