When Jesus dismantled His critics’ understanding of religious rituals, His purpose was not to dismiss the rituals but to reclaim them for God, and for His followers’ good. Resting, giving, praying and fasting were all changed from duties to opportunities.
As Lent starts today, here are some suggestions for making the most of fasting:
0. If you’ve got no idea what I mean by “fasting”, this article and this talk might be helpful.
1. Fasting the right way pleases God and blesses you. That’s the opportunity on offer here, not bragging rights, a more powerful negotiating position, or holy points. Christians have Christ’s perfection credited to their account and have been adopted into His family, so impressing God is irrelevant.
2. Don’t bother telling others, unless you run the risk of seeming rude by abstaining from something. God knows what you’re doing, who else’s applause are you looking for?
3. Remember what matters most to God. The argument between God and His people in Isaiah 58 shows us what He’s looking for.
4. Do and don’t use it as a lifestyle choice. Lent can become a second chance for your new year’s resolutions but it’s not really about self-improvement. However, you might learn over the next forty days that something which you thought was important, isn’t. That’s a great bonus!
5. Thank God for all He gives you. Fasting can help us to realise how blessed we are. It’s like “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” but better.
6. Use the absence to get closer to God. Setting something aside should create a space in your life which you can fill with God instead, that’s the point. If you’re fasting because it’s Lent, take time to read, think and pray about the Easter story in particular. A daily reading plan such as "Lent for Everyone" by Tom Wright could be just what you’re looking for.