The key to having 2020 vision is..........*cue drum roll* .........fasting! Sorry (not sorry) if you were expecting directions to your nearest opticians or a 5 tips list. Fasting is the real deal, no nonsense route to obtaining clarity on a multitude of things but for the purpose of this post, vision is what we'll touch on.
Most of us have likely seen the hashtag #2020Vision all over the gram with people gushing over their ambitions, plans and goals for the year and that's great, but scripture informs us in Psalm 127:1-2
Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.
If God is not behind the vision, goal or bag, then it steers towards vain labour and this is a trap many fall into. Feasting our eyes on social media more than feeding our spirit with the word of God satisfies our flesh, to the detriment of our soul, and ultimately results in a believer not walking in the vision, purpose and plan God has for them. One of the ways to receive clear instruction from God is by turning down the noise of this world and drawing nearer to God through prayer and fasting. So now the new year and new decade is here, and many opting to have a detox - go a step further and fast, not only to reset your body after a Christmas of over eating but to renew your spirit man, draw nearer to God and receive instruction, so that you walk through 2020 on target. Being that fasting is vital for believers, it's important to also have an understanding of why it's done (lest you go on a hunger strike and yield no profitable results.) So now the new year and new decade is finally here, let's look at why we fast, the practicalities of fasting and why it's a key part to obtaining real #2020Vision.
Why do we fast?
We often pray that God will conform us to the image of Christ, but this means we must also be conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10). In other words, partaking in Christ’s glory also requires us to partake in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). Just as Jesus learned obedience through His affliction (Hebrews 5:8) we too must experience affliction because it produces the Christ-like character in us that we long to have (Romans 5:3-4). This of course is not limited to tribulations and hardships, because we experience tribulations in varying seasons and to varying degrees, whereas our need to be conformed to the image of Christ is constant. Therefore, we must “crucify the flesh” daily, through resisting temptation and the discipline of fasting (Galatians 5:24).
Ultimately, this is what sets us apart for God’s will and helps us to resist our sinful nature. Jesus Himself said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me” (John 4:32). And again Galatians 5:24 tells us that “those who belong to Christ”crucify their flesh, whilst Philippians 3 describes people who are enemies of Christ as those “whose god is their belly” (v18-19). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that we are slaves to whomever we obey, and if we think about just how much we simply obey and serve the desires of the flesh, from what we eat to what we watch or listen to, it helps us to understand why we may struggle to overcome temptation and do the will of God.
Galatians explains this further where it talks about the fruit of the Spirit and works of the flesh. Many people read Galatians 5 and strive to eliminate the works of the flesh that are listed in the text one by one, whilst striving to embody the fruit of the Spirit. But the scripture is very clear that bearing the fruit of the Spirit is far more straightforward than that: “I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). So, the only way to not fulfill the desires of the flesh is to simply walk in the Spirit.
But of course, walking in the Spirit isn’t always quite as simple. We are spirit-beings living in natural bodies, and the scripture goes on to explain that the flesh wars against the Spirit and that they are contrary to one another. Further, Romans 8: 8-9 tells us that a carnal mind is inherently hostile to God and cannot submit to His will, and therefore it is impossible to please God in the flesh. And so, for us to live a life that pleases God and walk according to His will (in other words: a fulfilled life), we have to walk in the Spirit, and fasting helps us to do that.
By "starving" our flesh of its innate desires, we discipline our flesh and “bring it into subjection” to the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 9:27), whilst strengthening our spirit and growing in intimacy with God. Think about it this way: anyone who is starved or malnourished becomes significantly weaker and will not have the physical capacity to do that which a well-fed person can do. Likewise, when we fast, we cause our flesh to become the weaker contender in its ‘war’ against the Spirit. And while we starve our flesh we should also feed our spirit with spiritual food such as the Word of God, prayer, and worship.
The practicalities of fasting
As we have established that our need to be conformed to the image of Christ is constant, this year I would like to challenge us to be constantly engaged in some form of fasting. So whilst you may not be able to fast from food all year round, think about other ways you can ‘crucify’ your flesh, for example: abstaining from certain TV shows or secular entertainment, abstaining from some of your favourite foods, drinks, or snacks, or even abstaining from spending money on things like clothes, nails, and eating out (that one was for me!).
And what does this have to do with the new year specifically?
Well, as we take stock of our lives and map out ways to do better this new year, we have to remember that us being the best version of ourselves is only possible when we depend on the Spirit of God and His grace, and not our own strength (Zechariah 4:6). Only then can the mountains of difficulty before us become plains; only then can we do all things through Christ that strengthens us. And as we unify ourselves with the Spirit of Christ and begin to look, think, and be like Him, only then can we truly have the ‘2020 vision’ that we need to embark on the incredible journey God has in store for us beyond this year and the next!