"Fasting, like the gospel, isn’t for the self-sufficient and those who feel they have it all together. It’s for the poor in spirit. It’s for those who mourn. For the meek. For those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."
- David Mathis, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
This week we are going to be talking about fasting. And, as a group, you will have an opportunity to do a fast together.
I want to ask that you send out a message prior to your group, well in advance. To encourage your group. To let them know that we will be practicing this together this week. And to give them some direction on what that looks like. As well, more importantly, to provide the purpose for fasting. See the purposes for fasting below.
We are asking that participants within our groups, and yourselves, to fast for 12-24 hours prior to your gathering. This could be one meal. This could be fasting from two meals. If someone has dietary issues or the need to eat certain foods throughout the day, they could fast from technology or from something else. We also want to ask that people not fast if they are unable to identify a purpose. Fasting without biblical purpose is worldly and is not God's will for us. In addition, if someone is not ready to participate, that's ok. Our pursuit of these disciples should be from delight rather than duty.
The goal of this exercise is for us to grow in our need and hunger for God. That's most important. To strengthen and sharpen our affections toward Him and to enrich our joy in Christ. That's what we want our people. For ourselves. Then, in your gatherings, break the fast together by sharing a meal and your experiences with one another.
Fasting can be abstinence from other things. But, if you are able, we ask that this be a fast specifically from food. See page 7 for examples of fasting that are most common. Also, see page 8 for some guidelines we recommend when fasting from food. It is suggested to drink lots of fluids when abstaining from food.
As Christians, we fast not without intention. Rather, we are to fast with a spiritual purpose. In fasting, we are trading dependence upon something physical for God alone.
According to Donald S. Whitney, fasting's spiritual purposes include:
- Strengthening prayer (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:13; Acts 13:3)
- Seeking God's guidance (Judg. 20:26; Acts 14:23)
- Expressing grief (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:11-12)
- Seeking deliverance or protection (2 Chron. 20:3-4; Ezra 8:21-23)
- Expressing repentance and returning to God (1 Sam. 7:6; Jon. 3:5-8)
- Humbling oneself before God (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ps. 35:13)
- Expressing concern for the work of God (Neh. 1:3-4; Dan. 9:3)
- Ministering to the needs of others (Isa. 58:3-7)
- Overcoming temptation and dedicating yourself to God (Mat. 4:1-11)
- Expressing love and worship to God (Luke 2:37)
Here is a guideline for your gatherings:
• VISION CAST - Give the group a vision for the activity before the gathering.
• ACTIVITY - The plan for this week is to fast together prior to meeting. Then meet and break the fast over a meal.
• DEBRIEF - After the meal share your experiences together as a large group. Discuss how you could, or plan to, integrate fasting with spiritual purpose into your life. Encourage one another and end the time in prayer for each other.
Coming up next week: we will be studying God's intention and purpose for the Sabbath.
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Pastor Bubba answers some questions we have received about the references and content.
Week 5 Workbook
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