#064 Fasting

Fasting, what exactly is fasting? Is it for Christians today? Is it mentioned in the Bible? Why would I want to fast? If you are unclear on what fasting is and why it could be an important step in energizing your walk with the Lord than listen to today’s podcast for answers from the Bible. Please have a Bible ready and open the scriptures and follow along as we study God’s word to see what the biblical practice of fasting is all about.

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Mark 2:18-20

All right, the days have come, the bridegroom has been taken away from us… The question is, are the children of the bridechamber doing any fasting?


Fasting is a Bible practice.

It is sanctioned & practiced both in the OT & the NT.

To be clear, fasting is going for a period of time without eating. That is why our morning meal is called breakfast – Literally, “break” “fast”.

And really that’s about the only fasting that most Christians do… They fast all night while they sleep.

Of course Jesus had more than this in mind when He said the children of the bridechamber would be fasting in the days when He was taken away.

A fuller definition of fasting, as found in Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that fasting is…

1. To abstain from food, beyond the usual time; to omit to take the usual meals, for a time; as, to fast a day or a week.
2. To abstain from food voluntarily, for the mortification of the body or appetites…

To mortify is to put to death… It is akin to the words mortician (one who works with dead people), and mortal – (something that dies), or immortal – (something that never dies), and the mortality rate – which is the death rate.

So fasting is death to the flesh… But I trust you knew that already!
The flesh rebels against fasting. It is completely counterintuitive to that which we would naturally do.

The idea of voluntarily giving up food for a period of time is so disdaining to the average Christian, that instead of seeking to understand what it is all about, and seeking the Lord to help them do it… they instead, dismiss it with jokes, like…

“Ohh yeah… I like to fast… I eat fast & I like fast food.”

I know it’s not the most enjoyable subject for the flesh, but you have been duly warned in the Scriptures, that

…the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

If you’ll look at the text I read a moment ago in Mk. 2:18…

You’ll notice the word “disciples” (3 times).

Disciple is related to the word discipline…

A disciple is one who disciplines himself to follow his master. A Christian’s master is Jesus Christ, and if we are to follow Him it will certainly take some discipline in some areas.

Discipline involves self-denial… Self denial is a concept that seems to have been lost here in Laodicea.

And yet, hear the words of the Lord Jesus in the gospels

Matt. 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

While the flesh has trouble with this, the Spirit of God produces temperance in the Christian…

Paul displayed this in his own life & practice as he said in I Cor. 9

{26} I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
{27} But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Instead of letting his body tell him what to do, Paul would tell his body what it was going to do.

And so to do any amount of fasting, it will take some self discipline…

And self discipline is part of being a Christian.

Again, fasting is death to the flesh… It helps with the mortification process of dying to self… Remember what I read you from Webster’s def. of fasting

2. To abstain from food voluntarily, for the mortification of the body or appetites…

Rom. 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Fasting, as a Christian, tends to naturally tune you more into God.

Think about it – John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit”. When you deny your flesh food, the flesh gets tuned out, and you tend to get more tuned into spiritual things.

Now you may have to press past the point of your flesh crying out for food… but it will if you’ll just hang in there.

In general, some reasons why you would want to fast is that fasting is…

A.) A means of getting closer to God,
B.) As a means of repentance and getting right with God.
C.) A means of getting God’s attention,
D.) A means of renewing your spiritual strength.

*Moses got closer to God as He fasted and met with the LORD in Mt.

*Nineveh got God’s attention as they fasted & repented at the
preaching of Jonah.

*Esther & Mordecai & the Jews got God’s attention as they fasted for
the lives of their people to be delivered from Haman’s deathly decree.

*Elijah renewed his strength through fasting after his battle with
Jezebel & her prophets on Mt. Carmel.

*Daniel sought the Lord with repentance and fasting, both for himself
& the nation of Israel in Dan. ch. 9.

*Nehemiah “wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed
before the God of heaven” before they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.

There are many benefits to fasting…
And though all of the examples I just gave you are OT cases, I remind you, as I said earlier, that fasting is also sanctioned and practiced in the NT as well.

Our Lord Jesus Christ sanctioned the practice of fasting in NT times in our text that we read at the beginning of this study.

Jesus also famously practiced fasting, as He fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.

Jesus also gave instruction about fasting in Matt. ch. 6, where He said these words in Matt. 6:16 Moreover when ye fast…

He did not say “if ye fast, but when ye fast”. It was understood by Jesus that His disciples would practice fasting.

