SHOULD CHRISTIAN FAMILIES FAST?

Steven Clark Goad

Yes! Christian families should fast. It is taught by command, example and inference. More is written on the subject of fasting in the New Testament than on baptism. Why? Why would Jesus, when he was preaching the heart of the Christian faith in that great sermon on the mount, include a paragraph on the proper way to fast? Jesus said, "When you fast..." not "IF you fast" (Matthew 6:16-18). Yet so little teaching is done today regarding fasting.

People fast for different reasons. I'm inclined to think that many of us fast so we can fit into designer jeans. There just may be more noble reasons. Fasting in Bible times was never done just to "look" slim. There are at least three Biblical reasons recorded for fasting: 1) To express personal sorrow and grief, 2) To seek the Lord's favor, 3) To demonstrate a humble and penitent spirit because of sin in one's life.

Fasting was never intended to be a matter of display, for whatever the reason. Jesus condemned the self-righteous Pharisee who bragged about his dual weekly fastings (Luke 18:12). Fasting should be done for the Father and never ostentatiously. It is a secret thing.

Numerous are the examples of Biblical fasting. David and his companions participated in grief-fasting at the death of Saul (2 Samuel 1:12). An example of favor-fasting can be seen with Esther and the Jews in Susa before she went to the king in behalf of the Jew's deliverance from destruction (Esther 4:16). Penitent-fasting can be seen with Moses' forty day fast "because of all the sin" which Israel had done (Deuteronomy 9:18), with Samuel's fast and confession at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:6) and with Daniel (Daniel 9:3-5).

Paul and his shipmates fasted during the storm (Acts 27:33). And it was during his fasting that God answered Cornelius' prayer (Acts 10:30). Fasting was a solemn occasion in the New Testament church. Paul expressed that he was approved of God in fasting (2 Corinthians 6:5), and was often engaged in fasting (2 Corinthians 11:27). He also mentions the fasting of husbands and wives (1 Corinthians 7:5). Those who neglect to associate fasting with Christianity and worship are untaught in this matter. To claim to be a fellowship that has restored the New Testament order while all but ignoring fasting is to overstate one's case.

To fast or not to fast, that is the question. Fasting is so tied to prayer that they are practically mutually exclusive. One who prays, fasts. One who fasts, prays. People numbed by affluence and congested digestive systems do not easily grasp the importance of fasting. Lloyd Ash has written:

"Though the church today has undoubtedly grown in power socially and financially, the fact is it is gravely lacking in real spiritual power. No doubt the real reason for much of our weakness is the same as that of Jesus' disciples on one occasion when Jesus called their attention to their failure to 'fast and pray' (Mark 9:18 29).

A beautiful family Bible study might be to read together and discuss every passage in the Bible relating to the subject of fasting. Before doing so, consider a testimony from John Allen Chalk made a few years ago:

"I lived with an uneasy conscience for many years regarding the personal implications of Biblical teaching about fasting. The men whom God used in every age were men universally characterized by at least two things: prayer and fasting. The power of the 'new life' in Christ coupled with staggering opportunities to preach the gospel motivated me to fast. If the spiritual benefits of fasting could be described, more contemporary disciples would include this worthwhile practice in their devotional discipline. I have sensed a new and more realistic humility; I have prayed more fervently and for longer periods of time; I have experienced greater personal discipline: I have more realistically seen my human limitations; and God's sovereign control of my life has become a greater reality . . . all as a result of periodic fasts. The Biblical key to greater power in the Christian life is the willingness to totally surrender oneself to God (Romans 10:2, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Fasting is a very practical expression of my continuing, and I pray, increasing surrender to God."

Fasting has tremendous spiritual and physical practicalities. Albert Lemmons would say that fasting "cleans out the tubes." Even car radiators need flushing once in a while. Why not the temple of God? My decision, based on my study of this subject, is to practice what Jesus taught:. We shouldn't brag about fasting or offer false testimonials. We should just do it and thank God for its positive results. Those with special dietary demands should consult a doctor before any pro-longed fasting.

We've been feasting long enough. Try fasting. Obey God in this. It will be good for your mind, body and spirit. During the Great Depression the average waistline of a man in the United States was 32 inches. Today the average is 35 inches. We have some very spiritual and physical reasons to practice the worshipful act of fasting.