By: Royce Elms
The Word of God is full of references to fasting. The great people of the Old Testament were many times motivated to fast in various circumstances.
The Apostles were very strong believers in fasting because of what it produced. Jesus Himself set the example for all believers by fasting 40 days at the beginning of and throughout His earthly ministry. It is very evident that fasting was a strong part of the lives of all early church believers.
Although some individuals are prone to downgrade and discount the effectiveness of fasting, the Word of God plainly declares its great benefits:
I. What Is Fasting?
First of all, let’s consider the fact that it is possible to fast or abstain from things we would ordinarily do
or places we would like to go. The missionary that labors in a foreign country is fasting from his relatives and friends. Self-denial is a form of fasting. But the fasting that we are dealing with in this discourse involves abstaining from food for a spiritual purpose.
A. A definition of fasting–The Old Testament word for “fast” means a “covering of the mouth.” The New Testament word for “fast means “not to eat.” Therefore it is no doubt proper to categorize all forms of fasting under the form–Bible fasting,
There are scriptures for total or partial fasting over different periods of time.
B. Fasting means self-denial–one of the greatest failings of the ministry and saints today is the lack of using that powerful drug “Sulfa-Denial.” The denying of self, the crucifying of the flesh is where spiritual character and greatness is developed!
Fasting is a tremendous means by which we can discover Jesus as our all in all, the complete source of our sufficiency. The decrease of self results in the increase of the Spirit within our being.
II. The Degrees Of Fasting
There is a solid basis in the scriptures for definite degrees of fasting. There are at least four different types of fasting.
A. Abstinence–This involves fasting for a short period of time, such as one or two meals. In Genesis 24:33, Abraham’s servant arrived at the home of Laban, and announced that he would not eat until he had explained the reason for his errand. In II Samuel 1:12, when David heard about the death of Saul and Jonathan he mourned and wept and fasted until evening.
B. Partial fasting–This is a fast in which you do not eat solids, but rather drink liquids. This is a fast that was used for longer periods of time. An example is found in Daniel 1:8-20. Daniel asked for a vegetable diet with water for ten days.
C. Normal water fast–This is a fast of at least three meals or 24 hours. Water is the only liquid allowed (Luke 4:2, Matthew 4:2).
D. Extreme fast–This is more positively scriptural than the water fast. In Exodus 34:28, Moses was on Mt. Sinai for “forty says and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water.” In Ezra 10:6, he did eat no bread, nor drink water.” In Esther 4:16, she said to Mordicai, “Fast for me, and neither eat nor
drink three days, night or day.” In Acts 9:9, Paul was “three days without sight and did neither eat nor drink.”
The terminology of “extreme” is justifiable because none of the other long fasts of the great people of the Bible mention no drinking. In Jesus’ 40 day fast there is no mention of no drinking although it is assumed that there was no water available on the mountain. However, there is no mention of Him
being thirsty or drinking anything.
It is recommended that an individual be directed by God before he goes on an extreme fast, This is especially true if the fast is to be extended, because it is necessary that God gives him strength and sustenance.
E. Fasting is recommended for every believer who is not sick or a child. In Leviticus 16:29-31, the words “a statute forever” is used in relation to fasting. In Matthew 4:1-4, we are told our Lord fasted for 40 days. In I Peter 2:21 we are told that Jesus is our example. In Matthew 17:21, Jesus said “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. In Luke 5:33-35 Jesus stated that his disciples would “fast” after He
was taken away. Paul said, “in fastings often,” II Corinthians 11:27.
III. The Purpose For Fasting
A. To avert God’s wrath–There are many references in the Old Testament concerning this purpose. Israel fasted that day until evening in Judges 20:24-28 because they feared doom at the hands of Benjamin. Ninevah “believed God, they proclaimed a fast,” and God spared them.
