Through fasting, the body becomes a servant instead of a master. When Jesus directs us to do something, the outcome is always beneficial, both spiritually and physically. He said, “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). Scripture doesn’t say, “When you sin and if you fast,” but rather, “If you sin and when you fast.” The obvious goal and benefit of fasting is spiritual, but the physical benefits as well. Can you pray and seek God better with a headache, tight pants, and a sluggish, lethargic body strung out on your favorite addictive substance? Of course not. But keep in mind that fasting is not about self reliance but reliance on God. However, when the flesh is restrained, anxiety, fear, unbelief, doubt, lust, jealousy, bitterness, and anger are also minimized.
What you put in your mouth (body) and the mind (soul) affects the spirit—and when you feed the spirit, it affects the body and the soul. I’m often asked to pray for panic attacks, angry outbursts, and anxiety. That can be done, and God honors prayer, but are we opening the door by not halting highly addictive caffeine, sugar, opioid, or nicotine habits. Are we renewing our mind by meditating on the Word and spending time in prayer? The physical affects the spiritual, and vice versa. We also know that many emotions such as anger, bitterness, and jealousy are toxic to the body.
Much of the healing that I have witnessed over the years was the result of good, or renewed stewardship of the body. Health also involves healthy emotions. Having a forgiving, loving, joy-filled heart does wonders for the body. Serotonin, for example, is increased when the heart is right. This crucial chemical impacts our mood at a very deep level, and contributes to an overall state of well-being. Serotonin is also affected by diet and exercise. But again, I’m not suggesting that health replace God and prayer, but that it compliment it. . .that we steward the gift of health. No one is perfect, but we are called to discipline our bodies and use wisdom. God does heal miraculously, even in our ignorance, but that shouldn’t cause us to neglect our health.
With more than 12 million U.S. children being obese and millions more being malnourished, the need to address this topic has never been greater—caffeine, soft drinks, and junk food are fueling the disease epidemic. We pray for God to heal rather than for help with self-discipline to change harmful habits. What’s wrong with this picture? “There are multitudes of diseases which have their origin in fullness, and might have their end in fasting” (James Morrison).
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About the Author
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California. His books, sermons, and radio programs have sparked change in the lives us many. More at WCFAV.org.