Summary: An inspiring teaching on the purpose and power of fasting from the New Testament perspective. It also features a helpful guide for effective fasting.
A few weeks ago I received a call from a young minister of the gospel who wanted to know my view on the subject of fasting. He explained that he attended a Christian conference recently where the guest preacher got him confused about fasting. According to him the preacher made a mockery of Pentecostal Churches and Ministers that are in the habit of fasting and was discouraging believers from fasting claiming that fasting is not relevant in the New Testament. The young minister left that conference confused and troubled. I know there are many other Christians out there like that young minister of the gospel who are very confused about the issue of fasting and need some enlightenment. It is for this reason I have decided to address the subject of fasting in this article.
I believe in fasting! It is true that because of ignorance many preachers have abused and continue to abuse fasting and many Christians do not have proper understanding of the biblical concept of fasting but that is not enough reason for any preacher to mock fasting or discourage fellow Christians from fasting. If you have proper knowledge of God’s word I would rather you teach believers the purpose of fasting and how to fast effectively than to discourage them from fasting. Fasting has both spiritual and physical benefits. However my main focus in this article is to highlight the spiritual benefits of fasting and to offer a simple biblical and practical guide for effective fasting from the perspective of the New Testament.
SPIRITUAL BENEFITS OF FASTING
Fasting is an essential spiritual and physical exercise and a vital aspect of our spiritual walk. Fasting has never lost its relevance. To start with, fasting is a spiritual discipline that temporarily relieves you of the weight of the ‘flesh’ and elevates your spirit. It is in this regard that fasting facilitates prayers because it positions your spirit to connect effectively with God in prayer. Effective fasting enhances your spiritual sensitivity and alertness thereby enabling your spirit to receive divine signals, instruction or revelation from God through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is a purposeful act of sacrifice and worship because you deliberately give up certain pleasures of the flesh temporarily in order to establish a deeper communion with God and advance your spiritual life.
Although fasting is not and can never be a substitute for the fruit of the Spirit but fasting certainly promotes humility because fasting temporarily subdues the flesh and creates an atmosphere of sobriety. Since fasting promotes humility fasting is therefore a channel of grace. James 4:6 tells us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble”. Fasting is a way of humbling and submitting yourself to God. The Bible tells us that God exalts those that humble themselves and submit to Him.
WHY I BELIEVE IN FASTING
I believe in fasting for the following reasons:
1. Fasting is scriptural and was endorsed by Jesus. In Matthew 6:16 where Jesus warned his disciples against improper conduct in worship, he said “When You Fast” not “If You Fast” – which suggests that Jesus expects his disciples to fast from time to time.
2. Jesus (in his human form and earthly life) believed in fasting and personally fasted as he was led by the Spirit of God. Just before Jesus began his Galilean ministry the Bible tells us in Matthew 4:1-2 that “Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry”. I am not by any means recommending this type of fast for any Christian. I am just asserting that Jesus believed in fasting and personally fasted. Some people have argued that Jesus did not fast but that is not true. Matthew 4:2 states clearly that Jesus fasted. The Greek word that was translated “fasted” in that scripture is “nesteuo” which means “to abstain from food”. So there’s no argument about it. Jesus fasted. Period!
3. Ministers of God in the early church believed in fasting and they fasted often. In Acts 13:3, the Bible says “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”. In 2 Corinthians 11:27, Paul the Apostle revealed that he fasted often.
4. Paul the Apostle admonished ministers of God to give themselves to fasting. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, he said “we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fastings”.
5. There is no minister of God that I know who has a supernatural ministry and is doing exploits in ministry that does not know the value of fasting. Oral Roberts was a man that God used tremendously in the work of the Kingdom in his days. In one of his publications he said he learnt never to start a new project without doing two things – Fasting and Sowing a Seed of Faith for that project.