Beyond the Fear and Mystery
By Dean TruneI was out of answers. I kept thinking of different possible scenarios, but no idea seemed capable of resolving all the pieces of the problem. Something had to change, and I was pretty sure it was the whole situation. I decided to fast about the issue. I consulted my calendar and saw that I had an extra day open. Instead of fasting just one day that week, I decided to fast an additional day to listen more intently and see what God would reveal. When I began my fast, I had a list of objectives that I asked God to accomplish. In fact, I wrote out ten objectives. Only one of them had anything to do with my initiating something. The other nine objectives required God to change something in my environment. During the second day, about noon, I had just finished a frustrating phone call and I sat down to focus on God for a while. I thought about how hopeless the whole situation seemed. I began to realize that God did not want to change the situation. He wanted to change me. I was shocked. My attitudes troubled me. The change God needed to make was so drastic that it led me to repentance, confession, and action. I was humbled by how I had totally missed His perspective in a critical area of my life. God completely renewed my thinking. As He changed my perspective, the problems I thought were so insurmountable dissipated. Sometimes the mountains He moves are my own blind spots. God takes us to a much deeper place in the midst of our fasting. I have seen it repeatedly in my life and in the lives of others.
Common Practice in ScriptureFasting is mentioned throughout the Bible. It appears to have been utilized either when people were humbling themselves before God (Ezra mourning the unfaithfulness of the Jews in Ezra 10:6–17), or when they were in an intense time of petitioning God about an important issue in their lives (David in petitioning God for the life of his son in 2 Samuel 12:1–23, Esther fasting for the safety of the Jews in Esther 4:15–17). Fasting was typically connected with such activities as solemn assemblies, weeping, confessing, repenting, or appointing leaders to the Lord. We don’t often see a lot of weeping, confessing, and repenting in many churches today—and this is possibly the result of the absence of the practice of fasting. Deprivation for spiritual reasons helps redirect our focus and attention back on our Heavenly Father and on His purposes—and the natural response is to humble ourselves and mourn our sin. Jesus assumed fasting to be a part of a believer’s life.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:16–18).Jesus is not condemning the activity of fasting. He is simply condemning the wrong motives by which proud people fasted. Jesus also made it clear that from the time He ascended to His Father in heaven until He returns again as the Bridegroom, He also expects His present-day disciples to fast:
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast” (Luke 5:33–35).