Fasting is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In the Old Testament it often expressed grief or humbling oneself before God. In the New Testament it was a means to grow closer to God. In Matthew 4:1-2, Jesus went to the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. Throughout the New Testament, fasting and prayer are often mentioned together. In Acts 13:3, they fasted and prayed. Following the example of Jesus and the early church believers, we too can draw near to God while fasting.
Fasting is essentially giving up food (or something else) for a period of time, in order to focus your thoughts on God. One of the other by-products is weight loss – an increasing motivation for Christians today.
Your body naturally burns around 2,000 calories a day, so if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will naturally lose weight.
We all know we need to exercise to maintain good all round health; maintaining good health doesn’t necessarily mean continuous exercising. Most weight loss comes from food proportions and meal choices. Experts say that 80 percent of weight loss is due to what you put into your mouth. If you have ever run on a treadmill at the gym, you will know it’s much easier to keep 500 calories out of your mouth (equivalent of two Snickers chocolate bars or a McDonald’s Big Mac) than to burn it over 45 minutes running.
From personal experience, the Daniel fast (similar to a vegan diet) is a great way to develop self-control. It has been said that transformational change can be achieved by doing one new thing consistently every day.
Proverbs 25:28 says: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” Ironically, that verse comes immediately after verse 27: “It is not good to eat much honey…” One of the qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit in your life is self-control (Galatians 5:23). Living a disciplined life one day at a time is the key principle for any spiritual discipline.
Like your weight, you didn’t gain a bad habit overnight, so don’t expect your weight to disappear overnight. Accept the process; realistic expectations will help you stay motivated. It’s commonly held that it takes a month for a new habit to form, but then it becomes the new natural. Your brain is rewired; new mental pathways are carved out. Getting on track for the first few weeks can be painful but, once you cross that invisible line, the cravings tend to drop off.
The hardest part of instilling a new personal discipline is staying motivated. The Bible says to bring ‘every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: ‘your body is a temple’. Do you not know that ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s’ (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
The context is about sexual immorality, but there are some principles that have a broad application:
- One, you are the manager of your body, not the owner. You are looking after God’s property, and He calls the shots. Not exercising or eating poorly is `self-harm’ -literally running God’s property into the ground.
- Two, you may notice in this passage that it says you were ‘bought at a price’. This was written in the first century, using the language of purchasing a slave. While we were a slave to sin, Jesus Christ suffered and died for sinners on the cross, paying the price for our freedom in His own blood.
- Third, our bodies are to glorify God. In passionate appreciation, like Jesus at Gethsemane, we need to cry “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Paul was “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He declared, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), and “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). His life wasn’t his own. He joyfully denied his own passions and pleasures, so that he could please the One who had saved him. Scripture says: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Just ask yourself if what you are doing truly honours God. It’s a choice to have balance and moderation, so that you can offer your health and wellbeing to God as a sacrifice of worship.
Rev Stephen Brooks