Slow Down Today As You Consider Fasting Tomorrow

January 1, 2013 — 3 Comments

prayer_and_fasting_icon_07

Ok, you don’t have to consider fasting tomorrow, but I’ve called Journey Christian Church to a day of fasting and prayer tomorrow January 2nd, 2013.

Here are the parameters of our fast:

Partial Fast–Drink water and then choose something from which to fast (food, coffee, technology, Facebook, etc.)

Duration–Sunrise to Sunset

Prayer Focus–Personal Needs, Needs of Friends and Family, Work of God in our Community (Gangs, Homelessness, John Evans IB Middle School, Local Government), Work of God in our Country, Seek God’s Will for Journey Christian Church (Building Needs, Wisdom, Direction, Courage, Faith, Stewardship–both personal and corporate

With our fast in mind, I wanted to share some notes from my message to help prepare people for the fast. This may be helpful if you ever consider participating in a fast.

On Fasting

Most people are very surprised to find that there are more than 74 separate references to fasting in the Bible. It’s never associated with weight loss, or as a hunger strike to be used for political purposes.  However, it is the giving up of physical food with a specific spiritual goal in mind. Occasional short fasts are very healthy. They have a way of flushing out the system, and even shrinking the size of the stomach, which for most of us is wise.

Fasting: to abstain from food, either entirely or partially

Another definition is: “bypassing the opportunity to eat for a spiritual purpose.”

There’s a misconception that fasting is a method of losing weight. The biblical examples never allude to that or encourage that as a reason for fasting.

A lady once called a church’s family life center to sign up for an aerobics class and the secretary told her to wear loose-fitting clothing. The lady said, “If I had any loose-fitting clothing I wouldn’t need the aerobics class!”

There’s actually more teaching in the New Testament on fasting than there is on repentance and confession.

Look with me at verse Matthew 6:16, if you dare. Jesus says, “When you fast ”

Matthew 6:16-18

16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

John Wesley said, “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason, and others have utterly disregarded it.”

I’ve fallen into the latter category. I’ve not taught on fasting very much.

Why don’t most Christians Fast? 

1)    They are not taught about fasting.

2)    They are addicted to food.

3)    They are spiritually lazy.

–Dean Trune

 Christ’s expectation is that we will fast, so let’s try to learn as much as we can today about fasting.

Fasting in the Bible

Moses

  • Moses fasted at Sinai while receiving the Law from God—(Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9)
  • Moses fasted when he smashed the tablets (Dt. 9:17f.)

Fasting for the Children of Israel

1)    During times of distress, penitence, prayer, mourning

  • Jgs. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6; 2 Ch. 20:3; Neh. 1:4; I Kings 21:27; Ps. 35:13; Isa. 31:13)

2)    The Mosaic Law ordered a fast on 1 day of the year: Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)—The high priest made his annual appearance in the Holy of Holies

The Pharisees went beyond the law to fast 2 times a week—on Mondays and Thursdays.  This is because Jewish tradition had Moses ascending Mt. Sinai on Thursday and descending on the following Monday.

3)    Fasts varied in length

  • 1 day; 1 night; 3, 7, or 40 days.

Fasting in the N.T.

1)    John the Baptist’s disciples fasted-Mt. 9:14-15

2)    Jesus fasted—Mt. 4:2; Mk. 1:13

3)    Jesus taught on fasting—Mt. 6:16-18; Lk. 18:9-14)

4)    Paul fasted after his blinding (Acts 9:9) before his first missionary journey (13:2ff) and during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea (27:33).

Fasting in the Early Church

  • By at least A.D. 100 Christians in some areas fasted at least 2 times a week-on Wednesday’s and Friday’s.  They chose these days to distinguish themselves from the Jews who fasted on Mondays and Thursday’s.
  • By the later 4th century, weekly fasts became a universal Christian phenomena.
  • Early Church documents prescribe 1-2 days of fasting before baptism for all people involved in the ceremony.

Benefits according to Early Church

1)    Demonstration of ethical sincerity (saving food to give to poor)

2)    Sign of authentic repentance

3)    Preparation for significant religious moments (baptism, Lord’s supper, ordination)

4)    A means of intensifying prayer

5)    A symbol of identification with the passion of Christ

Is fasting just for people who lived a long time ago?

Richard Foster said, “In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the golden arches, and an assortment of pizza temples, fasting seems out of step with the times.”

Today, I want to look at 3 of the benefits of fasting.

Fasting feeds our will.

We live in a culture of indulgence.  Positive things come from denial of self.

Leviticus 16:29
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves [ 16:29 Or [ must fast ] ; also in verse 31 ] and not do any work-whether native-born or an alien living among you-

Leviticus 23:27
“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, [ 23:27 Or [ and fast ] ; also in verses 29 and 32 ] and present an offering made to the LORD by fire.

Numbers 29:7
” ‘On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves [ 29:7 Or [ must fast ] ] and do no work.

This phrase  “deny yourself” is literally, “humble your soul.”  People understood this as a command to fast.

This is the same message we find from Christ in the sermon on the mount.  Let’s look at Matthew 6 again.

Matthew 6:16-18

16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

We must be disciplined to fast and disciplined while we fast.

Matthew 6:16
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

You see the Pharisees would make their faces look pale, they’d put ashes on their head, and people would say, “You don’t look well.”  Their response would go something like this, “Oh, I’m okay, sometimes I look a little piqued when I fast for over 3 days!”  They wanted people to put them on a pedestal of piety, they enjoyed that, and Jesus just shakes his head and says, they’ve received their reward—the attention of men. True fasting revolves around intimacy with God.

