On March the 6th sees the start of a six week period leading up to Easter called Lent. Over this period, Bethel Connect Groups will explore and reflect on the connection between Psalm 23 ‘The Shepherd’s Psalm’ – and Jesus as the Good Shepherd in John’s Gospel. The events around Easter inevitably lead us to reflect on how God can turn darkness into light.
If you’re not familiar with what Lent is:
Christians have celebrated Lent for nearly 2,000 years as a way to commemorate Jesus’ death and burial before celebrating His resurrection. One of the main ways people celebrate Lent is through fasting, the practice of abstaining from something you enjoy for a set amount of time.
So why not fast
Fasting is not something we do to make God love us more. No action or attitude can change the depth of Jesus’s love for us, so we shouldn’t try to use spiritual disciplines to gain God’s approval. Neither should we use fasting to gain other people’s approval. God wants our commitment to Him. He doesn’t want an intimate spiritual practice like fasting to become an external show of religious pride ( Matthew 6:17-18)
Three Reasons to Fast
The Bible mentions fasting throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus fasted for 40 days ( Matthew 4:1-4).Nehemiah fasted when he asked for God’s forgiveness and direction (Nehemiah 1:4) (Daniel, Ezra, Moses, the people of Israel, the early Church, and many more fasted (Daniel 9:3, Ezra 8:23, Judges 20:26, Acts 13:2-3).Fasting helps us practice saying “no” to our desires and saying “yes” to Jesus.
Looking at the Bible’s examples, here are three good reasons to start a fast:
1. To Connect with God
In the Bible, fasting is a way to grow a deeper connection with God. It’s a way we show our submission to Jesus and repent for things we’ve done (Joel 2:12-13). Fasting is almost always paired with praying because when we give something up for a set time, we can exchange the time spent preparing a meal and eating with time spent talking and listening to Jesus.
2. To Focus on God
Fasting is about remembering that God comes first in our lives. It helps us practice saying “no” to our desires and saying “yes” to Jesus. When we give something up for Lent, we are more focused on God than things that may distract us. Rather than focusing on a craving for food, we should hunger and thirst for what’s good and true (Matthew 5:6).
3. To Depend on God
Fasting is an opportunity to place complete dependence on God. We have the luxuries of running water, easy access to food, and so much more. We can intentionally step away from something we regularly enjoy to remind ourselves that Jesus provides for all our needs. God is a generous God, and fasting is one way to remember how good He is to us (Philippians 4:19).
Jesus gave Himself to save us from our sin. We can give up a luxury for a set time to remember God’s goodness to us. As we near Easter, let’s remember to set our focus on Jesus and let go of everything that distracts us from Him.
Let’s use the time of Lent to go deeper.