The Critical Difference Between Fasting and Dieting

March 2, 2017

John 3:31-36

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

I’m neither a scholar nor the son of a scholar, but I think Jesus must have been fasting.

Whether he was or not, for my money, this verse captures the ethos and essence of fasting in the way of Jesus. Fasting is not so much about abstaining from eating food as it is about finding an entirely new source of food.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

This is an intense idea. Food is a good thing, until it has become the main thing, and for so many of us (present company included) food has become the main thing. Can we just call it? My food is not to do the will of God but rather, pizza and steak and bar-b-que and lots of chips and salsa and Panda Express and I’ll stop there. My life, all too often, revolves around food. I think about it way too much. No sooner have I finished lunch than I start thinking about dinner.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

Don’t you think Jesus would like to take us to this place with him—where we are fed at the deepest level from doing the will of God? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Again, food is a good thing, until it has become the main thing. I think if my food were doing the will of God that normal food might taste even better.

So how might we get to such a place in our experience of Eternal Life? It brings me back to the practice of fasting. I’ve been learning a lot about fasting over the past couple of years. I’ve mostly thought about fasting in the same way I think about dieting—as a temporary alteration of my normal pattern in order to gain some kind of positive benefit. In my experience, dieting does not produce lasting change. I am coming to think that dieting is all wrong, because it just means swapping out one kind of food for another (until you can’t stand it anymore or the Swiss Cake Rolls come calling). What needs to change is not so much the food I eat but my overall relationship with food. With this kind of change, my diet will cease to be an aberration from the norm and begin to be a new normal.

The same might be said of fasting. What needs to change is not my technical practice of fasting but my overall relationship with God. With this kind of change, my fasting will cease to be an aberration from the norm and begin to be a new normal.

Now, the fascinating thing about fasting in the way of Jesus is it will not only change your relationship with God, it will change your relationship with food. I’ll push it a step further and speculate that my disordered relationship with food may actually be a symptom that I have a disordered relationship with God.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Come Holy Spirit!

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, thank you for your son, Jesus, who teaches us how to pray and to fast and to truly live. Open my mind to the mystery of this way of the Cross, which I believe is the way of the Spirit. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I might be liberated from my slavery to everything else but Jesus. It is in his name I pray. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. I realize this is a sensitive issue and many struggle greatly with it. What are your reactions to today’s daily text?

2. How do you see that our relationship with food could be trying to tell us something about our relationship with God? Or does that seem off track to you?

3. Would you like to grow toward the reality of gaining sustenance and nourishment from doing the will of God? Read on.

I have developed a 40 day fasting challenge, which happens over the course of 40 weeks. It is a grace filled way now being walked by thousands of Daily Text readers. These 40 days of Lent would be a great time to join in. I would love to invite you to give it a try. Click on the link below to get started. And be assured, this fast comes with a guaranteed “NO-SHAME ZONE.”

Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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