Sunday, February 14, 2021
But what is fasting? If you have been in the church for a while, you have probably heard your friend, or your preacher talk about "fasting." I would assume someone might have preached about this during the Lenten season in the past.
However, have you ever asked why we fast? Have you ever tried it? This might be a boring sermon today as I will be going through Biblical passages, but I promise, I will not force you into fasting by preaching a longer sermon.
First and foremost, the Biblical purpose of fasting is to worship God as we humble ourselves before him and intentionally leave behind things that take away our attention. According to Myles Monroe, "Fasting is taking your normal life to another level that it has never been before."
Fasting is a means by which a Christian person draws near to God through mediation and prayer while focusing on Him alone. In prayer we ask God to take us to his own realm and bring him close to our hearts. It is a way that we bring ourselves, body, mind and soul to a fight, a wrestling and struggle.
All major world religions dedicate themselves to fasting during a time of the year or days of the week.
- Hinduism—they meditate for days to get united with the unseen world (soul and body).
- Buddhism—the fast to shakeup for spiritual awakening "makes my internal fire balance go over the top" Rev. Heng Sure
- Islam— "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become righteous."—Surat al-Baqarah 2:183. Christians and Jews had been prescribed to hold fasting, according to this Surat (text). Therefore, Muslims are required to fast during "Ramadan," their holy season, as Christians and Jews do.
That is the difference from Christian fasting. Christians do not fast and pray for a body/soul's awakening, neither to unite soul and body nor use it as a shield for punishment from God. Christians fast and pray to partner with God in his mission to the world. It is a time we come close to God and give time solely to God and worship him as such.
Scriptures both of Old and New Testaments testify about individual and corporate fasting. People come before God in prayers and abstinence from food and other forms of distractions. We see Moses Fasting for forty days. He was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread, nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (Exodus 34:28). David humbled himself with fasting before God (Psalm 109:24, 2 Samuel 12:16).
In the New Testament, Jesus was led into wilderness and fasted from food and water for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11). As they imitated Jesus, the Early Church practiced fasting and prayers and this has been handed down to us through the centuries.
Even if the 21st century believers ignore or are reluctant to fast, Christians are implicitly called to fasting and prayer as part of their spiritual journey. Remember that prayer and fasting go together; prayer is a command for Christians, not doing it, is disobeying God.
How do we fast? There are different ways to do fasting and the lengths of fasting varies. First, we learned about strict fasting where a worshiper abstained from solid food and drinks. We learn this kind of fast from Moses and Jesus (Exodus 34; Matthew 4:1-11)—forty days. Second, there is partial fasting as in the case of our text today, where Daniel abstains from select foods—only eating vegetables (Daniel 10:3) for 21 days. Third, there is a hybrid fast where you can fast for a day, or two, three, seven, fourteen days, on special occasion as in the case of Ezra, Esther and Paul (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Nehemiah 9:1; Saul Acts 9:9) etc.
In our contemporary setting, the church now considers other types of fasting—nonfood fasting. This would include fasting from--
- Technology fast- abstain from your using phone or other devices for a half a day or a full day (unless you're a doctor) 😊. Put aside and away your phone.
- Social Media Fast- break from social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok, etc.) refresh your mind and pay attention to God's gifts in your life.
- Entertainment Fast- break from your favorite shows, movies, video games, YouTube, Radio, etc and spend time in prayer and Bible Meditation. Is there any book in the Bible you had wished to read and learn more about it? Take a moment and dedicate your time and read it.
- News Fast- excuse yourself from your usual news casts for a period.
- Leisure Fast- Sports, exercise, hunting, fishing, etc.
If you wish to fast and you've not fasted before, be aware that you'll have headaches and feel dizzy in the early stages. Sam Storms says, "This is Part of the body's cleansing process and will pass with time. Be sure that you break the fast gradually with fresh fruit and vegetables. Do not overeat after the fast."
Why Fasting? "Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, where he spent the night. He did not eat bread or drink water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles" (Ezra 10:6). There are countless reasons why we approach God in fasting and prayer.
We commit to fasting to help break the chain of anything that has taken hold of us and our desires. “Fasting is a wonderful discipline and a habit that God has given to his people. There are many different spiritual purposes we see in Scripture: repentance, humility, devotion in worship, and seeking the Spirit’s guidance." Stephen Um
In fasting and prayer, we submit ourselves to God in humility and ask him to change our hearts and restore our confidence. When we take the joy of food and best drinks from our body, we do that in order to devote ourselves to his authority and focus our attention to him. We pray for forgiveness, for intervention and renewal.
In fasting, we pray for strength, for God to indwell us, and build and restore our faith again. We ask God to whisper the tender voice of forgiveness in our hearts as we sincerely confess to him and act otherwise. When you are praying and fasting, open your heart and let the word of God reveal your weakness in your mediation (1 King 19:9). Then you will realize that it's better to reconcile than to bear the regret of old grudges we kept for years.
In fasting we repent, turn away from those things which suck us in and draw us away from God (Ezra 10:6). We humble ourselves; we recognize our need for God to meet us and change us (Esther4:16). We devote ourselves to worship (Matthew 6:16). We are seeking God’s guidance, intervention and leading through the times and the time yet still ahead of us (Ezra 8:21-23; Judges 20:26-28). In fasting we bring force in the court of heavenly realm, as Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29 NKJV)
Therefore, be sincere in your fasting because the Lord your God is not interested in your superficial religious rites like the Israelite worshipers. "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed, go free, and to break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6. Do not show off because your exercise of fasting is not the indication of your piety (Matthew 6:16-18).
Fasting does not change God, yet we are called to exercise it and ask for God's will. However, "Fasting changes you and myself— us. we fast in order that all things that cling to our spirit, soul, and body can be stripped away and only Jesus remain (Scott Barber). That is the reward of fasting.
Therefore, let us draw near to God but not to the cell phones 😊. Take time during this season and worship God with fasting, meditation and prayer. Because fasting and prayer is feeding on God's word and having deep desire for God. Remember that God knows your heart more than you do. And the Lord God is faithful to enrich your faith and speak to your heart tenderly. Amen