Since I was young, I’ve never recalled saying “no” to ice-cream – especially chocolate-flavoured ice-cream.
Ice-cream was my go-to sugar rush and it never failed to provide comfort. Each time I walked past a McDonald’s outlet, I would end up exiting its doors with a Hot Fudge Sundae in hand.
But God shook up my dessert-eating ways in January last year. That was right after my fast from buying new clothes for an entire year. Clearly not done with me, He showed me a vision which stirred something within.
No, God. Not that – anything but that.
FEAST OR FAST
It was a tub of chocolate-flavoured Häagen Dazs. I instantly knew what He was asking me to fast from in the coming year.
In the following weeks, I bargained and wrestled with God about not giving up ice-cream because I simply needed it. I was also unwilling because God hadn’t yet shown me why He was asking me to commit to another year-long fast. But He continued to prompt and encourage me to say “yes” to Him in obedience.
So, on 20 February 2017, after finishing the last of six tubs of Häagen Dazs I had kept in the freezer, I embarked on my second year-long fast.
This fast really pained me, much more than what a usual fast from food (one meal a day or a Daniel fast) would cost me. Just three days into the fast, I held a white flag up to God after walking past five different ice-cream parlours in a day. Without knowing what or who I was fasting for, I was ready to give up and abandon the fast because I didn’t want to push through.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I was stuck in an unhealthy rut of feasting on ice-cream.
We all have guilty pleasures and things we indulge in, but the undeniable is that we’d rather feast than fast. We choose to feed our bodies with junk rather than to be spiritually healthy and strong in the Lord. It took me two year-long fasts to truly taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), and to conclude that He is better than any earthly possession I could feast on.
Personally, this year-long fast taught me two key lessons that I will continue holding on to for the rest of my fasting journey.
1. Fasting isn’t just about dying to self – it’s about living out what’s on God’s heart
Whenever I read about people in the Bible who humbled themselves and turned to the Lord in prayer and fasting (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and David are some examples) I cannot help but remember that I’m also called to prayer and fasting.
It brings to mind my favourite, sobering verse on fasting in Mark 9:29 where Jesus – speaking about casting out spirits – said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting. He was talking about the young boy who was possessed with “a mute spirit… that threw him down and caused foaming at the mouth and gnashing of teeth” (18).
Jesus’ disciples could not cast the oppressive spirit out, and when they asked why, Jesus pointed out that prayer and fasting were missing. It’s a story which always reminds me of how the impossible becomes possible when we dare to persevere in prayer and fasting.
On 24 February 2017, God revealed the purpose of my year-long ice-cream fast. It broke my heart and left me in tears. I saw the faces of people I knew who had left the church and the faith. As they flashed in my mind, the Lord put a cry in my heart: “Help them to remember why they loved Me, over the reasons why they left Me!”
Knowing clearly that these precious ones were on God’s heart, this mission became my cry as I began to intercede for the faces and names I hadn’t seen in years.
Hearing what is on God’s heart is often accompanied with fresh anointing and grace for the fast He commands you to take. I know this because I otherwise would not have managed to flee temptation and successfully complete this year-long fast. Don’t be afraid to begin living out what is on God’s heart.
Let it keep you on your knees. In this manner, you’re never on your own two feet long enough for you to go your own way.
2. The work God does through fasting sometimes outlasts the fast itself
I finished my year-long ice-cream fast on 20 February 2018. My friends were excited for me being able to eat ice-cream again, but I ended the fast on a slightly melancholic note, knowing that the purpose of my fast had not yet been accomplished or completed.
God made it clear to me last December that I was to continue praying for these individuals even after my fast ended. At first, I was slightly disappointed as it seemed that my prayers didn’t do much even after a year. Then I quickly realised that this was my own human measurement of success and not God’s!
My old view of fasting was that breakthroughs would come as soon as the fast ended. But now I understand that some breakthroughs are not contingent on the duration of the fast. My year-long fast might be over, but God’s work in the lives of my friends who have left the faith has yet to come to fruition. The human side of me relishes the prospect of enjoying ice-cream again, but having fasted, the spirit man in me now desires to delve deeper into intercession for these precious lives.
What are some specific things that you are feasting freely on today? These are the very things you might want to consider fasting from. While the rewards of fasting differ for each individual, our hearts must stay focused on pursuing the Lord and desiring obedience in everything He asks.
Dan B. Allender said aptly, “Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement or pursuit — for any season — sets the stage for God to appear.” As you allow God to speak to your heart regarding fasting, I pray that your life will be such a stage for the Lord’s work to be done – on earth as it is in heaven!
This article was first published on Selah.sg, and is republished with permission.