What Fasting Really Does
Thursday - September 23rd
Scripture to Read Today: Isaiah 58:1-14
No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Donte loved the Lord but also made sure everyone knew just how devoted to Him he was. He sat with me and a few others at our high school lunch table. While not all of us fit the category, our lunch table (think the movie "Mean Girls") was mostly comprised of geeky kids with some form of religious zeal. Donte was a passionate pentecostal. James was a committed catholic. Ryan was a dedicated Mormon. David was a devout Jew. And then there was me, the non-denominational evangelical of the group.
While all of us were passionate about our faith to one degree or another, Donte could be over the top in how he expressed his commitment to God for a bunch of high school guys. Every Thursday was the day for his church to have midweek prayer and healing services. Donte's church was a "holiness church." His words, not mine. They had many strict codes regarding their interaction with secular culture and how they lived out their faith.
Because the prayer and healing services on Thursdays had great significance to Donte's church, they all followed various rules, restrictions, and practices on that day of the week. Donte could not wear tennis shoes that day. He wore a shirt with a collar to school. He could not watch TV or play Atari games. He, along with all of the members of his church, fasted all day. Thursdays had a special place in Donte's church's practices and piety.
Donte moaned, complained, was edgy, and looked awful on Thursdays. When you noticed, he talked about how spiritual he was and how deeply committed his church was to the Lord. Donte made his fasting for the day obvious. He took the whole lunch hour each Thursday telling us about his "suffering." He looked and sounded like the sufferer. It really got annoying.
Some believe that fasting makes us miserable, and we should appear to be sacrificially suffering for our God. They say people should notice our willingness to sacrifice. God, however, tells us something different in Isaiah 58:6-7. He talks about how our fasting should create humility, kindness, and service in and through us.
As we fast, we should seek to focus on our needs and God's greatness to meet those needs. The outcome should benefit those suffering. The hungry, the homeless, the wrongfully imprisoned, etc., should benefit from the kindness and compassion that flows from our lives when we find a deeper focus on God as we fast.
A deeper focus on God through fasting culminates in serving others whether or not we gain that for which we fasted.