Last October I was going out of town and wanted to get my hair cut at Ted’s Barbershop before leaving. Ted’s is the best place I know where you can solve all the world’s problems in thirty minutes with simple conversation about politics, religion, and sports…plus get a good haircut at a decent price! That may not be a big thing for you, but for the only man living in a house with 5 females, it’s about as essential to my inner peace as breaking something, just so I can get away in the garage for a few moments to fix it.
So as my barber, Ruben, and I were talking about our favorite topic - God - he tells me about this great book he’s been reading called, “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin. Then, with a passion that only a man gesturing with scissors next to your neck can have, he says, “You’ve got to read this!”
Now the “God thing” at that moment went far beyond my fears, since I was really wondering if they still taught barbers bloodletting. In spite of this unfounded panic (Ted & Ruben are truly trustworthy barbers), what was uncanny was that he didn’t know I had just started fasting for my retreat that morning and God had just gotten my attention.
It’s here I should pause for a moment. If you’re new to fasting, let me define it in three simple terms:
1) Fasting is not the removal of food, but it is the feasting off of God, through prayer, bible study, and meditation. It’s not something you do to lose weight, or manipulate God into giving you buckets of money, or heal your emphysema after spending your life chain smoking. Fasting is the spiritual practice of abstaining from food in order to sacrifice an essential human drive. It replaces every urge with a deep, inner step towards God that quiets the noise of our humanness – a noise that blocks out our awareness on how great He is and how much we need Him.
2) Fasting is not something a Christian has to do, but gets to do! Though fasting is never commanded, Jesus assumed his followers would want to fast in order to see great things happen! Jesus taught about it as one of the three “when you” practices of faith: “when you pray”…”when you give”…and in Matthew 6:16 "…when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men.” So fasting is something every Christian has the opportunity to do.
3) Fasting prepares us spiritually, not just physically. More than just cleaning out our bodies of impurities, fasting puts us in higher dependency upon God. When teaching about fasting Isaiah 58:11-12 says, “And the LORD will guide you continually [awareness to God’s insight], and satisfy your desire with good things [changes our desires to God’s desires], and make your bones strong [strengthens us]; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in [opens us up to a deeper love and healing].”
As to how to fast, the bible mentions two basic methods - absolute and partial. An “absolute fast” is no food, no water. Think of Moses before receiving the 10 commandments; and, Jesus in the desert before he began His earthly ministry. Both went without anything touching their mouths for 40 days! That sure makes fighting off the temptation to “supersize” look gluttonous. A “partial fast” is what Daniel did in staying away from rich foods and meat. It was an act of sacrificing his lifestyle to live purely and controllably in order to stay close to God.
Let me also add a couple of key warnings. Foremost is your personal health. If you are in poor health or have concerns about your physical ability, consult a physician. Then, spiritually speaking, don’t attempt to manipulate God by fasting. Fasting doesn’t give us a blank check from God. A pure sacrifice always draw us closer to His spiritual, emotional, and physical restoration; yet, we must accept how those results show up to be of His will.
Now, back to the barber chair. After being divinely inspired to read the aforementioned book, and to also remember that if I wanted to avoid the waving scissor demonstration next time I should talk about how bad the Raiders are, I went out and got a copy. I found more insights regarding this powerful practice and was inspired to share it with my entire church. As a result, our leadership and many of our members decided to fast together as a family during this January. As of this writing, we’ve got 9 days to go, and quite frankly, I could eat this keyboard right now, but there’s been lots of blessings - increased awareness of God, enhanced understanding of my sin, breakthroughs in forgiveness and grace in relationships, financial provisions opening up again - all worth the sacrifice.
But one true blessing I hope to see is somehow that through this story, whether you’ve fasted hundreds of times before, or you’ve never tried, that you’d join us as God’s family in seeking Him through fasting at some point this year.
And if God is behind this convincing, I’ll give Him praise that I didn’t even have to bring out the scissors to persuade you. Until next time, bon appétit!
About the Author:
As the Senior Pastor for Hope Christian Church in Fairfield, CA, Dennis has inspired many to seek spiritual fulfillment through fasting. He is still hungry, but has received many blessings - including a nice haircut.