I check my phone approximately [an embarrassing number] times a day. I scroll through all my social media when I wake up before I get out of bed. I look for new posts, comments, or likes. I look at it between classes, in class, hanging out with friends, during breaks, during study breaks, during study time, while watching TV, while eating, while looking busy, while avoiding awkward conversations, while falling asleep. I have to make a conscious effort not to check it during church or class or meals with friends. And it’s tough. I’m not proud of it, but I am addicted to my phone.
Jesus commands us to fast. His remarks on fasting in Matthew 6:16-18 begin with “when you fast.” Not if. When. Instructions on fasting immediately follow instructions on prayer. It is assumed we will do it. Maybe the church does a great job of “not making it obvious to others that you are fasting,” as Jesus taught, or maybe we just don’t fast like we need to. I know I don’t.
I’ve done a few “fasting” periods in my life from social media, having realized long ago my obsession. Fasting from social media clears my mind from consuming thoughts of updates and helped re-calibrate me to prayer and a more heavenly focus. For the first few days returning from a fast, my social media button seems to have been reset, but I slowly slide back into it. Clearly this means I’m not doing it enough.
Fasting as mentioned in Scripture is always regarding from food, but I believe fasting can begin with taking a break from whatever it is that controls you and consumes your thoughts so much that you are distracted from Christ: school (yes, school), work, relationships, exercise, healthy eating, sports, Netflix, social media, friends, money, movies, whatever. Did you notice that most, if not all, of these things are not inherently evil? Most idols begin that way – initially positive, appealing, and sometimes promising for ministry to others, but the devil takes a foothold wherever he can. He stealthily, slowly turns positive relationships into unhealthy ones, honoring your temple through exercise to an excessive focus on appearances, pursuing means of self-support and work through school to impossible perfectionism.
So, my challenge this week to you is: fast from whatever it is that controls you, and fast at the most inopportune time. Take a break from social media on a day where you really want to post pictures. Don‘t study during lunch in a hectic school week. Plan ahead so you can do these things. Why fast during an inopportune time? As King David says in 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” I believe effective, godly fasting in 2015 can start by giving up for a few hours (or days) something that controls you, then as you become more disciplined in this area, can move to fasting from food and recognizing dependency on God for every single bite, breath, and basic need.
Fasting is not just removal of one activity, but replacement with another. (Luke 11:24-26). Next week my post will focus on practical things you can do during your fasting period, so check in next week!