We are commanded in Scripture to be looking and praying for the return of Jesus. “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” 2 Peter 3:12. It’s a reminder that this world is not all that there is. We have a promise of a greater future with Jesus.
Another part of waiting for the return of the bridegroom is found in Mark chapter two. People come to Jesus and ask “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Let’s be honest, they really want to know why Jesus’ disciples don’t look as religious as these other guys. Ok Jesus, if your supposed to be this great man, teacher, and possibly the Messiah, then why don’t your guys fast like those other disciples. How come they look more religious than your guys do? It’s funny how religion can become a competition for us.
Jesus says that fasting has changed now that the bridegroom (Messiah, Savior) is now with them, but there will come a day when He is taken away and “then they will fast in that day.”
Then they will fast…
Jesus seems to understand that when He is taken away his disciples will fast. He does not give exclusions or ways out of this, just simply that they will fast. When I first understood this I was floored. When I was saved in high school, I was a part of a church where if anyone was fasting they certainly weren’t talking about it. No one had ever taught me about fasting or showed me how to fast, and here’s this clear call from Jesus to fast. Once I realized this and began to fast, I saw the great importance and benefits of fasting. Because of this, I made a clear decision to teach and tell others about the discipline of fasting.
Today, I lead a youth ministry full of some pretty awesome students, some of which have expressed a strong desire to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. I wanted to provide an opportunity present the heartbeat of Maranatha and fasting to them. Since, it is a call in Scripture I wanted my students to learn this in a biblical way. We need to be praying for Christ’s return and fasting for the Bridegroom that has left us. Out of this came our Maranatha week. We spend one week a semester in fasting and prayer.
Maybe you are thinking, “How could he ask students to fast from food for a week?” and some of you extra religious types are thinking “Fasting is to be done in private!” First off, we do not ask students to fast from food, but to fast from something that will allow them to spend more time with God and in prayer. (Television, social media, their phone, their snooze button) To the other objection, we see throughout Scripture that there were times of corporate fasting where it was one voice crying out for God. There are many disciplines (quiet time, prayer, fasting) that are intended for the individual alone, but if we don’t teach them how to biblicaly practice these things then how will they learn?
These weeks have been amazing. We started this two years ago and I still have adults that can’t fathom young people giving up their cell phones, television, or social media to spend more time with God… but they do. Given a challenge like this, your students will surprise you. Our students rally around it, they ask one another before we begin what they will be fasting from. They encourage one another to stay strong and hold each other accountable. We meet every night from 7-8 for prayer and students come and go. We pray for Jesus’ return and for students in our community to know Him. It has been especially refreshing for me as a pastor. We can get caught up in the big events, loud music, teaching, and games that we rarely stop to have quiet moments of prayer with our students.
I talk about the spiritual disciplines often with our students and I would encourage you to try something like this with your students. You may need to change some things to better fit your group, but here are some suggestions when talking about fasting:
1. You can talk about fasting and ease students into it. You would have parents freaking out if you told their students not to eat for a week. Plus, with athletes and young people it’s not good for them to be skipping meals. So, I spend time teaching about fasting from things that hold us back from spending more time with God and introduce food fasting. This gives them a clear line of growth and we’ve had some of our older students give up a meal.
2. Make sure they know the focus of fasting. We focus on Jesus and not what we’re doing.
3. Be sure to teach on it. You would be amazed at how many students know very little about fasting or that it is a Christian discipline.
4. Not everyone is able to fast because of health reasons. If someone has trouble with eating disorders or can not physically do it, then they should not feel ashamed. This is where fasting from other stuff becomes so important.
5. Show them how important it is to say “God is greater than anything else in my life.” If you cannot give up television for a week to spend more time with God, it might be an idle in your life.
If you are not currently fasting, may this be an encouragement and challenge to seek out this spiritual discipline. God gives breakthrough and speaks in powerful ways through fasting.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BrandonWeir.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brandon Weir is the Student Pastor at The Fellowship Round Rock near Austin, TX. What does Brandon love? “I love my wife Jules, my dog Ranger, Texas Tech, being outdoors, the Texas Rangers, camping, hiking, reading, Torchy’s Tacos and I love me some Jesus.”