How Sacrifice Can Help You Grow | COTH Blog | Church on the Hill

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How Sacrifice Can Help You Grow

May 4, 2023 | Cortney Whiting

6-8 minute read time

Throughout the Old and New testaments, fasting was used as a way for people to connect with God on a deeper level when one would deny food for a period of time to pray and as an act of humility or worship. Sometimes the act was a response of repentance, other times as an act of grief. People would also fast as a way to seek God's guidance.

While fasting throughout scripture is associated with abstinence from food, the purpose of a fast is to deny oneself of food, for a time, to set themselves apart for God for a purpose. This time is an intentional and temporary way for us to remember our first love by setting aside what we think is important to pursue what is most important. In fasting, we disconnect from the most basic things of the world to pursue the kingdom of God. Many people still participate in a food fast as a part of their spiritual formation. However, there are other ways people can deny themselves of temporary worldly pleasures to focus on intentionally seeking the Lord. No matter what method you use to fast, there are several guidelines you may want to consider.

  1. The form of the fast should be abstinence. In each reference of a fast in Scripture, people gave up something in order to connect with God. The length of time varied, but the person or people gave up food or pleasure in order to humble themselves, repent, or focus on the Lord. 
  2. The fast should be temporary. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus fasted for 40 days in Scripture as rare occasions of being led by the Spirit.  However, God gives us food to nourish and sustain us. Most fasts in Scripture are temporary, lasting only for a day to a week.
  3. The purpose of fasting in spiritual growth. Throughout Scripture, people used fasting as a means of repentance (Judges 20:26; Deuteronomy 19:18-19), to petition God (Esther 4:15-16); and to worship the Lord (Luke 2:36-37; Acts 13:2-3)
  4. The fast should be prayer focused. Whenever a fast is mentioned in Scripture, it is paired with prayer. The focus is not on what the petitioner gives up, but rather, what is gained through the experience of the prayer focus.
  5. The fast should be private. While there are corporate fasts in the Bible, a fast is not to be broadcast to others. When Daniel abstained from the food of the Babylonians, he continued to participate in the training. In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus encourages participants who fast to be discreet in their practice.

While Scripture primarily references a fast as it relates to food, there are contemporary applications for these principles that can be food free. Here are a few ways you can abstain from some worldly pleasures to intentionally connect to God on a deeper level.

  1. The Unplugged Fast - In this fast, you can choose a particular type of technology to unplug from for a time. During that time, you commit to spending time in prayer and Scripture reading. Instead of relying on applications for spiritual growth, utilize a prayer journal, a Study Bible, and conversations with friends and family. Questions to ask yourself in choosing this fast is what type of technology do I have the hardest time disconnecting from? Is there a device I use every day or multiple times a day? Should I set this aside for my relationship with God?
  2. The Indulgence Fast - We all have guilty pleasures. Perhaps it is a daily Starbucks run or an afternoon nap. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the rhythm of indulgences where we place ourselves first on the smallest treasures. For this fast, dedicate to giving up that treat in order to give back to the Lord. In that space, develop a new spiritual habit such as serving others or giving to a charity. This will create room for God to cultivate a generous spirit within us.
  3. The Social Fast - Sometimes it seems that our social platforms consume our lives. According to a recent statistic, a typical user spends approximately 2.5 hours a day using social media. That equates to spending approximately 38 days out of the year living on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. In the Social Fast, people are encouraged to disengage with their social platform in order to engage with their Heavenly Father. The goal is to reflect internally about who God knows you to be and understand that your value and worth comes ultimately from Him alone. 
  4. The Habitual Fast - Have you found yourself in a rut? We are creatures of comfort and habits. A habitual fast might be an answer to help awaken you to a new season of purpose and drive. Take some time to evaluate a typical day or week. Do you notice any recurring practices that have taken priority? Perhaps there is an unhealthy habit that is keeping you from living God’s best for you. Commit to abstain from that habit for a month and anytime you crave your habit turn to God to help you in those moments. Allow God to provide you with the strength and encouragement to change your perspective.
  5. The Activity Fast - The pace of life is what sometimes keeps people separated from God. Making time to be present is the struggle. In the activity fast, the person or family simply clears out their schedule for God and each other. In essence, they recreate the Sabbath. In Exodus 20:8-11, God stated that we were to remember the Sabbath in the same manner that He rested from His labor on the seventh day. Yet, our lives continue to get more and more busy. Even Sundays can sometimes be our busiest days. The purpose of this fast is to intentionally take away activities to simply be with God. There is a difference between being with God and being at church. God’s desire is that you rest in Him and seek intimate fellowship with Him. He does not desire you to be exhausted for Him. Therefore, in this fast, we take away the barriers that bring exhaustion in order to refresh the soul.

The number of non-food fasts can be as creative as your imagination. The goal is spiritual renewal. Fasting is not meant to be legalistic or restrictive. Rather, it is a way to draw closer to God. Through prayer, we can utilize fasting as a way to better understand our ultimate need and desire for Christ alone.

At Church on the Hill, we want to equip you with resources to make space for God. Visit our Be With God content hub for more resources like this one that will help you to grow in your relationship with God.

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