B. Scheduled fasts–To keep the flesh under subjection. Jesus was “led of the Spirit” to fast 40 days. All longer fasts should be the result of being directed by the Spirit. But it is also scriptural to have scheduled fast days.
Most Pharisees fasted twice each week, according to Luke 18:11-12. Jesus did not condemn them for fasting but for the manner in which they fasted, Paul fasted often. Scheduled fastings should be used for the need of the hour and to keep the flesh under subjection.
C. Fasting to keep a proper balance between the spiritual and the physical– Fasting has the effect of dulling the physical and sharpening the spiritual.
When you desire to reach out for new dimensions in the Spirit, fasting, united with prayer and meditation, is the greatest channel available.
The flesh will be our master if we do not periodically bring it under subjection through fasting and self-denial. One great preacher fasted all-day Sunday until after the evening service because he wanted to be consumed with the unction while he preached!
D. Fasting for divine direction–The apostles knew what fasting could accomplish. In Acts 13:1-3 we read, “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers and as they ministered unto the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, “separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work….” Then
when they had fasted and prayed they sent them forth!
The diary of David Brainerd on Monday, the 19th of April, 1742 reads, “set apart this day for fasting and prayer…to prepare me for the work of the ministry to give me divine aid and direction….”
E. Fasting for cleansing and humility–It is impossible to live in our world without our garment getting soiled. Periodically we need to go on a cleansing fast, to purify ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
The original reason for fasting was the need for human abasement. Through fasting we awaken to the greatness of God and the wretchedness of our sinful flesh. We are made aware that none can glory in His
F. Fasting for pure faith–The denial of self seems to feed our faith in the Word of God. As you lose sight of the carnal, your faith becomes more pure and undefiled. Your faith intensifies and doubt dissolves. That’s why Jesus said, “some things don’t come but by prayer and fasting.”
G. Fasting for the unction–Paul’s ministry was in power and demonstration of the Spirit!! We have too many distractions. Our world is geared to keep us carnal and spiritually immobile! We are too busy to hide away in the midst of the Shikinah Glory and receive hell-shattering, earth-shaking, heaven-rejoicing messages from God.
It is time for God’s ministry to become a flame with the gospel message. It was written of one great preacher in the 15th Century, “He fasted and prayed until he was aflame with truth. He had found his message! The sentences rushed out, growing in intensity until his voice became a the voice-of God. Tears
gushed from the eyes of his hearers, they beat their chests, they cried out to God for mercy, the church echoed with their sobs. The people were so convicted that they left the church in silence as if afraid to speak to each other. Revival swept through the city.
Charles G. Finney seemed to always preach with power of conviction. But he wrote, “Sometimes I would find myself empty of this power. I would then begin to fast and pray until it returned. It always returned after I humbled myself before God” in fasting and prayer.
H. Fasting for power over carnality–Fasting starves the flesh, allowing the mind to turn towards spiritual issues. Fleshly lusts, desires and ambitions lose their power over us. Our spiritual hunger is wheted, spiritual desires and goals come into sharp focus. We begin to reach after the mind of God! We begin to move out into new dimensions. We discover God in all His glory!
Amplified translation of I Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things!…Therefore I do not run uncertainly–without
definite aim…but I buffet my body!–handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships–and subdue it!—for fear that I should become unfit and rejected as counterfeit!
I. Fasting for spiritual power–Jesus came from 40 days fasting–“Jesus returned in the power of the spirit” Luke 4:14. Jesus sent His disciples forth with “ALL power in heaven and earth” behind them. He said, “I give unto you, power over all the power of the devil in Luke 10:19. Certainly there are some
apostolic secrets that we have not unlocked. We desperately need to search for the keys to reaching our world!
When you talk about apostolic power who do you think about in the world today? T. W. Barnes??? Who else? Why? Where are the power gifts operating? Do we need one man? No, devils show is one man! We need an apostolic fallout upon all preachers. Only one answer–fasting, prayer and Word!!!
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