When was the last time you fasted? Maybe you fasted for a blood test, or perhaps before surgery. Perhaps you had a stomach virus and were not able to eat for 12 or 24 hours. But few of us fast to Know God Better
FASTING is not very popular today, even though it was an important spiritual discipline throughout the OT, the NT and Church history. Tony Evans reflects in “The Purpose and Power of Fasting,” as far as I know there was not a single book written on the subject of fasting from 1861 to 1954, a period of nearly one hundred years.”
TODAY I WOULD LIKE to talk about the place of fasting in the life of the Believer.
SPECIFICALLY, I would like to CHALLENGE you to use the month of February to FAST from some measure of electronics.
First, Let’s examine The Biblical Foundation for Fasting
Jesus told us to FAST
Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV) 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Key words here are “WHEN YOU FAST.” Jesus doesn’t say, “if you fast,” or “stop fasting.” Here, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is regulating and correcting prideful abuses of three spiritual disciplines: Giving, Fasting and Praying. None of us would ever overlook praying or giving as important spiritual disciplines, yet many of us overlook fasting.
Jesus further made it clear that he expected that his disciples would fast after he ascended into heaven. He answered the accusation from the religious leaders, explaining why his disciples did not fast. Mark 2:20 (ESV) The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
Fasting is consistently practiced by saints in the Old and New Testament. These points are observed by Tony Evans in his sermon “The Purpose and Power of Fasting”
Abraham’s servant when he was seeking a bride for Isaac
Moses fasted on several occasions, once for 40 days
Hannah as she prayed for a child
David on several occasions
Elijah after his victory over Jezebel
Ezra when he was mourning Israel’s faithlessness
Nehemiah when he was preparing the trip back to Israel
Esther when God’s people were threatened with extermination
Daniel on numerous occasions
The people of Nineveh, including the cattle, (I don’t think the COWS had a vote!)
Jesus when he began his public ministry, for 40 days. Matthew 4:2 (ESV) — 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Paul at the point of his conversion
The Christians at Antioch when they sent off Paul and Barnabas on their mission endeavor
Paul and others when they appointed elders in all of the churches
Richard Foster explains fasting in this way: “Fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
Fasting reveals the things that are CLOSEST to our HEART
In the OLD TESTAMENT, fasting was in MOURNING over sin. But for the believer, Jesus has REMOVED our SIN!
NT Examples of Fasting
First, Fasting is important when we need the Lord’s guidance.
Acts 13:2. The Church at Antioch prayed for guidance when establishing a plan for spreading the gospel.
Acts 14:23. Paul and Barnabas fasted before Appointing Elders in the new churches.
Second, Fasting is important during times of distress. 2 Corinthians 6:4–5 (ESV) — but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; … Paul experienced HUNGER for the sake of the Corinthians. Some commentators believe that this hunger is the hunger of fasting. In other words, Paul suffered for the church in Corinth by regularly fasting for their spiritual growth and maturity.
A Third reason to fast is to separate from earthly things. Col 3:1-2 “since then you have been raised with christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
THESE PURPOSES led New Testament believers to the practice of FASTING for 40 days leading up to EASTER
LENT (stems from an Anglo-Saxon word for “spring” and related to the English word “lengthen”) that refers to the penitential period preceding Easter. (Fred A. Grissom, “Holman Illustrated Bible Disctionary”)
EASTER was the GREATEST DAY for early Christians. The early Christians wanted to prepare for this special day in the same manner that MOSES, ELIJAH and JESUS, did when they fasted for 40 days. The church calculated these forty days, not including Sundays, and arrived at ASH WEDNESDAY, the beginning of Lent, as 46 days before Easter
New Christians were DISCIPLED during this time and BAPTIZED on EASTER!!!!!
After the Reformation, the practice of LENT was almost completely abandoned by Bible -believing Christians.
Roman Catholics had ABUSED Lent
Seen as a sacrament, a WORK
Today, Lent is misused.
We shy away from Lent because of the abuses of things such as MARDI-GRAS, (French for “Fat Tuesday.”) It is obvious that the type of decadent activity of gorging or indulging one’s pleasures before fasting is certainly nothing of which God approves.
We also might object to the practice of Lent because we know someone who“gives up” something meaningless. Like giving up driving for the person who doesn’t own a car. Or giving up sugar, when you are a diabetic. If giving up chocolate when you are allergic it. I think we can agree that this is not dedication in the least but rather a formality used to impress others.
But the idea of FASTING is biblical
TODAY, I am suggesting ELECTRONIC FASTING as something even more beneficial than fasting from FOOD
Why Electronic Fasting?
Electronic fasting is NOT TEXTING the word “Fasting” on your mobile phone!
We are over-saturated with electronic information
We over-indulge in entertainment.
We can only see how much this influences our thinking if we STEP AWAY from it for a while.
Illustration – After a week after the silence of Algonquin, I returned to “normal life.” After solitude and quiet, I realized how traffic, televisons, parking lots, and city streets were unbelievably loud .
IDEAS for YOUR FAST
Your Fast Could be food.
You might consider fasting from food for day per week for 4 weeks
Or, giving up lunch for a week to spend time in prayer
But if you want to begin a 29 day Electronic Fast, here are some OPTIONS
Can you give up TELEVISION for the month of February?
James Montgomery Boice tells the story of David Wilkerson (Boice, “Sermon” 243)
David convicted about watching TV at night. I should be reading the Word, praying.
Didn’t want to.
“OK, God. I’ll put an ad in the paper. If you want the TV to go, provide a buyer in the first hour, no, the first half hour the paper is released.”
Wife and children not too pleased.
Sat in the Living room with a newspaper, clock and the TV.
25 minutes after receiving their paper, the phone rang.
“Do you have a TV for sale”
Yep 19 inch RCA. Works fine.
I’ll be over in 15 minutes with the money.
THAT event was the turning point in David’s service for God. The Lord led him to begin working among teenage gang members in the streets of NYC – many saved.
Can you give up Social Media for 29 days?
How about Video Games?
The idea is that we can draw closer to the Lord by surrendering something that has a hold on us.
Again, quoting Foster, Fasting is “The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” Richard Foster
What might you be missing because you have not asked God?
John Maxwell writes in his book, Partners in Prayer;
“In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the crops in Minnesota. SO in the spring of 1877, farmers were worried. They believed that the dreadful plague would once again visit them and again destroy the rich wheat crop, bringing ruin to thousands of people.
The situation was so serious that Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 as a day of prayer and fasting He urged every man, woman and child to ask God to prevent the terrible scourge. On that April day all schools, shops, stores and offices were closed. There was a reverent, quite hush over all the state.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Temperature soared to what they ordinary were in midsummer, which was very unusual for April. Minnesotans were devastated as they discovered billions of grasshopper larvae wiggling to life. For 3 days the unusual heat persisted, and the larvae hatched. It appeared that it wouldn’t be long before they started feeding and destroying the wheat crop.
On the fourth day, however the temperature suddenly dropped, and that night frost, covered the entire state. Result – it killed every one of those creeping, crawling pests as surely as if poison or fire had been used, It went down in the history of Minnesota as the day God answered the prayers of the people.”
We have a might God, with mighty resources.
He longs to be the TRUE CENTER of worship in your life.