Every January 1st churches across the country begin each new year with a series of fasts. Some of these are designed for health reasons like the Daniel Fast to eat fruits and vegetables, Daniel 1:1-21. Meanwhile, others will participate in media fasts as a way to disconnect from the ways of this world by reconnecting with God, Colossians 3:1-9. Finally, the remaining fasts are geared toward the future by forgoing food for a set period of time as a form of preparation like Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11.
Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways]. 3 Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor, Isaiah 58:2-3.
Yet, one Old Testament prophet provides a disclaimer about fasting. One of the first warnings is the self- affliction that fasting may have on your body. The apostle Paul highlights this internal struggle in Galatians 5:16-17 as your sinful nature will clash with the Holy Spirit. Over the course of my life I’ve met several Christians who refuse to fast anymore as it makes them miserable. When people become extremely hunger, it’s not uncommon for these individuals to get easily angered and annoyed.
[The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? [Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke? 7 Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house—when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard, Isaiah 58:4-8.
If you still want to go through with a January fast despite this warning, make sure you set realistic goals. Even if your church isn’t doing one, there are plenty of calendars, outlines and schedules that you can follow. In addition, try to have some sort of prayer list to concentrate on each day or week so when the urge to break your fast comes, praying will distract you from your hunger pains. Finally, if you do decide to fast, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25 who tends to alter and add a new direction for your future.
by Jay Mankus