Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard (Isa. 58:6-8).
One primary reason we are commanded to fast according to Isaiah 58 is so we will have food to share with the hungry, clothes to give the naked and shelter to provide the for wander. Can such work be accomplished by skipping a meal or two a week and using those savings for others? It can help a little. But maybe there is something more to this than first meets the eye. Could not the Lord be calling His people to live a life of fasting that goes beyond the forsaking of food for the salvation and well-being of others? Might not this be part of our Lord’s call for His people to take up their cross by living a lifestyle of fasting?
What is a lifestyle of fasting? It is applying Jesus’ teachings regarding the wise use of this world’s material goods in living out our everyday lives for the purpose of bringing Him glory. Through submission to Christ we are compelled to live simply so we will have more money to give to missions, churches, the poor or to any need He shows us. Though this simple way of living is thoroughly Biblical it is also blatantly contrary to the American way of life that focuses upon the self-indulgent pursuit of wealth to squander it upon ourselves.
Wealth is not the issue—it is how it is used. Selfish people, whether they call themselves Christian or not, will live for themselves and this will be revealed in how they make and spend their money. True Christians strive to live like Christ (1 Jn. 2:6). His was a selfless life: “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus freely gave us the wealth of salvation so that we could spend our lives for His glory.
The Lord did not save us to live self-absorbed lives in the pursuit of wealth and pleasure. No, He saved us to promote the very purpose that compelled Him to come into this world: “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). The nitty-gritty of the matter rests upon who will be lord of our lives—the Lord Jesus or our sinful, selfish nature. K. P. Yohannan addresses this issue stating:
The most important goal is to employ material things for the kingdom of God rather than ourselves. This is one of the truest tests of where our affections really lie. Christ demands nothing less than lordship of our whole being, including the material blessings we have accumulated in this life. It’s not how much we give that counts – but how much is still left sticking to our fingers. That is the way to measure correctly the simplicity of one’s life (Road to Reality, 159).
When we yield to Christ’s lordship He will be Lord of our finances, time, relationships and recreation.
It seems that in the Western church we have forgotten that we are only stewards of our lives and will give an account of it to our Lord and Master. In Luke 12:16-21 we find the parable of the Rich Fool. One character trait patently glares out—that he was a self willed, selfish man. All of his financial decisions were based upon his desires to live in ease and comfort now, and to secure this lifestyle for the future. His repeated use of statements like; “I will do”, “I will build”, “I will store” speaks volumes about his spiritual condition. The Rich Fool does not acknowledge God in any of His decisions.
In verse 20 we find that his life ended much sooner than he anticipated. The Lord decreed that the man’s soul would be required of him that very night. The Greek word for “required” comes from two root words, one meaning cessation or completion and the other to call for or desire. It means his life has ended and God was calling for a reckoning of what was entrusted to him. The Rich Fool mistakenly thought certain things were his, “my crops”, “my goods”, “my soul”, but in truth they were merely on loan to him. He discovered too late that his soul was on loan as well as his possessions. There is no escaping this Day of Reckoning.
We also must give an account for how we live in this world and what we do with the loans we are entrusted with. The bookkeeper does not make the decisions about how money is spent, he only receives directions from the owner and distributes as he is told. Many Christians think they are good people because they take a certain, comfortable percentage of their income and give it to missions or a local church but it hardly affects their lifestyle. When our finances are surrendered to Him we will live very differently from the world; we will not buy as they buy or vacation like they do or be motivated by money in employment choices. To live simply for the sake of the Gospel “costs”!
There have been many good examples of those who lived the fasted life. One that stands out is John Wesley, a man that could have been wealthy yet chose to live simply. He gave to churches, orphanages, the work of spreading the gospel and printing Christian literature. Very little “stuck to his fingers”, which is why he died with only pennies in his pocket. But look at Wesley’s legacy—he turned England upside down and set America ablaze through the Methodist revivals. This very moment Wesley is enjoying the true wealth that can never be taken from him.
The fasted life is not one that seeks poverty believing it to be a noble thing, but rather lives as simply as possible so that others might know Christ. Instead of spending money and time on extravagances and frivolous pursuits we lavish it on Christ for His glory. We should freely give to grow the kingdom of God out of the abundance that Christ has poured into our lives.
We need to rightly hear what Paul taught the Ephesian elders, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35). Paul was not teaching the greedy false doctrine of giving a supposed faith seed so that we get a tenfold return. What selfishness! That kind of thinking was anathema to Paul. He was compelling the elders to give everything to Christ for the sake of His glory and the growth of His church. By teaching the spiritual leaders how to live a fasted life he was securing the expectation for the people to live the same.
In this world we live only a few short years and only in this life are we given the privilege to suffer for Jesus. We may not have to bear in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus as Paul did, but we better have some kind of scar upon our life for the Gospel’s sake when we stand before Him. Our wallets should testify of sacrificial giving. The lack of comforts in our homes, vehicles and possessions should prove our hearts were fixed on the city whose builder and maker is God. Both our prime years and retirement years should bear the marks of selfless service for the kingdom. Amy Carmichael warned her potential missionary recruits that they should expect to bear scars in their service, for did they not follow a wounded Savior? She later wrote the poem Hast Thou No Scar:
Hast thou no scar ? . . . Hast thou no wound? . . .
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are the whole: can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar?
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.