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Interlude: The Unexpected Assistant of Fasting

This entry is part 3 of 54 in the series

"One Thing Have I Desired"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

While discussing loving God in creation, it might seem contradictory to speak of the abstinence that fasting calls to mind. However, fasting is not merely an exercise in self-control. While fasting requires self-control, and may even strengthen it, if that’s all we’re doing when we fast, then it can be a temptation for the flesh to boast (Colossians 2:23). Fasting is not an act of spiritual significance on its own. Apart from communing prayer, fasting is simply not eating. Fasting carries no spiritual benefit if divorced from prayer. When united with prayer, fasting is a mighty tool for communing with God in creation. Three ways fasting assists us can be readily seen.

Put simply, fasting focuses us on communion with God while in creation. Fasting brings the postures of death and resurrection into bold relief, lest the deep and sweet pleasures of creation obscure the realities of sin, the curse, and the Cross. Since we are embodied beings, our spiritual focus is aided by our bodily state. What we do with our bodies greatly affects our souls. Fasting is a very physical, practical matter, that forces spiritual matters into the everyday routine of our lives.

The normal state is to eat and drink with thanksgiving. When we fast, we interrupt what is normal to give a very specific focus to our prayers. First, the weakened state we find ourselves in reminds us of our dependence upon God. Our embodied spirits feel dependence, and gratitude. Fasting tells our embodied spirits that man does not live by bread alone.

The self-denial of the pleasure of food reminds us that we desire God and his will more than an ordinary, worldly life. Food is good, and eating is good, and the body is a temple. But when we periodically deny ourselves these lawful pleasures, we proclaim that we love something more than simply eating, drinking and living like the unsaved. It tells our embodied spirits that we will bring the body under subjection for spiritual pursuits, that all things of of God and through God and for God. (1 Cor 9:27).

The self-control we exercise reminds us that we can be, by the Spirit’s power, spiritually disciplined. We need not be spiritually flabby, apathetic, lukewarm or casual. Rather, through the drastic step of not eating, we show that we are determined to see God’s blessing and power over our lives and church. We can, by the power of the Spirit, bring the Cross to our desires, and allow the sweetness of his beauty to be seen.

Consecration: Thoughtful Examination of Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line1 has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psa 19:1-6)

As we seek to love all things for God’s sake, we will encounter many things which call for us to examine them, so as to consecrate them.

Why did God make the sky and the stars and the sun? Partly to reveal who he is. The heavens show who God is by showing what he has made. Creation communicates, teaches, and displays truth about God. Creation is not just stuff to be used, it is a message to be understood.

The Bible often sends us back to creation to teach us. Go to the ant, it tells us, to teach about diligence. Consider the lilies, Jesus tells us, to teach about God’s provision. God fills his Word with analogies from creation to teach us about Himself. He compares himself to a lion, a lamb, the sun, a rock, water, bread, a vine, a father, a son, a bridegroom, an eagle, a shepherd, a fortress, and a shield, to name just a few. He compares salvation to birth, to a court case, to legal adoption, to a financial transaction, and to release from slavery. He compares believers to organs in the body, branches, ambassadors, citizens, a loaf, set-apart vessels, jars of clay, stones, a Temple, pilgrims, sheep. All these things are part of the created order. In fact, you can’t read more than a few paragraphs of Scripture without seeing how God uses creation to reveal truth.

Creation is a set of symbols, analogies and pictures of God. It’s important to understand that when God made the world, he did not think of its communicative or didactic power as an afterthought, or useful by-product. Before God created, he designed animals, and mountains, and fire, and gold, and wind, and snow, and hard and soft, and sweet and bitter, and hot and cold, and rough and smooth, and fragrant and putrid, and bright and dark and loud and soft because he wanted it all to teach.

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David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.

2 Responses to Interlude: The Unexpected Assistant of Fasting

  1. “Fasting carries no spiritual benefit if divorced from prayer.”

    Doesn’t the form of fasting say anything? If all forms communicate, what message does fasting send–apart from prayer?

    Fasting, by itself, seems often to be connected in Scripture with humility and correctly viewing ourselves. Kind of like the relation between music and lyrics in singing, both can speak by themselves.

  2. It is true that fasting’s form has a message of its own apart from other kinds of prayer. The question is, is there such a thing as prayerless fasting? Does the Bible ever show fasting as merely abstention from food for no purpose other than itself? I suggest it does not, and that such fasting is ultimately an exercise in will-worship. Fasting is a form of ‘without ceasing’ prayer, and when done thusly, it certainly has its own message.

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