by Pastor Jeff Sherk (originally posted January 2010)
A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE OF FASTING
In the past, I've done my share of fasting, although admittedly not as much as I should have. One of the hurdles I always had a hard time overcoming was that I somehow felt like I was trying to negotiate a deal with the Lord, and that I was saying "God, I'm going to fast, so what are you going to give me in return?" I knew that God didn't work on a barter system like that, but I also knew that scripture was full of examples of the power of fasting in many of the prophets and disciples lives.
So what was my problem? Why was I thinking the way I was about fasting? Well it boiled down to the fact that I had never really 'searched the matter out' for myself, and my own misconceptions (my misunderstanding or my sin) was leading me to this false feeling about 'bartering' with the Lord.
John 8:32 says "... you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Well, searching out the truth about fasting has certainly set me free from feeling like I am playing "Let's make a deal!" with the Lord!
Let's take a look at some scriptures, so you can understand more clearly as well.
The first thing I want you to see in Psalms 35 and Ezra 8, is that fasting is a way to humble ourselves before the Lord:
Psalms 35:13. But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart.
Ezra 8:21. Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.
Why is it important to humble ourselves? Because God says he will guide you and teach you His way:
Psalms 25:9. The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.
He says He will give you Grace:
Proverbs 3:34. Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.
He says He will give you wisdom:
Proverbs 11:2. When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.
Jesus says you will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven:
Matthew 18:4. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Those are all pretty significant reasons to humble yourself. Do a search on the word 'humble' in scripture, and you will see that are many more as well.
You probably don't need scripture to tell you that fasting can make you weak and feeble, but here it is anyway:
Psalms 109:24. My knees are weak through fasting, And my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.
Why is this significant? The Apostle Paul tells us what happens when we are weak:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So again, God promises us His grace, which will both strengthen us and perfect us.
If you read back up in Ezra 8:21 again, it tells you the reason why they were fasting... they were seeking the right way... they were looking for an answer. Daniel says the same thing:
Daniel 9:3. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
So fasting is way to get prayers answered!
POWER TO CAST OUT DEMONS
In Matthew 17:14-21 we have the story of an epileptic boy which the disciples could not cure. Jesus tells them the solution though:
Matthew 17:21. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
So Jesus Himself tells us that prayer and fasting is the only way we will be able to remove some demons from our own lives and from others lives.
NO MORE BARTERING
So now back to my original problem of always feeling like I was saying "God I'm going to fast, so what are you going to give me in return?" The revelation from all this, is that you don't need to barter with God because He already promised you these things!
God says, "If you fast, then I will guide you, teach you, give you wisdom, grace, strength, answer your prayers and give you the power to cast out demons!" WOW... that's amazing! He is a God of His Word, so if He said it, He will do it!!
But be warned... there is a right way and a wrong way to fast! In Isaiah 58:3-4 God says that their fasting is unacceptable and He will not hear their voice. But starting in verse 5, He sets some guidelines on proper fasting methods, and IF we observe them, THEN in verse 8 He says "your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard."
So let's fast with our hearts set on seeing transformation in our lives, as well as the lives of others, and in seeing a fulfillment of Luke 4:18-19:
Luke 4:18-19 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED; 19 TO PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."