Matt. 6:16-18

So when you are doing a personal fast, you are not to broadcast it to others. It is to be something between you and God.

Now others may incidentally find out if they see you not eating, but your motive is not to be for others to take notice of your fasting… Your motive is to be for God to take notice of your fasting & desire to seek Him.

And let me add here, if you suspect someone might be fasting, normally you should not ask them if they are; as if they are approaching it properly, they would rather not discuss it with you while they are engaged in it.

And let me also say, that when you are fasting, if it is discovered and someone asks you about it, don’t feel like you’ve blown the benefit of your fast… Just make sure of your motives.

Now, further evidence of fasting being a NT practice comes in the life of the apostle Paul, for he himself practiced fasting.

*Paul, perhaps our greatest example of a NT Christian, gave
testimony of his fasting experience, after the fact, in II Cor. 11:27.

Here as Paul is giving his resumé, he tells of his experiences & says
Beginning in II Cor. 11:23 here is what he said

{23}Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
{24} Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
{25} Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
{26} In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
{27} In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Notice a couple of things about that…

First, he makes a distinction between hunger & fasting…

Both are periods of time without food, but the difference is that fasting is voluntary abstinence from food, while hunger is involuntary abstinence from food.

Second, notice that Paul said, in fastings often…

This then, was a normal practice for Paul. And keep in mind, that Paul, the great NT Christian, is our ensample of Christian living

Phil. 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

Now in the Bible there are different lengths of fasting… From as short as less than a day, to as long as 40 days…

Or, as in the case of Moses, it appears that Moses might have had a supernatural fast of 80 days neither eating nor drinking… as he fasted 40 days in the presence of God, came down from the mount, then went back up and fasted 40 more days in the presence of God.

We do not have the exact same luxury as Moses did, of being directly in the presence of God as he was on Mt. Sinai so the longest normal, natural fasts in the Bible are 40 days.

But don’t think that you have to fast for 40 days to get results…

The fast that was for less than a day was a fast until even… (evening).

This fast yielded great results in Judg. ch. 20 as the children of Israel went up to battle against the tribe of Benjamin.

Israel prayed, then went up against Benjamin once, and lost 22,000 men.

Then they wept & prayed and went up against Benjamin again the second time, and lost 18,000 more men.

Before going up a third time, they wept, they waited, they fasted until even, they sacrificed & prayed… and that day they won the victory, taking out 25,000 men of the tribe of Benjamin.

What praying alone did not do…
What praying and weeping did not do…
Praying & fasting did!

As it is written Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

So a sincere, genuine fast until evening, or for 24 hours, can be effective.

There are also some effective 3 day fasts in the Bible…

*Paul fasted 3 days without food or water right after he got saved, and
that launched him into his fruitful ministry and walk with God.

*Esther, her maidens, and the Jews also did a three day fast without
food or water and gained the deliverance of their people from
Haman’s decree of death to the Jews.

Three days are the longest natural fasts to the Lord that are specified as being also without drinking.

Now I want to show you one of the preacher’s favorite verses in the Bible

Isaiah 58:1 (READ)

This is a great verse, but this is just the beginning of a great chapter.

As a matter of fact, I like to call Is. 58, The Great Fasting Chapter.

There is more information on fasting in Isaiah 58 than any other single place in the Bible.

v. 1 – Preaching

v. 2 – Hypocrisy
v. 3 – Religious, but not impressing God

v. 4 – Political Hunger Strikers. Prison Hunger Strikers. Any type of a hunger strike to get people’s attention to a cause that someone wants something to be done about.

These types of “fasts” are not done to get God’s attention, they are done to get man’s attention.

v. 5 – A.) Bulrushes – Like “cat-tails”. They stand straight up.

B.) In times of repentance, sackcloth and ashes are put on the
body, not under it.

Here’s God’s proper motives for fasting.

v. 6 – A.) To Loose the Bands of Wickedness

If you are bound with some sin and can’t get the victory…
If you wish to fast for a brother or sister in Christ who is thus bound…
If you wish to fast for and unsaved person who is bound & lost…

B.) To Undo the Heavy Burdens – I Pet. 5:7. Is. 55:22

C.) To Let the Oppressed Go Free

This was the fast of Esther & Mordecai & the Jews, who were set free from the oppression of Haman.

