1 In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” 3 Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.
4 Being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they came down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 Arriving in Salamis, they proclaimed God’s message in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their assistant. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came across a sorcerer, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and desired to hear God’s message. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (this is the meaning of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Then Saul —also called Paul —filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at the sorcerer 10 and said, “You son of the Devil, full of all deceit and all fraud, enemy of all righteousness! Won’t you ever stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord? 11 Now, look! The Lord’s hand is against you. You are going to be blind, and will not see the sun for a time.” Suddenly a mist and darkness fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul, seeing what happened, believed and was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Sometimes fasting is to be done as a means of simply expressing love and devotion to God. It’s not always due to dire circumstances or for some weighty circumstance in your life. In this passage from the book of Acts, we see that several men of God were worshipping and fasting, which resulted in the ordination of Barnabas and Saul to be sent off to do the work of the Lord.
The rest of this week we’ll look at some reasons for fasting that relate to some aspect of seeking God’s will. But today we see that fasting can be done just to find our greatest joy in who the Lord is and what He does in our lives. Doing so is a way of showing that we love God more than we love food.
Rather than focusing our minds on food, we should focus on God. Much like prayer—which, by the way, is always associated with the practice of fasting—we need to acknowledge that fasting does not always result in an answer or a conclusion we want or think we need or deserve. The blessing that results is due to our having obeyed God in His command, not in getting a result we expect.
When I decided to embark on my most recent fast (which I must confess is the only significant fast I’ve ever experienced, that is, more than one day or one meal at a time), I was in the middle of a potentially life-changing decision process. Interestingly, the decision was not mine to make, but the result of the decision would have a tremendous impact on my life and ministry.
The 10-day juice fast I experienced was intended to simply prepare my heart and mind for the decision that was to come. I fought the temptation to pray for the result I wanted, but my true desire was to praise God for whatever the result would be, and, more specifically, to prepare my heart for finding joy in that result, regardless of the outcome. The opportunity to move my focus from myself to God was a critical part of the process.
I should also point out that, much like the salvation experience, there should be no expectation of a glorious or emotionally-charged feeling during or after a fast. Some may have such an experience, but I believe most of us, like myself, will “feel” only the satisfaction of knowing we’ve been obedient to God’s Word, have done our best to seek His face, and have been sensitive to His leading and direction that comes as a result of the intentional focus on Him and Him alone.
As an expression of worship and seeking the Lord:
- Look for an opportunity to fast, briefly or for an extended period, purely as an expression of worship and gratitude to God.
- When facing a circumstance for which you have no control or influence, fast as a way to say to God, “I trust You fully as the Lord and Master of my life.”
- Consider a series of fasts in which you abstain from food just until you’ve had your daily Bible intake and prayer.
- Identify an upcoming meal you can skip, and spend that time in praise and adoration to God. It’s a simple way to experience a fast for the first time.