24-Hour Critism Fast
Fasting, while still popular in some religious circles, is out of fashion with the modern church. This is especially true in our American society where we rarely deny ourselves any pleasure or indulgence. It is often defined as a cultural practice, antiquated and bizarre, and something in which people long ago engaged.
Despite our feelings against fasting, it is something in which so many great men of faith engaged. Jesus fasted. We read of one of His fasts in Matthew 4, when the Holy Spirit leads Him into the wilderness so that He might be tested. Moses fasted for 40 days when he went on the mountain to retrieve the second set of 10 Commandments (cf. Exodus 34.28). Elijah fasted 40 days when fleeing from the vitriol of Jezebel (cf. 1 Kings 19.1-8). These are the only people in Scripture who fasted for 40 days, but notice they were all at the Mount of Transfiguration. There might be something to God’s approval of fasting.
While these men fasted from food, there are other things from which we can fast. They fasted from food so they could focus on God. Jesus was preparing for His ministry. Moses was preparing to be in God’s presence. Elijah was depending on God’s deliverance. They all had their reasons for undertaking such an extreme fast. Could you do it? I admit 40 days seems a bit too much, so could you fast for even 24 hours?
The benefit of fasting was that it allowed the participant to focus on the things that truly mattered. The hunger it induced was a reminder to focus on God. Fasting has been proven to increase mental clarity. God wanted His people to focus on Him completely during these special times. Fasting also has the benefit of teaching self-denial, something we in our society so severely lack. It teaches self-control in a very tangible way.
Because of this, I want to propose something to you. It would be interesting to undertake a fast together as a congregation. This idea is also scriptural. Look no further than Acts 13, where the church in Antioch prayed and fasted together as a church before sending Paul and Barnabas out on their first missionary journey (Acts 13.1-4). Some might point out Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.16-18, where He tells us to fast in secret, but in this same context; He tells us to pray in secret. His point was to not do what we do for show, but to do it for God’s noticing. God rewards our prayers, our charitable giving, and our fasts. We should not do those things to be seen by men. But just because we should do these things for God to see and not man to see, this doesn’t not mean that doing so in secret excludes doing them together for the right purpose, just like we pray together as a congregation.
All that being said, I want to propose that we engage in a fast together as a congregation of God’s people. But the fast I want to propose is different than the ones we see in the passages we have mentioned thus far. It is based off of another verse. To be honest, I think it will be something harder to give up than even food.
“14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2.14-16).
I am hoping you will join me in this period of fasting. The fast to which I’m referring though is not a fast from food or water, but a fast from criticism. And in order to make this achievable, I’m proposing that we go under a “24-hour criticism fast.”
Here’s how it works. Starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., determine to not say or think anything critical about anyone or anything. Maybe you’ll be able to do it on your first try. Probably you won’t. Whenever you find yourself being critical of your coworker, your family, or even yourself, mark the time and then start over on your “24-hour criticism fast.” For 40 days, let’s try and make it one entire 24-hour period without any critical idea or word.
Can you imagine the difference that would make in your life to start obeying Paul’s instructions in Philippians 2? Can you imagine how different the world might start to view you if you responded with positivity instead of negativity? Paul says that if we do this, we will stand out as lights in the world. He admits that our criticism and arguing is what blemishes us as children of God. While fasting from criticism, we can hold fast to God’s word and teachings. If we do that, we make Christ’s sacrifice stand out in the world. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?
So let’s join together and for 40 days (Today’s April 15th, so that means we will start tomorrow and go until May 26th), let’s truly stand out in the world. Let’s think and speak the way God intended us to. Let’s stop the criticism. Let’s speak the positive. Let’s be “children of God without blemish.”