Pastor, Why? #13: Why Should Christians Fast?

“Biblical fasting is voluntary abstinence from any legitimate thing for the sake of some spiritual purpose” [-Martin Lloyd Jones]. While most Bible fasts involved abstinence from food, the Old Testament prophet, Daniel, fasted from pleasant foods (Daniel 10:2-3), and Paul spoke of fasting from marital intimacy in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. One might also “fast” from TV, certain foods, a favorite activity or hobby, or even from time sleeping. A fast may last any length of time, from skipping one meal to several days or weeks. Fasting is understandably one of the least popular disciplines in our self-indulgent, instant gratification culture. Sadly, “most Christians have generally abandoned fasting” [- Columbia Encyclopedia]. Yet it carries many benefits and rewards, and is undoubtedly a discipline we ought to practice more often!

 

Fasting has many rewards

  • Physical and mental benefits of fasting from food

            - Detoxifies and deep cleans the blood, organs and brain

            - Improves immunity against infections and cancer

             - Relieves pain from cramps and arthritis

  • Historical and spiritual benefits of fasting

                Matthew 6:18 promises, “Thy Father... shall reward thee openly.”

                - A nation was spared   (2 Chronicles 20:3; Esther 4:16)

                - God's wrath was averted   (Jonah 3:5, 10)

                - Victory over temptation was achieved  (Matthew 4:1-11)

               - Power over demonic influences (Matthew 17:14-21).                         

                             Some spiritual battles cannot be won without fasting.

                - Disciples filled and empowered by Holy Spirit  (Acts 1:14-2:4)

                 - Multitudes were saved   (Acts 2:41)                      

                 - God’s truth was revealed   (Acts 10:30)

                 - Missionaries were sent   (Acts 13:2)

                - Virtually every great revival and spiritual awakening in history can be traced to someone who was fasting.

                 - Fasting reveals the things that control me (1 Corinthians 6:12).

        What would be a struggle for me to give up for a week?

 

Fasting is NOT...

  • to impress others with one’s spirituality (Matt. 6:16-18)
  • to impress God or earn His blessing   (Romans 7:18)
  • to earn my way to heaven   (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • a guarantee of immediate spiritual results. Fasting is a tool that God uses primarily to change me. Obvious secondary results are often delayed, but Galatians 6:9 promises, “We shall reap, if we faint not.”

Fasting is not commanded but is assumed in the NT

  • NT believers do not fast out of duty, but desire. T. Blackaby said, “Fasting is about hungering for God more than anything else.”  
  • Fasting is almost always connected with prayer.
  • The focus of fasting is not on physical deprivation, but on spiritual feasting.   (Matthew 5:6)
  • A list of those who voluntarily fasted in the Bible and history is compelling:   Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra, John, Jesus, all the apostles, Paul, Barnabas, the early churches.... Many of the great world-changers in church history have also been regular fasters. But fasting is not just for the “super-spiritual.” Regular fasts appear to have been a way of life for NT Christians. (Matthew 9:15; Acts 13:2; 14:23)

 

Fast when there is no hope but God alone.

When to fast

  • Regularly - Historians tell us the early Christians fasted two days every week.
  • Whenever I desire to know God, or His Word, or his will in a deeper way.
  • Whenever I desire greater fruit in my ministry  (Matthew 4)
  • Whenever I am desperate! This is a key concept in fasting.

                - David’s baby was dying   (2 Samuel 12:16-17)                  

                - Judah was facing defeat (2 Chron. 20:1-3)                      

                - Ezra was going on a dangerous venture (Ezra 8:21f)                    

                - Jerusalem was in ruins   (Nehemiah 1:3-4)                                       

                - Ester’s people faced extermination   (Ester 3:13)  

                - A nation faced destruction   (Jonah 3; Joel 2:12-13)                      

                - A father was desperate for his son   (Matthew 17:14-21)

Ä    Fast whenever God alone can make a difference, and whenever I really want God to work--more than I desire ANYTHING else!

 

Cautions regarding extended fasting

Our body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, and we are to care for it wisely. Be careful about extended food fasts or if you have medical conditions. In some situations is may be prudent to ask a doctor’s advice. Above all, listen to and obey God’s voice.