The Bible speaks of the oppression…

*Of the enemy – Psalm 42:9; 43:2
*Of the wicked – Psalm 55:1-3
*Of man – Psalm 119:134
*Of the devil – Acts 10:38

Cf. Matt. 17:14-18, 21

From this story we also ascertain that fasting can increase one’s faith Matt. 17:19-21.

By the way, Matt. 17:21 is not in the text of the NIV.

If you are reading an NIV, go ahead and turn there… Watch the verse numbers in Matt. 17… They go 18, 19, 20… 22…

What happened to v. 21?!

They say the people who put the NIV together were some of the greatest Hebrew & Greek scholars of the time… Well, maybe they were… but they couldn’t count!

And think about this… If they really believed that Matt. 17:21 shouldn’t be in the text, then why didn’t they adjust the numbering system?

Because they wanted to make sure the rest of the chapter followed the standard… And do you know what the standard is? The old King James Bible!

And then think about this… I wonder who would want to remove a powerful verse like this from the text of the Bible?

Somebody that doesn’t want you to get a hold of God! Namely, your adversary, the devil.

v. 6 D.) That Ye Break Every Yoke

*Be not unequally yoked together.

-You might need to fast to get out of a bad relationship.
– “ “ “ “ friendship.
– “ “ “ “ job.
– “ “ “ housing situation.
– “ “ “ business deal, etc.

v. 7 *Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry…

– Literally – Since you’re not eating, you can give your bread away.
– Spiritually – Fasting before preaching (cf. v. 1), teaching, discipling,
witnessing, etc.

*Poor – Bring them to church.
*Naked – Unsaved
*Thine Own Flesh – Family. The implication, seems to be,
while you’re ministering to others (i.e. the hungry, poor &
naked), don’t neglect to take care of your family.

v. 8 Results

All of the fasting books, Christian & otherwise, promise rejuvenation in 3 areas from fasting. Those are:

Physical, Mental & Spiritual rejuvenation.

While they don’t reference this Scripture for all three of these things, this Scripture references their promises.

A.) Light – Mental –

Eph 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;

When we don’t understand something we might ask someone to “Shed a little light on the subject.”

B.) Health – Health
C.) Righteousness – Spiritual

v. 8 (cont.) – “rereward”

– Webster’s 1828, says the word is from “rear” and “ward” and among his definitions; he defines it as “the rear guard”.

This is how the term is used in Josh. 6:9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.

*Cf. Armour of God – No armour for the back – Remember we saw in Matthew 17 how that fasting could increase your faith?

What part of our spiritual armour is “faith”? It’s the shield.

Look at Ps. 5:12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.

When you’ve got the shield of faith on, God’s got your back! Fasting can help to bring that about, for one of the results it can bring about it that “the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.”

v. 9 – How about that! That’s some promise, is it not?!

v. 10 -The darkest it will get for you is like the bright shining of the
sun at noonday!

v. 12 -14

v.14 – High places of the earth. The fasting books also mention a euphoric feeling that occasionally occurs, not unlike what some folks call “runner’s high”.

And of course when fasting to the Lord, this is a holy & pure ecstasy, and it comes with no adverse effects to the body, soul or spirit… And no hangover!

And now that we’ve gone through the Great Fasting Chapter of Is. 58 notice the next verse in the Bible. For right after this great dissertation on fasting the Bible says

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

This would imply that seeking the Lord through proper fasting can help us to get the obstructions out of the way, so that God’s hand would move in our lives and ministries, and His ears would hear and answer our prayers.

The Bible offers us so many desirable results through fasting. But too often we want the product without the process. We want the results, without taking the pains to get those results…

But if the results are that great… (and they are for fasting), then it is worth going through the grueling process to get those results.

So I will leave you with a reminder of some of those promises from as we read them in Is. 58:8-9

{8} Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
{9} Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am…

4 Responses to “#064 Fasting”

  1. Shawn Bowie Says:

    From New Heights Baptist, under Adrian Dominguez, glad to see you guys posting again. Check out Final Fight Bible Radio if you haven’t had a chance.


    On Tue, Mar 6, 2018, 6:54 PM That’s In The Bible? wrote:

    > thatsinthebible posted: “Fasting, what exactly is fasting? Is it for > Christians today? Is it mentioned in the Bible? Why would I want to fast? > If you are unclear on what fasting is and why it could be an important step > in energizing your walk with the Lord than listen to todays p” >

  2. Gregory Angell Says:

    Glad to see the new post. Enjoy listening to your podcast.

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