How Can We Help?
WHEN SHOULD WE FAST ?
When our hunger for God exceeds our hunger for food.
Some like IRA prisoners in Ireland and Mahatma Gandhi in India, have used fasting for political ends as a means of passive resistance.
Passive resistance will do nothing in the spiritual realm, which is where the Christian should always fight his or her battles. Spiritually, to fast is to enter into active aggression, not passive resistance.
Ephesians 5.29 says “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the Church.” This tells us that the thought of fasting makes our natural body recoil. The brain leaps into action as though it had received a triple O call. Emergency ! Emergency ! The red lights whirl. The siren sounds. Your brain says to your body “Are you totally MAD !!! Martin Luther, who was an inveterate faster, quaintly expressed that his flesh was to grumble dreadfully.
However the Bible tells us that Moses, David, Elijah and Daniel all fasted. The ladies weren’t exempt from mention. Hannah in the OT, and Anna in the NT both are recorded as having fasted.
There are different types of fasts mentioned………….
FOOD ONLY: Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights. Luke 4.2 says he ate nothing. Matthew 4.2 says He was hungry – not thirsty. Then Jesus was led into the wilderness by Satan and tempted, but Satan tempted Him to eat, not drink.
ABSOLUTE FASTS : Acts 9.9 records Saul neither ate or drank for 3 days after his Damascus road experience.
Ezra 10.6 . Here Ezra ate no bread and drank no water because of the guilt from those of the captivity.
Esther 4.16. A crisis threatened all Israel with extermination. Esther gave instructions to Mordecai to gather all the Jews and fast for her, neither eat or drink for 3 days and 3 nights.
Deut 9. 9 & 18 and Exodus 34.28. Moses did two 40 day fasts – almost back-to-back. But he was in the presence of God at the time.
1 Kings 19.8. Elijah ate cake and water then fasted 40 days. This was a supernatural fast.
An absolute fast is an exceptional measure for an exceptional situation. It is usually reserved for spiritual emergencies. This fast however should not exceed 3 days, as it would be dangerous to go on further.
RESTRICTED DIET. Daniel 10. 2-3 did not engage in a normal fast here, nor are we told why. But it did result in a powerful victory over the forces of darkness. Elijah had Ravens bring him bread and meat and he drank water from the brook. John the Baptist survived on a diet of locusts and wild honey.
INVOLUNTARY FASTING. This occurs when there is no food available to eat. Paul knew a good deal about that. Some commentators say that his mention of “fastings” in 2 Corinthians 6.5 and 11.27 refer to this kind of involuntary hardship. Paul said in Philippians 4.11-12 “I have learned whatever state I am in to be content. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.”
TWO QUESTIONS………….DO I NEED TO FAST ?
WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT THIS ?
In Matthew 28.19-20 Jesus said “Make Disciples of all Nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Matthew 6….
Jesus did not say “If you give alms” He said “When…”
Jesus did not say “If you pray.” He said “When…”
Jesus did not say “ If you fast.” He said “When….” (v16)
The second occasion that Jesus spoke regarding fasting was when the disciples of John the Baptist asked Him why both they and the Pharisees fast, but the Disciples do not. Matthew 9.15 records Jesus telling them that when the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast. And so we read in Acts 13.2-3 that after Jesus’ ascension to the Father, they fasted. This is the age of the absent bridegroom. Only His coming again will release the Church from the obligation of fasting.
The early Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries fasted on the Wednesday and Friday of each week. John Wesley revived that practice with the early Methodists. We cannot condemn such a thing as ritualistic for fear of doing damage to other regular callings, such as prayer.
FOR WHAT REASON SHOULD WE FAST
Isaiah 58 6 says “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.”
This fast is designed to loose every person out of bondage. This includes sickness, drugs, demonic oppression, unbelief, false religion, lukewarmness, backsliding, worldliness and fleshly sin.
We should not fast for personal reason alone. We should not fast to ask what we might gain, or what we might get out of it. Of course it is right to fast for those things mentioned before, but we should not forget the other reason to fast.
Zechariah 7.5 says “When you fasted, did you all fast unto me, even me?”
Acts 13.2 says “They ministered to the Lord and fasted.”
Fasting must also be done unto God. Fasting, like prayer must be God-initiated and God-ordained if it is to be effective. When the Prophet Joel cried “Sanctify a fast,” he meant -Set it apart for God. This is absolutely essential if our fasting is to be acceptable to Him. We shall then find ourselves like Anna the Prophetess “worshipping with fasting, (Luke 2.37) or like the leaders of the Church in Antioch, in Acts 13.2 saying they “Ministered to the Lord and fasted.”
God’s chosen fast is that which He has appointed, that which is set apart for Him, that He might be ministered to, and worshipped, and honoured, and glorified.
On the human level, fasting is a Divine corrective to the pride of the human heart. It is a discipline of the body which humbles the soul. Ezra said (8.21) “I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before God.”
Fasting will achieve what lack of fasting wont.
God is calling us to honour Him. God must have His way in His Church. Let us show Him that we will do our part.