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At the beginning of 2022, over a four week period, our pastor, Rev. Dr. James A. Jackson, Jr. Th.D., presented the Biblical Principles of Fasting to the Tuesday Evening Bible Study Class. The study was extremely well received. So, as promised, we are sharing the information from that class. We pray that this material will be a blessing to you as you discover the spirital benefits of Biblical Fasting.
Introduction to Biblical Fasting
Biblical fasting can be defined as abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. By simply going without food because it is not available or for medical reasons is not Biblical fasting. There must be a spiritual motivation to qualify a fast as being Biblical. In his book “A Hunger for God,” John Piper writes, “Christian [Biblical] fasting, at its root is the hunger of homesickness for God. Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of superior satisfaction in God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.”
Fasting is a weapon because there is no other way for certain powers to emerge from within you, except through fasting; because fasting removes both physical and mental obstacles, allowing the spiritual energy to express freely through you. As a side-effect of fasting, you will discover that your abundance will increase.
FASTING GLORIFIES GOD, DIETING GLORIFIES SELF -- Fasting is all about God. We fast because we hunger for more of God -- more of His presence, His Spirit, His glory. We long to see and savor Him. By fasting we agree with the Psalmist that our one desire is “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Psalm 27:4). We proclaim through our fast that we need to see His beauty more than we need our next meal.
FASTING IS ROOTED IN THE GOSPEL, DIETING IS ROOTED IN WILLPOWER -- Paul declares, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8). The Gospel is your only hope to draw near to God in confidence. There is no fast you could perform that would ever make you righteous.
FASTING IS ABOUT FULLNESS, DIETING IS ABOUT DENIAL -- Fasting is the denial of food for the sake of greater satisfaction in Christ. Biblical fasting is not a pursuit of emptiness. Though fasting can feel painful in the moment, its ultimate end is always fullness. What makes Biblical fasting distinct from dieting or other religious fasts? We know it is actually a type of feasting. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”
(John. 6:35). He went on to say, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John. 6:55). There is a spiritual feasting on Christ that satisfies the believer in a way nothing else can. That raises the question as to why do we fast?
Why do we Fast?
Biblical Examples and Purposes of Fasting
Jesus fasted to acknowledge His dependence and to gain spiritual strength through reliance on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. He did this before He began His public ministry (Luke 4:1-2). That is a good example of what we should do before stepping into ministry.
The scripture says Nehemiah fasted for confession, repentance and favor in the sight of the King to get permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4). David humbled himself, asking God to intervene because of injustice (Psalm 35:13). In 2Samuel 12:17-23, he fasted for healing and miraculous intervention.
Esther, Mordecai and the Jews fasted upon hearing the news of Haman’s wicked plot for their extermination (Esther 4:3). The early church fasted while worshipping and committing their ministry to the Lord. They also sought the Lord through fasting for guidance and confirmation during the appointment of elders (Acts 13:2, 14:23). Although Jesus expected His disciples to fast, He did not command it (Matthew 6:16).
Note: If you fast, you will find yourself being humbled. You must accompany your fast with prayer, otherwise, it simply becomes a weight loss program. You will find that the Lord will lead you to recognize and repent of unconfessed sin and you will experience special blessings from God.
Various types of Fasts
Ways To Fast
Please remember: Biblical fasting of any type must always be combined with prayer. God called us to fast AND pray. Even if you are only fasting during a certain meal of the day, use the time you would normally be eating to pray. The combination of prayer and fasting is a powerful way to focus on seeking God for breakthroughs and answers to prayer.
Medical Note: Before beginning your fast, consult with your physician regarding your overall fitness. He or she may want to make changes to your treatments or medications including timing and dosages during the fasting period. For example, if you are doing a partial or intermittent fast and only need to take medicine once a day; it may be easier to take your meds with the main fast day meal. However, please do not be tempted to reschedule, skip or reduce your medications without FIRST consulting with your doctor or pharmacist.
Breaking your fast: When you first coming off a fast; don’t eat anything too heavy. Make your first meal broth, light soup, juices, tea, etc. This will be easier on your stomach and digestion.
Biblical fasting is a choice that not many people go through in this day and age. Deeply grounded in religion and spirituality, it requires immense dedication. However, those who practice Biblical fasting, praise the benefits of it. If this is something that interests you, we recommend giving it a try and easing in slowly. Don’t jump in headfirst, your body will need time to adjust. In the end, you will be able to decide whether Biblical fasting is for you simply by trying and counting the benefits.
Rev. Dr. James A. Jackson, Jr., Th.D.-- January 2022