Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The gift of fasting

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is often completely ignored by many Christians today. This is a shame because God has given us this gift of fasting as a unique method of relating to Him that touches His heart in a special way. Just as we gain intimacy with God through reading His Word and prayer, we too gain intimacy with Him when we fast.

Why fast?
Do you find yourself in a place of needing a breakthrough? Maybe a personal issue, you need an answer, you are contemplating something big, possibly asking the question “God are you in this?”, maybe you’ve hit a time of danger or significance, or you really need the power of God. How do you get a breakthrough? FASTING & PRAYER! However, we must remember that just like prayer cannot be used to manipulate God, fasting is not a way to manipulate God.

Fasting is also not supposed to be a religious act done to impress man. Here is what Jesus says, "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” - Matthew 6:16

Notice that Jesus says WHEN you fast, not IF you fast. Jesus assumes that His disciples are taking advantage of this incredible gift from God. Jesus himself fasted.

What is fasting?
It is the denial of something – usually food. It is saying to God, “I would rather go without food (starve myself) than to go on as I am.” I want to touch God. I want to hear God. What you do is tell your body to sit down and shut up. “Flesh, you are not getting my attention. Rather, I am giving my attention to God.” It sometime said that when we fast we starve the flesh and allow our spirit to be fed.

Other reasons you may need to fast
Fasting is a form or way of humbling yourself before God:
I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting… - Psalm 35:13 Why is it important to be humbled before God? Because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. God gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore … - 1 Peter 5:5b-6

When there is sin that needs correction – fast and humble yourself.
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers.- Nehemiah 9:1-2

When you need deliverance:
If you have an addiction or a habit: FAST and PRAY! Do you need deliverance from demonic bondage? Sometimes you need to persist, get serious, pray and fast. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. - Matthew 17:21

When you need God’s guidance & protection:
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. - Ezra 8:21 21

Related article: Daniel and his fasting


Peter Kirk said...

Matthew 17:21 is not in the best manuscripts of the Bible. The parallel Mark 9:29 is, but without "and fasting". Both of these are late additions from a time when the church had made fasting into a law. That doesn't of course invalidate fasting for Christians but does cast doubt on its value.

Jayson said...

..."but does cast doubt on its value."

Text variation acknowledged...but does not cast doubt on fasting's value.

Plenty other scriptural testimonies of God's people fasting, especially Jesus' assumption.

The benefits of fasting remain deeply confirmed by the experience of God's people to this day.

Fasting is not a law, but a discipline to be joyfully engaged. It is not magic, but worship. It is not easy, but good.

Your comment reminds me of Chesterton's quip related to Christianity: "it it not so much that it has been tried and found wanting, but has been found difficult and left untried."


Katherine said...

Great post. I found this article after googling "the gift of fasting". I am trying to make fasting a once a week habit. Fasting has previously been difficult for me. Right now I am in the middle of my second once a week fast. Last week, I felt the Spirit of God reveal to me that it wasn't just an uncomfortable spiritual discipline as I had viewed it before, but a gift that He wanted to give me. I am praying for spiritual breakthroughs both for myself personally and for others, but if they don't happen immediately, I feel that seeing the gift in the fast is something equally as significant. Thanks for posting this. Katherine