Matthew 6:17-18
“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Look normal, and act normal. You don’t have to pray all day when you fast. Just carry on with your daily work and use the normal meal and snack times for prayer. Jesus tells us to anoint our heads with oil. In other words look happy and act normal while you’re fasting. Don’t look like a bucket of gloom. Alert those who need to know and those who prepare meals but otherwise keep fasting private. The results of fasting make it enjoyable. When prayers are answered and lives changed you’ll love fasting for the joy it brings into the world and the discipline will seem worthwhile.

Through fasting we gain:

  1. Strength
  2. Focus

When we are fasting the blood and oxygen that usually go to our stomach are available to our brain.

Plato often wrote he fasted for “greater mental and physical efficiency

3. Character

Richard Foster says, “Fasting reveals the things that control us.”

Fasting feeds our soul

We’ll get a taste joy.

Zechariah 8:18,19

18 Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”

We’ll get a taste of humility.

Jonah 3:5
The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Don DeWelt said, “Fasting can be God’s catalyst to thrust us into a whole new world.”

Billy Graham describes fasting, by using an illustration. If you’ve ever been out on a boat and when you draw closer to the shore you attach a rope to something, you turn off the motor, and you pull yourself in. You’re not pulling the shore to you; you’re pulling yourself closer to the shore. That’s what happens when we fast, we’re not pulling God closer to us. We’re being drawn closer to him.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

Ezra 8:21
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.

When you fast from food, every hunger pang, and each time your stomach growls, it reminds you that you’re attempting to say no to the physical and yes to the spiritual.

Fasting feeds our ministry

Isaiah 58:4
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Isaiah 58:5
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Isaiah 58:6-11

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [1] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

 This passage in Isaiah teaches us that when we fast…

We find empowerment to:

  1. Loose the chains of injustice—v. 6
  2. Untie the cords of the yoke—v. 6
  3. Set the oppressed free—v. 6
  4. Feed the hungry—v. 7
  5. Shelter the poor—v. 7
  6. Clothe the naked—v. 7
  7. Shine our light—v. 8
  8. Be Healed—v. 8
  9. Share the glory of the Lord—v. 8
  10. Pray—v. 9

We also are blessed because:

  1. God will Shine Through us—v. 11
  2. God will Guide us—v. 11
  3. God will Satisfy us—v. 11
  4. God will Strengthen us—v. 11
  5. God will Nourish us—v. 11
  6. God will Bless us—vv. 12-14

 Bill Bright said, “Fasting transforms us to transform the world.”

Let me close by getting real practical.

Here are the Types of fasts:

1)    Normal fasts—fasting from food but not water.

One seasoned veteran says, “Start with one day fasts where you allow yourself fruit juice. Skip breakfast and lunch and after the sun sets eat well. After you’ve done this a number of times gradually move to two- and three-day fasts. Wait on God, he will indicate to your spirit how long you need to fast. It is generally wise not go on ten-day or longer fasts without a medical checkup from a sympathetic Christian general practitioner.”

2)    Absolute fast—fasting from food and liquids.

In this specific type of fast, even water wouldn’t be consumed. It’s very important to understand that God supernaturally intervened and supplied Moses with strength. This isn’t a pattern for today. I repeat this could be injurious to your health as the human body will dehydrate in three or four days without water.

In Jonah 3 when Jonah finally does go to Nineveh by way of the big-fish express he calls upon the people to repent or God was going to wipe their city of 600,000 out of existence. The people engaged in a total fast, but that’s not all, the animals even joined in. So their livestock even went without being fed to show their utter dependence on God

3)    Partial fast—fasting from certain foods or liquids.

In the book of Daniel it speaks of a fast—not from food—but from wine, rich foods, and fancier cuisine. No steaks, lobsters, caviar, or Starbucks.

But there are other things to fast from, no evening television for two weeks or no secular music for a week, no technology, no Facebook, etc. Like food, it doesn’t mean that those things are necessarily sinful, it means that during that stretch you’re trying to deepen your fellowship with your heavenly father.

There are a couple of times in the Bible where it speaks of married couples even “fasting” from having sexual relations with each other for a certain length of time. (Some of you may have been on a fast and you didn’t know it!)

Note: The Pharisees fasted twice a week and Jesus condemned them! So don’t get wrapped up in fasting for the wrong reason. If you flaunt it or you tell others, you’ve done more to hurt your witness than to draw closer to the Lord.

Did you know that because of our national crisis a Day of Fasting has been proclaimed?  The Senate asked the President to declare a Day of Fasting for our country and so he did.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation.

And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the thirtieth day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine preaching, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.

BY THE PRESIDENT: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM SEWARD, SECRETARY OF STATE

I think it’s time we proclaimed another day of fasting and prayer.

Here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Consider fasting;
  2. Pray about it;
  3. Try a sunrise to sunset fast on Wednesday, January 2nd, making a list ahead of time on what you’ll pray about during breakfast and lunch.
  4. Do your normal duties, and during those times, when you’d normally be eating, feast on God’s Word and pray for your family, friends, Greeley, and Journey.

We will designate Wednesday, January 2nd as a Day of Fasting and Prayer for our Church.  It will be partial fast of breakfast and lunch, or of something else significant in your life.

 

©2013 Arron Chambers

 

Advertisements

3 responses to Slow Down Today As You Consider Fasting Tomorrow

  1. 

    PA, this is very good! Very important teaching that as you note most of Christianity has ignored. Very good stuff, you must have written this while driving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s