Why This 40-Day Sugar Fast?

Plastic bin loaded with chocolate
Au revoir, chocolate!

“Why you putting all that chocolate in there, Mom? That was from Christmas. You like that stuff,” Gabe wondered aloud as he watched me pack it all in the little plastic bin.

“I’m not eating sweets for 40 days, Bud. Because I want to be more hungry for God.”

He shrugged and then begged for the York peppermint patties tucked at the bottom. I surrendered them to the mint loving son. Tomorrow Jim will take the little bin to his office in town, a safe place away, for 40 days.

This Much, O God, I Want You

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast: “This much, O God, I want you.”

John Piper, A Hunger For God

For the next 40 days, from January 1- February 9, the online Bible study group I facilitate (Wonders of the Word) will focus on key Bible verses about hunger, fasting, and the satisfaction found in God.

Along with this Scripture focus, I will be going on a 40-day “sugar fast” and I invite you to join me. I’m committed to saying no to foods with added sugars. No sugary snacks or desserts, sweet lattes, cocoa or candy. It will mean forgoing some of my go-to, feel-good treats: ice cream and dark chocolate.

A few of you are already gung-ho, but most of you are probably wondering why. So I’ll share 3 NON-REASONS for this 40-Day Sugar fast and then 3 of most compelling REASONS to try.

My NOT 3 Reasons for a 40-Day Sugar Fast

  1. To lose weight. There are plenty of good physical reasons for fasting and I’d be glad to share them some other time. Intermittent fasting is part of my life. But physical health is NOT the reason for this fast.
  2. To impress God (or you) with my discipline or devotion. This is big. Huge. In fact, after reading what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about fasting for show, I almost skipped this altogether. But, the benefits outweighed the risks. We’ll do this 40 days with smiles, by grace.
  3. To escape evil, wicked sugar. It’s not. Everything God created is good and is meant to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4). God made sugar cane.

By definition, Christian fasting is voluntarily and temporarily giving up a good gift to express our need for something greater, namely God and his work in our lives.

Why Fasting Magnifies Christ

Maybe you’re saying to yourself what I said to myself, “Well, I can eat my chocolate and ice cream and give thanks and it’s all good.” You’re right. It is all good. But maybe it- maybe your love and hunger for God- could be better. That’s what I’m banking on.

I love how John Piper explains this, how fasting and feasting can both exalt Christ, the Bread of Life:

Hunger and thirst were created for the glory of Christ. And fasting was created for the glory of Christ. Which means that bread magnifies Christ in two ways: by being eaten with gratitude for his goodness, and by being forfeited out of hunger for God himself. When we eat, we taste the emblem of our heavenly food—the Bread of Life. And when we fast we say, “I love the Reality above the emblem.” In the heart of the saint both eating and fasting are worship. Both magnify Christ.”

John Piper, A Hunger For God

Emblems are tasty. Chocolate covered almonds and Ghirardelli Intense Dark and Almond Joy ice cream are sweet emblems. I love those tastes.

But I want to love the Reality more.

L’appétit ient en mangeant

I don’t speak French, but I know this proverb. Appetite comes with eating. It fits. The more we feast on Christ and his Word, the hungrier we get.

Piper again, from A Hunger for God (free book PDF downloadable here):

One might think that those who feast most often on communion with God are least hungry. They turn often from the innocent pleasures of the world to linger more directly in the presence of God through the revelation of his Word. Paradoxically, it is not so that they are the least hungry saints…The strongest, most mature Christians I have ever met are the hungriest for God. It might seem that those who eat most would be least hungry. But that’s not the way it works with an inexhaustible fountain, and an infinite feast, and a glorious Lord. 

So, that’s why. That’s why this 40-Day sugar fast. Because appetite comes with eating. Eat more Word of God, crave more Word of God.

My TOP 3 Reasons for a 40-Day Sugar Fast

  1. Because I want to taste more of God’s goodness. I don’t taste it as much when the sweetness of sugar is on my tongue. I want Christ to fill my craving soul, even as my body craves the sugar. He satisfies the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9
  2. Because I want to use my yearning for sugar as a cue to consume more of God’s Word. I want to crave pure spiritual milk, so to grow up in my salvation. Because I don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 1 Peter 2:3, Deuteronomy 8:3
  3. Because I want to master the appetites that would master me. Sugar, for the record, is far from the only one. Fasting can reveal what’s in us and how much a thing dominates us. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

So I ask: Will you commit to 40 days of fasting from a good thing in order to increase your taste for God and his nourishing Word? Will you put your stomach where your heart is and say, “Lord, you’re more important to me than sugar?” Can you give up a good thing for a better thing?

Whether or not you decide to fast-from sugar or another food or an activity that lessens your hunger for God- I invite you to join the WOW crew as we seek more fullness in Christ, the Living Word and the Bread of Life.

Help Needed

One last thing: this resolution, like every resolution I’ve ever made, will only be kept with the help of Almighty God. So I close with Jonathan Edward’s prayerful preface to his 70 Resolutions:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Amen?

But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and they will fast.

Matthew 9:15

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

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