My personal journey with fasting
BY AL EARLEY
Jesus never demanded that his followers should fast. In the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded to fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32). Since all of Jesus’ disciples were Jewish, it was more noteworthy that they didn’t fast when he was with them (Matthew 9:14-17).
I remember when I first started thinking about fasting that there were many parts of scripture about fasting, but few people actually did it. Since I have a bit of a competitive streak I started trying to learn to fast so I could have a better faith than anyone else around me. Granted, Jesus clearly teaches against this motivation for fasting when he says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:16). Still, it made me feel superior to others, and I liked that feeling.
I decided to do a cracker and water fast for 24 hours. I did not set aside any extra time for prayer. I wanted everyone to know I was fasting like the hypocrites Jesus spoke of, and I got no reward from God as Jesus said would happen. I was going to do this for six weeks, but quit after three. I tried it a few more times over the years, and then quit altogether.
When God began leading me to a new church back in 1997 I wanted to make sure I did what God wanted. An older minister fasted regularly, and did so without drawing attention to himself. So, I asked him to mentor me. That turned out to be a great decision. He gave me a book called Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer Townes that taught me so much about fasting. Then my friend and I began a three-day juice and tea fast together. God spoke to me during that fast, and extended the fast to 17 days. He took away all hunger during that time, and blessed me with many spiritual insights I would need as the minister at LaGrange Presbyterian Church. It was the most intense and rewarding time of my spiritual life.
I did a very difficult 40-day juice fast a few years later to try to convince God to do something I desperately wanted. God did not call me to do the fast, he did not help me endure the fast, and at the end of the fast I heard God whisper to my soul, “I am not impressed with your sacrifice. There are people all over the world that endure far worse than you have just done.” These may seem like harsh words from God, but I knew I was fasting for selfish reasons, and what I wanted was not the will of God. I needed to be corrected.
My current discipline of fasting is a juice fast after lunch Tuesday to lunch Wednesday, almost every week. God has not called me to do this, but God has blessed me richly through it. I don’t have an agenda when I fast. God likes that. While fasting I regularly pray, “I make this small sacrifice for you to remind me of the great sacrifice you have made for me.” That is the greatest reward of all, because I am reminded in a very real way, every week, what a precious Savior Jesus Christ is.
Through the years this regular fast has helped me win victories over great temptations, deepened my prayer life beyond my wildest imagination, and helped me walk in the will of God far more obediently, just to name a few things. (Note: I don’t fast for this reason, but one of the healthy side benefits is that it has helped me keep my weight at a very healthy level!).
There are times that the schedule gets crazy, and I have to fast during a different time period, or take a week off. I hope no one can ever tell when or if I am fasting. I hope I always have the discipline to fast, and let God shape me through those fasts. When I look back over the years of fasting God has used these simple fasts to change me in so many wonderful ways, and I would never want to go back to being the person I was.
What part of my experience do you most resonate with? Are you going to try to have a serious fast again? When? With whom? For what purpose? To God be the Glory!
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.com.