I remember the very first time I participated in a community fast. It was a five-day yearly tradition at my youth church and we had the option of eating one meal a day or just drinking fluids for the entire duration of the fast. Being ambitious, of course, I only took liquids for the duration. In preparation for the fast, I found myself more anxious and scared, rather than excited about the things God was going to reveal to me. Not anxious because of the fear of having my prayers and requests answered or for the things God was going to reveal but more fearful and scared of one thing I knew I couldn’t handle – Hunger.
As a Filipino, we take great delight and pride in food and eating. It’s more than just a necessity to live for us – it’s something we rejoice in as a community. But according to the Bible, fasting isn’t optional. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says, When you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Fasting isn’t a right of passage or a patch you put on when you just want to feel extra Christian. Just like prayer and devotion, fasting is a necessity to live along the path of righteousness. But sometimes, when fasting, we find ourselves more focused on the feeling of hunger rather than the glory and power of God.
If we can’t control our physical appetite, what more when it comes to our sinful nature? God commands us to fast to show us self-control in preparation for hardships. We fast to give up the things we so strongly desire and hope for so that we don’t rely on our own human strength but so that we fully rely on the almighty strength of God. Jesus was both God and man during His time on earth, and as a man, He still had to rely on God. Jesus fasted before He preached, before He healed or performed miracles, and even before He called any of His disciples. When Jesus successfully completed His fast, only then He knew He was ready for any spiritual battle ahead of Him.
Fasting seems to have become a lost practice and does not seem as relevant in the modern world, but as long as there are things that can so easily overshadow Christ and draw Him out, there will be a great spiritual need for fasting. As Christians, we should follow Jesus’ lead, even when it comes to fasting. If fasting was so important to Jesus and His ministry on earth, it should be just as important to us.