Should Christians Fast?
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Should Christians Fast?
This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot discuss the practice of fasting. Dr. Philpot tells us that Jesus seemed to talk a good bit about fasting, even more so than the Apostles that came after Him. He mentions that on the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus says, “when you fast” not, 'if you fast' to His disciples but gives no instructions on when or how to fast. So he asks Dr. Caldwell should Christians fast, and if so, what are the circumstances?
Dr. Caldwell says that there are times when Christians will fast, but what’s interesting is, there's no place in the Scriptures where we are commanded to fast. There are times where fasting is assumed that it will happen, but no command to fast. What he thinks we find, when looking at the New Testament, is that fasting is something that always belongs to unique circumstances. These would be times of grief and sorrow, times of devotion to the Lord, seasons where we are facing special circumstances, and so especially burdened for prayer that it’s all-consuming, resulting in a lack of desire for food.
But what you don’t see presented, in these Scriptures, is fasting as a way of gaining God’s favor, getting His attention, or being done as a means of obtaining something from God. These approaches take on the aspect that we can earn something from God. Fasting is more of an expression of some extreme burden in one’s life. Dr. Caldwell shares an example from Matthew 9:14-17, where a question about fasting is put to Jesus by the disciples of John the Baptist.
Fasting Comes Out of Times of Trouble
Jesus answers with a question that suggests fasting comes out of times of trouble, concern, or mourning. Dr. Caldwell elaborates on this further so that we might have a clearer understanding of what is meant by Jesus’s answer.
Dr. Philpot then asks if we find ourselves in dire circumstances or feel led to fast because of a big decision that needs to be made, how long should we fast, and can we fast from things other than food?
Dr. Caldwell says when we do fast it will be supernaturally natural. It won’t be a question of how many days we do it. The end of our fast will come when we desire to eat. So given that it’s supernaturally natural, our desire or burden will be, overwhelmingly, to seek the face of God, and to be in His Word and before Him in prayer. It’s during this time of concentration and devotion to the Lord, that there will be things for which we have no desire or appetite.
There will be things that we put away from us, and it may very well be that these are things other than food. He shares that it’s not so much about how many days or what exactly it involves. Our fasting will be a very unique circumstance, in which we are especially burdened about something, and during this time we don’t want to eat, we want to pray. He shares a couple of examples where this has been the experience of his life.
Fasting In Private
Dr. Philpot says that Jesus gives instructions to go about fasting in private. How should we consider this? Dr. Caldwell responds that we don’t want to go about making a show of it. He states that this should be true of prayer or anything else we do in the Christian life, as we aren’t doing these things to perform. Supernatural fasting is real, it’s a heavy burden we’re under, it’s not something we want others to know or see. We fast because it's the Lord we're seeking, and if that’s not our reason, it’s not sincere and it’s not real.
Lastly, Dr. Philpot shares that he knows of people who have fasted for 40 days using Jesus’ example in the wilderness as their motivation. He asks Dr. Caldwell, what would he say about this sort of thing, or what about the classic tradition of the liturgical calendar which calls for a Lenten fast of 40 or so days? Dr. Caldwell says that he doesn’t think anyone is sinning if they choose to fast. But we ought to distinguish between our fasting.
Are we fasting for a physical benefit? Or has it come about supernaturally in response to something going on in our lives? To reiterate, he believes the fasting in the New Testament speaks of involves special circumstances, with special burdens. In this type of fasting, we are devoted to prayer, the study of God’s Word, and seeking the face of God, and as a result, we are not hungry.
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The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
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