“Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. our fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? – Isaiah 58:3-7.

Over the last few years we have conducted a fast in January to start the new year. Let me remind you why you should fast, and what the practice is. There are so many misconceptions about fasting, I first want to clarify what biblical fasting is not. Fasting is not merely going without food for a period of time. That is dieting. Nor is fasting something done only by fanatics. Fasting is not to be done only by religious monks or by pastors or religious leaders on special occasions. Stated simply, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose and is intended to build an intimacy with God.   

There are three reasons starting the year with a fast is a good practice. First, by doing so, you set the course for the rest of the year. Just as beginning your day seeking God sets the course for the rest of the day and covers anything that may happen, the same is true of beginning the year with a fast. You set the course for the entire year by what you do with those first few days of each new year. You can carry that even further to give God the first part of every day, the first day of every week, the first portion of every dollar and the first consideration in every decision.

Second, blessings will happen for you and your family throughout the year because you fasted in January. Even in April, June and August and into November when you have Thanksgiving goodies on your mind, blessings will still be finding their way to you because of your sacrifice to the Lord at the beginning of the year.

Thirdly, when you fast at the beginning of the year and seek God, you release the principle found in Matthew 6:33: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.’” If you seek Him first in the year, get ready for all these “things” to be added to your life. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the factors that keep followers of Jesus from fasting?
  2. What is the difference between abstaining and fasting?
  3. Under what circumstances might fasting be a helpful spiritual discipline for you?
  4. How has this devotional changed your views on fasting?