Fasting is a great spiritual discipline. With it we are able to do more things than we normally could. But with all the talk about it, some might wonder if it's a necessity, something Christians should never ignore. Let's talk about that.
The necessity of fasting
For starters, fasting is not a requirement for salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast."
Fasting is an act of the will, something we choose to do in response to faith. It's not part of the equation that Ephesians 2:8 presents to us. Rather, it's a response to the salvation we receive in Christ.
Choosing to deny ourselves to have more of God
Fasting requires that we deny ourselves food for a period of time. But unlike going on a fast for diet purposes, Christian fasting is meant for the purpose of denying one's flesh and strengthening one's spirit in the Lord.
Fasting is a habit done by many of God's faithful men and women. For example, Esther fasted and called on every Jew to fast with her before coming to the king (see Esther 4:16). The Bible records that Daniel fasted twice: first for the purpose of setting himself apart (see Daniel 1:8) and second to seek the Lord (see Daniel 10).
These examples tell us that when we fast, we set aside our own physical cravings so that we can seek the Lord.
A response to Christ's call
More than that, fasting is also a response to Christ's call for us to follow Him. According to Matthew 4:1-11, Christ Himself fasted in preparation for His ministry. If we are to follow Him and preach the Gospel to all men as He commanded in Mark 16:15, then it would be a wise decision to fast.
Fasting also shows just how much we value Christ. How could I say that? Christ said it Himself, in Matthew 16:24-25.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
In fasting we deny ourselves what we naturally crave for as humans – food – so that we could seek God. We choose to stop eating for a time, replacing mealtimes with prayer and Bible reading. Like Christ, we will choose to make God's will our food (see John 4:34).
In conclusion, friends, fasting is not a requirement for our salvation, and neither is it a requirement for us to stay connected with God. Fasting, however, gives us an edge in the war against the flesh. By putting our flesh into submission to the spirit, we are more able to hear and obey the Lord. (see Galatians 5:16-18)
There are things that we can only do by prayer and fasting (see Mark 9:29). If we truly want to follow Christ, fasting is never a question – it's a part of the lifestyle.