Fasting and discipline
Generally speaking, 'fasting' in a faith context involves the voluntary self-deprivation of food accompanied by prayers and supplications to God.
Besides its large health benefits, fasting brings one crucial element:
You see my friend, food is considered as one of the most basic needs for our bodies. We need food as a source of physical energy and physical longevity.
From the moment we are born, our bodies are wired to seek food for self-sustainability. Just look at babies, they develop a natural instinct to open their mouths in order to swallow food or natural milk from their mothers. This is just the way we were wired.
One question comes to mind:
'If food is a natural need for our bodies, why is it then necessary for believers to fast from time to time?'
There are many good reasons I could detail but in this post I will focus on one reason: 'discipline'
To understand the benefit of discipline, I think it is necessary that we travel in 'Biblical memory lane' within the book of Genesis.
In Genesis 2, God told Adam that he was free to eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But in Genesis 3, Adam and his wife eat of the tree in spite of having all the trees of the world for themselves and in spite of the death warning given by God. They could not rise above the impulse of their bodies craving for what was forbidden. As a consequence, not only do they die but they are also expelled from their position of power.
Centuries later, in Genesis 25, a guy called Esau sells his birthright for... a bowl of red stew!!!
For those who don't really understand the gravity of Esau'sale, I will give a short explainer:
*In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham with a great promise mentioned in Genesis 12: 2-3. The promise was coming as a supernatural endowment of prosperity and power. In Genesis 25:5, Abraham gave all he had to Isaac but to his other children, he gave gifts. When the Bible refers to 'all that Abraham had', It not only refers to material possessions but also to the Blessing of God spoken in Genesis 12:2-3.
*Later, Isaac gives birth to two boys: Esau, the firstborn and Jacob. Isaac had a preference for Esau (since he was a hunter) and therefore the logical scenario would have been for the firstborn to inherit the blessing of Genesis 12:2-3 as his first born right.
But watch what happens in Genesis 25:29-34:
'Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom. Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Esau sold his birthright for bread and lentil stew...the rest is history.
What if he would have thought of delaying the need to feed his craving by cooking his own meal? He would have probably eaten a bit later and he could have kept his birthright.
You see, in Genesis 25:32, Esau says; “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”
This is the exact emotion that the body creates when under food starvation. But notice that the Bible never said that Esau went hungry for days. The hunger he experienced was a phase of his day as he was coming from his hunting activities But he could not go into voluntary starvation for a few more moments until he finds an alternative against Jacob's proposal.
Just like in the case of Esau, on several occasions, we will be facing key moments where our natural flesh and the devil will present solutions that will soothe our natural cravings. However, these 'solutions' will take us out of our destinies and position of power.
One of the key elements to help us not fall into those traps is by exercising ourselves with voluntary physical starvation also called 'fasting'.
The practice of fasting teaches us that we can still live without food and many other basic physical needs. The practice of fasting also prepares us for future decisive moments where we will have to say 'No' to natural cravings that could disqualify us from our destinies.
If you have never fasted in your life as a believer, I encourage you to practice fasting whether in group or alone. I wish I could talk more about the other great benefits of fasting but I can definitely confirm this:
'By fasting, you are weakening the power of your flesh and you are strengthening the discipline to remain on course in your destiny against the cravings that could disqualify you.