Fasting Develops Focus

One of my favorite movie trilogies growing up was the Karate Kid. I always loved watching Daniel Larusso overcome the odds. He was the epitome of the underdog. He was gangly, awkward, and had a short fuse. He always doubted himself, and it was always Mr. Miyagi that would bring Daniel around to what he was actually capable of. In the Karate Kid 2, Daniel had traveled to Okinawa to help Mr. Miyagi say goodbye to his father. While there, Daniel had made an enemy of Chozen, the nephew of Mr. Miyagi's childhood best friend turned mortal enemy, Sato. In one scene, Daniel was forced to try and break 6 two-inch sheets of ice with his bare hands in front of a crowded room of people betting on him. A larger man, just before him, attempted 3 sheets and only got 2. About this time, Miyagi arrives and places a bet that Daniel will break every sheet. Daniel pleads to Miyagi to get him out of the situation, because he can't do what they're asking. Miyagi explains that Daniel CAN do it. He just needs to focus. After taking a few moments of deep breaths, Daniel breaks through every sheet. He just needed to focus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1–2

Focus is everything for the disciple. Lose focus, and you can lose your way very quickly. Keeping our eyes on Jesus is an essential for keeping our paths straight. When I was a 7th grader, I learned to drive a tractor to mow. I still remember my mom's boss, Mr. Lifer, telling me, "Don't look to the left or to the right. Only look ahead, or you're lines won't be straight as you mow." Of course, I nodded my head in a agreement, and for two lines of mowing, I was doing great. Then it happened. I saw my brother and my dad fishing, and I started wondering what kind of bait were they using. I wanted to know what they were pulling out of the pond. I saw a snapping turtle. The next thing I know, Mr. Lifer asked me to stop the tractor because the yard looked awful. The lines were curvy and spots were missed. I had failed at keeping my focus.

One of the greatest byproducts of fasting is better focus. It's amazing what removing food from the equation does to get your heart and your mind right. When you feel those hunger pangs kick in, that becomes an alarm clock that alerts you to spend more time with God. We talked yesterday about using your meal times to spend with God during a fast. What if we just took a few minutes every time we felt or hear our stomach growl? How awesome of a day would we have if we prayed more than ten times? That connection with God would be incredible, and our focus would start to sharpen. More time spent with God means more understanding of God, more willingness to listen to God, and more drive to follow His lead. It's amazing how adversity draws us closer to God, not further away.

It should be no surprise that the top 10 countries in the world where Christianity is growing the fastest are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Communist countries. The Church in Nepal is growing the fastest right now, and their Hindu government is actually working to outlaw Christianity. The middle east is seeing a massive surge of people coming to Christ despite violence from the Muslim regimes toward anyone who converts. Again, this shouldn't surprise us. God's kingdom grows in spite of adversity. God's people grow closer to Him during adversity. It's in the tension where growth happens. Just like the human body doesn't get stronger unless it gets worked out and experiences tension, the disciple will struggle to grow if he/she doesn't experience tension.

"Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:32–33

Here, Jesus is talking with His disciples. He knows what is about to come, and He warns them of it. He also gives them a word of hope. In spite of the tribulation they will face, Christ has already won. The tension will not win, because we already have the victory.

Another amazing byproduct of fasting is that it actually strengthens your mind.... biologically. According to a study by Baylor Scott and White Health, "Fasting can increase BDNF levels, which may lead to improved cognitive function, learning and memory. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a protein that supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth of new neurons and synapses." Fasting actually has a healing factor in your body. Don't you think God knew this when He taught His people to fast? Fasting actually has a health component to it that helps the body recover and heal. Many who have fasted, or fasted often, have said they felt their minds were clearer and cognitive functions were actually elevated. What does this lead to? Better focus. While tension spurs on growth and focus spiritually, there's a detox that happens physically that let's the body function better and focus better.

Do a quick google search, and you'll see that fasting is mentioned more than 70 times in the Bible. It's a spiritual discipline that dates back several thousands of years, and God has put His rubber stamp on it. When you take a larger look at the Bible, you realize that God wasn't just making rules for His people. He was showing them the best way to live spiritually AND physically. Fasting is a practice that bring both together. The physical emptying of the body forces us to feed more on the Bread of Life in God's Word while simultaneously allowing our body to detox and heal. All of this allows us to be more focused on God's Will for each of us.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6–11

The true disciple understands that it's impossible to walk the narrow path of the Christian without focus. Fasting is one way that we can, not only spend more time with Christ, but also get that focus on Him. Fasting does amazing things spiritually and physically, and it's a spiritual discipline that we need to practice more. Are you ready to give it a try?


Emily - January 25th, 2024 at 9:14am

COME ON!!! Love this so much! I can honestly say, that even though your stomachs may be hungry you mind clears, The Word comes more alive for you when you are fasting. A light bulb just comes on and the Holy Spirit reveals so much to you, on an empty stomach.

Truly missed it when I have been pregnant!

satan don’t want us to want to fast, so he will do whatever to keep us from it because he knows what happen when you do. So, grateful for it 🙌🏻

Thanks again for this!

John Kelley - January 25th, 2024 at 3:16pm

You're so right. Fasting can be very powerful in the life of a disciple. It's amazing how laser focused we can be when we aren't so focused on our stomachs.