Fasting for Impact
I was at a hair salon this week—notice my short hair? The lady that cut my hair was a little chatty. After realizing that she is a Christian, I asked her how she planned to observe the Lent. She said, “I don’t know what to give up this time. I haven’t decided yet.” Her answer made me wonder where this tradition of giving up something came from because nowhere in the Bible indicates that we must give up something for Lent.
In America, we treat Lent like a New Year resolution. It’s like a mini New Year resolution because it’s only for forty days. Many people merely think about making themselves a little better by giving up sugar, smoking, or soda, in these 40 days and then go back to normal.
However, when the Bible talks about fasting it’s “serious fasting,” and it’s not merely giving up some puny bad habits. Jesus didn’t spend 40-days giving up chewing gums. The Bible says he ate nothing for 40 days. That’s a serious undertaking.
One of the questions I always had about Jesus’ 40 days of fasting is, “Can a man really fast for 40 days? Can a human being still be alive without food for 40 days?” Some commentators say Jesus is able to fast for 40 days because he is divine. I wasn’t satisfied with that kind of answers because I think it’s a lazy answer, or an easy way out.
We all know that Jesus is fully God and fully human, but he doesn’t use or abuse his divine power for his own benefit. In fact, the devil tempted him to use his power for a quick fix, but he refused. So, saying that Jesus able to fast for 40 days because he was divine is not the right answer.
The Bible says that “he was famished” which tells us that he was just like us, real human beings, who could get hungry after a period of fasting. So, my question remains, did he really fast for 40 days?
Other commentators said that the 40 days was symbolic. It’s just to symbolize that he went through a full journey of fasting. It identified him with the Israelites in Exodus that took them 40 years wandering in the wilderness. I was still not quite satisfied with this answer either because it still does not answer the question I have regarding fasting.
However, because of today’s information superhighway, we can easily access the available scientific data from decades of research done on nutrition and fasting. From the scientific data, I have learned that a person with an average height and weight can safely fast for about 40 days with a great deal of health benefits. After 40 days, it becomes dangerous. It’s quite fascinating to learn about this and many other scientific discoveries about fasting.
However, here’s a disclaimer: don’t try it at home without consulting your doctor. We are here to explore the spiritual significant of it. I have discovered that fasting is like muscle toning, you can’t suddenly decide to fast for long term without trying short terms. Jesus would have done many short-term fasts since he was young and it his tradition. So, by this time, he is well practiced for the maximum length of fasting.
Fasting is naturally an interesting subject for Christians because it has been practiced for thousands of years around the world. In fact, it’s a practice of all major religions. The Buddhists fast because they believe food generates dullness. Constant eating produces stupidity and hinders enlightenment.
If we carefully look at Jesus’ 40 days of fasting, he wasn’t giving up something, he was gearing up for something. The outcome of his fasting was having a clear vision, a strong focus, and a pure confidence. That’s what he needed to make the maximum impact with his life to liberate this world from the slavery of sin and suffering.
Let’s look at the purpose and significance of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting so that we can use this knowledge to observe this Lent effectively to bring glory to God.
1 – Fast for Vision
1 – Fast for Vision
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” (v. 3-4).
Luke’s version of this story only has a partial quotation, “One does not live by bread alone.” In Matthew’s version it says, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4). It’s quoted from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 8:3. It’s part of Moses’ speech talking about how God would lead them to the promised land. God’s word gives us a vision to manifest in life.
Why did Jesus quote this verse? “One does not live by bread alone” doesn’t sound like we should give up bread, but it sounds more like we should eat bread and God’s word as well. So, why is Jesus quoting this to justify his fasting?
The scientific research has proven that food creates brain fog and makes us dull, just as the Buddhists say that food generates stupidity and hinders enlightenment.
Now science has proven that fasting produce mental clarity and sharpness. When you have mental clarity, you understand God’s word better and easier. So, Jesus is saying, since we don’t live on bread alone but by every word of God, in order for me to understand God’s word, I must refrain from bread. In order to eat the spiritual food, I must refrain from physical food because the latter prevents the former.
The research shows that after 3 days of fasting, our body enters into ketosis, which means our body begins to burn fat as fuel, as apposed to using sugar as fuel. After 3 days of fasting the sugar in our body is used up. Our body begins to switch to another source of energy stored in our body. That’s fat and we have plenty—we have enough for about 40 days.
Unlike burning sugar that makes us drowsy and dull, burning fat as fuel is like driving an electric car. It’s clean energy. Good for the environment of our body. That’s why we become energized and our brain become sharp. It allows our mind to receive God’s word and understand the scripture easier and we receive a vision for life.
Again, an average person can stay in this state of mental clarity for 40 days. By about 40 days, we use up our fat storage. At this time the body has to use muscle, or protein, as fuel. Losing muscle is a very dangerous situation. So, your body will scream for food. That’s why Jesus was famished. If he doesn’t eat now, his body will begin to burn the muscles and it’s unhealthy.
The devil chose this critical moment to tempt Jesus. Now you realize how evil the devil is. The devil knows the perfect timing. He will tempt us at the weakest moment. So, be careful. The good news is, Jesus didn’t surrender. He has God’s word in him and a clear vision in him. We should also fast for vision so that we won’t become complacent in our current situation.
2 – Fast for Focus
2 – Fast for Focus
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” (v. 5-8).
There are a lot of distractions in this word that lure us from fulfilling our purpose in life. Everything is vying for our worship. We are tempted to worship procession, prestige, and power. We give up our best time and energy for money, sex, and fame.
Fasting allows us to focus on the main thing. As Stephen Covey said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” If we can keep the main thing the main thing, we can have an effective life and fulfillment.
Fasting allows us to lose worldly desires. It allows us to keep the main thing the main thing. The researches show that after about 5 days of fasting, you enter into a state of euphoria. They could only us a scientific word to explain this special state of mind, but it’s in the state of euphoria that we experience the joy of oneness with God. It’s like the blissful state that Joseph Campbell talked about—“follow your bliss!”
When you are in this state, nothing can lure you away from God. You will worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.
3 – Fast for Confidence
3 – Fast for Confidence
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (v. 9-12)
One of the destructions in life is when we want to prove ourselves. Anyone that has to prove themself is lack of confidence. Confidence is important for us to enjoy life and make an impact with our lives.
Now, the devil tempted Jesus to prove himself to the world. The temple in Jerusalem is the most crowded area and if Jesus would jump from the pinnacle of the temple, many people will see him being lifted up by the angles, which would have proved that he is the son of God.
However, Jesus didn’t have the ego to prove himself. He knows who he is. He doesn’t need to test God to find out whether God loves him. He is confident that God loves him. So, he said, quoting the scripture, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Lent is a good season for us to prepare for the maximum impact, individually or as a congregation. So, let us:
1. Fast for Vision
2. Fast for Focus
3. Fast for Confidence
Until we meet again, keep cultivating a fruitful life because faith without fruit is futile. May God bless all of you. Amen!