The season of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, has begun. For those who follow the church calendar, Lent is traditionally a time of preparation for, and anticipation of, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. This has been done, among other ways, by fasting … by abstaining from something worth denying yourself of as you seek to fix your eyes on Jesus.
So… should we fast for Lent?
I’d actually like to divide that question in two. Part one: should we fast? YES! Part two: for Lent? It doesn’t need to be during this specific time but SURE, if you want to!
In other words, in general, we need to think about the spiritual practice of fasting more than we do in the Christian church. Whether or not that is during the time known as Lent is up to you. You don’t get “extra-points” for fasting during Lent. In fact, you don’t get “points” for fasting at any time — Jesus has earned all your “points!” But with that said, fasting is a healthy spiritual discipline that should be practiced more often in the church than it is.
You see, fasting is an expression of a heart that truly longs — longs for the one true God as He is revealed through the person of Jesus. Christian fasting recognizes that the Bridegroom is gone, that none of the good things on earth can ultimately take His place, and the promise of His return lies ahead.
It is the “not yet” of the kingdom, focusing on that which is still to come because of the finished work of Jesus. In Mark 2 we learn that Jesus assumes that His followers are going to fast in His absence.
Listen to these helpful comments on this too often neglected practice…
“Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked; full stomachs and jaded palettes take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil our appetite for God.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison, but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night… The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because He is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with other things.” ~ John Piper
“More than any discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other things.” ~ Richard Foster
So, my encouragement to you this Lenten season, and in every season of your life, is to fast. To ask yourselves: what good gift, what sweet pleasure has God given me that I can deny myself for a time to focus my heart more intently on Him?
The apostle Paul says this wonderful statement in 1 Corinthians 6:12:
“I will not be dominated by anything.”
Let your fasting declare that there is nothing better than God Himself.