Thursday, September 6, 2018
The gift of fasting . . . .
Since I mentioned the gift of fasting during this past Sunday's sermon, I thought that I would share with you some practical suggestions for fasting. I am not a monk or a dietitian, however, I do have a fair amount of experience with fasting and I have picked up a few lessons over the years (most of them the hard way) that I would like to share with you.
1. The Lord does not command you to fast, although in Mathew 6:16, we discover that Jesus anticipates that His disciples will fast. Jewish people were commanded in the Old Testament to fast one day each year – on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Your sins were atoned for by Christ Jesus on the Cross, and that was a perfect and eternal sacrifice - thus your fasting can neither add to nor detract from what Christ has perfectly accomplished. However, fasting is an aid to prayer that should not be overlooked by the Christian.
2. If you are fasting for the first time, start with a shorter period of time, perhaps 15 hours. Regardless of how long one is going to fast, I highly recommend beginning immediately after supper. In this way, a large block of time is taken up by simply abstaining from an evening snack and sleeping (perhaps being a combined 12 hours from supper until waking). This makes a 24 hour fast seem more feasible – when you only have 12 hours to go.
3. Drink plenty of water – your body needs it and it will help you to feel more “full.” The biblical teaching on fasting never calls for abstaining from water.
4. Avoid sugary drinks at all cost. When the sugar enters your bloodstream, your body responds by producing more insulin and this causes you to feel quite light-headed. Fruit juices are not your friend when you are fasting – they are loaded with sugar.
5. If you begin to experience more than hunger pangs - break your fast. You and I may not be called to martyrdom. We always rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus, but we are not to seek it or inflict it upon ourselves.
6. Try to follow up your fasting by fasting again in two or three weeks. The first time one fasts, they notice the hunger pangs more than in subsequent fasting. The next time one fasts, they become much more attuned to their hunger for God’s presence than they did the first time they fasted.
7. Avoid sharing with others that you are fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).
8. Do not be afraid to break your fast prior to the appointed ending time if you are concerned about your functioning in other tasks. Please remember that your fasting does not honor God or merit His favor, it is done to awaken your heart’s hunger for Him.
In an article on Christian fasting, Kent D. Berghui provides an excellent summary of the purposes of fasting, as identified in the Bible (“A Biblical Perspective on Fasting” in Bibliotheca Sacra, 2001, p. 102):
I. As a Sign of Sorrow
A. For tragic events (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 31:13 = 1 Chron. 10:12; 2 Sam. 1:12; 3:35; Esth. 4:3; Jer. 14:1–12; Joel 1:14; 2:12–15)
B. For personal sorrow (1 Sam. 1:7–8; 20:34; Job 3:24; Pss. 42:3; 102:4; 107:17–18)
II. As a Sign of Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness
A. National or corporate sins (Exod. 34:28; 1 Sam. 7:6; Ezra 9:1–10:17; Neh. 1:4–7; 9:1; Dan. 9:3–14; Jon. 3:5–9; Zech. 8:16–19)
B. Personal sins (2 Sam. 12:16–23; 1 Kings 21:27–29; Ps. 69:10; Acts 9:9[?])
C. As an opportunity for public exposure of sin (1 Kings 21:9–12; Isa. 58:1–5; Jer. 36:6–9)
III. As an Aid in Prayer to God
A. For others (2 Sam. 12:16–23; Neh. 1:8–10; Ps. 35:13; Dan. 6:18; 9:15–19)
B. For one’s self (1 Sam. 1:7–11; Neh. 1:11; Ps. 109:21–24; Dan. 9:3; 10:1–3)
C. For success in battle (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6; 2 Chron. 20:3) and in other endeavors (Ezra 8:21–23; Esth. 4:16)
D. For relief from famine (Jer. 14:1–12; Joel 1:14; 2:12–15)
E. As an aid in personal or group devotion (Matt. 6:16–18; Luke 2:37; Acts 10:30; 13:2–3; 1 Cor. 7:5)
IV. As an Aid in Experiencing God’s Presence
A. Supernatural sustaining by God (Exod. 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8)
B. Reliance on God in times of temptation or spiritual warfare (Matt. 4:2 = Luke 4:2; Matt. 17:21 = Mark 9:29)
C. Reflecting the reality of the loss of Christ’s immediate presence with His followers (Matt 9:14–15 = Mark 2:18–20 = Luke 5:33–35)
D. Going without food to remain longer under Jesus’ teaching (Matt 15:32 = Mark 8:3)
V. As an Act of Ceremonial Public Worship
(Neh. 9:1; Esth. 9:31; Isa. 58:3; Jer. 36:6–9; Zech. 7:3–5; 8:19; Acts 27:9)
VI. As Related to Ministry
A. Preparation for significant ministry (Matt. 4:2 = Luke 4:2; Acts 9:9 [?]; 13:2–3; 14:23)
B. Specific command of God while prophesying (1 Kings 13:1–22)
C. Suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27)
In Christ Jesus,