From January 7-27, Riverwood will be doing “21 Days of Fasting & Prayer” as a church family. We’ll be praying for Riverwood, for our nation, for our community, for one another, and for personal spiritual growth in 2018. To make our weekly blog post a part of this spiritual campaign, we’ll be looking at Isaiah 58 and the topic of fasting. So let’s learn together as we seek Jesus through the spiritual discipline of fasting!

by Erin Bird

About two and a half years ago, during Lent, I overheard a conversation where a gal was sharing what she had given up as part of Lent. I can’t recall from what she was fasting (I think it might have been chocolate or coffee), but her face and voice revealed she was doing awful, hating every moment of her fast.

And that’s when she said, “I sure hope this makes God happy, because I’m miserable!”

Sometimes, we view fasting like this gal. We see God as some drill sergeant at Basic Training yelling in our face to drop and give him 40 days of no food, and if we complete it, He’ll be happy with us. But if we fail, we run the risk of facing His wrath.

But that’s NOT the reason we are to fast! Fasting isn’t about…

  • miserably giving up something to “make God happy,”
  • trying to get God to do what we want,
  • or trying to prove to others that we are spiritual.

Over the next few weeks here on the blog, as part of our “21 Days of Fasting and Prayer,” we are going to look at some of the benefits of fasting by working through Isaiah 58. And what we are going to see through this Old Testament chapter is that…

  • fasting changes us, not God (Jan 11)
  • fasting should help others (Jan 18)
  • and fasting is an act of worship (Jan 25).

But before we get to any of that, we need to talk about the primary purpose to fasting.

The Ultimate Benefit

Years ago, I read a book about fasting called Starving Jesus. One of the authors shared a personal story about the reason he decided to fast from food for the first time in his life. The reason? Lose weight. The fast worked – he lost weight. But after his fast, he realized weight loss was the wrong “benefit.” He discovered, through his sacrifice of food, a greater benefit, a better goal than just shedding a few pounds. He discovered the ultimate benefit is Jesus.

In our three-week series in Isaiah 58, we are going to see some benefits that come as a result of fasting. But each of these benefits ultimately points us to Christ. In other words, in the midst of our fasting, we need to remember the biggest “benefit” you get from fasting is God Himself.

Here’s why this is important: We live in a physical world, with physical eyes. It is incredibly easy to allow our hearts and minds to be filled with the things of this world. Our schedules, our stress, our possessions, our hobbies, our work goals, and more fill our thoughts in our quiet moments. Seeking Jesus while fasting gives us a continual reminder that there is something more valuable than all these things. Fasting can create clarity, clearing up our spiritual vision to see Jesus. And as we see Jesus clearer, we will become more like Him, enabling us to live out the three things we are going to talk about over the coming weeks.

So I invite you to join me on this 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer journey. I encourage you to find at least one thing that God is calling you to give up for 21 days to put your focus on that which is of greater value. Let’s pursue Jesus together!