Summary: Message three in our exposition of Nehemiah focusing on the practice of fasting.
Chico Alliance Church
"The Fragrance of Fasting"
Many would love perform like some exceptional athlete or some famous musician.
Most any ability does not come without practice and training.
There is natural talent, but even natural talent must be cultivated and trained.
Mostly we only see the end product of many long hours of tedious practice and strenuous labor.
As followers of Christ, we long to be like Him.
We want to live His kind of life.
We long for the power to do the things He did, live the way He lived, love the way He loved, know His wisdom, have His insight.
Yet we seem to forget the disciplines in His life that made Him what He was.
We want a vital relationship with God but can't seem to find the time to talk and listen to Him.
We want the wisdom to know how to live but can't seem to find the time to study and meditate on His Word.
We want the miraculous power and resources but won't let loose of our self centered focus so that He can use us.
There is one discipline practiced by saints throughout all history as well as by our Lord that gets very little positive press in this age of "enlightened" Christians.
What comes to our thoughts when someone mentions the word "fasting?" Perhaps we think "fanatic, monks, legalists, hunger strikes, old fashioned."
When Nehemiah heard about the desperate condition of God's special people and God's special place, he wept and mourned for days and prayed with FASTING.
What is this "weird" practice?
What are the occasions that call me to fasting?
What profit is there in the practice?
How can fasting actually be detrimental?
What do I do on a fast?
This morning we hope to answer these questions regarding this oft proclaimed by seldom practiced discipline.
When approaching a teaching that through the years has been so misunderstood, we should try for a time to set aside what we have been taught and examine the Scriptures with an open heart in order to bring about a new balance to our understanding of an old truth.
When our minds are conditioned by prejudice or paralyzed by traditional views, we may face a truth in Scripture again and again without its ever touching us. Our spiritual inhibition concerning that truth or even our felt familiarity with that truth permits us to see, but not to perceive. The truth lies dormant within, mentally apprehended but not spiritually applied. This is particularly true in relation to fasting.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF FASTING
"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. Matthew 6:16
Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; THEN they will fast. Matt 9:15
The practice and discipline of fasting was assumed. The issue wasn't IF you fast, but WHEN you fast, do it with the right motives. Jesus prophesied that His disciples would continue the practice once He had departed.
The record of Acts bears this out where we observe the disciples fasting.
Fasting refers to the practice of denying a basic natural drive for the purpose of developing and demonstrating our full devotion to God. Fasting most often relates to abstinence of food but may include other things as well.
A. The Normal Fast -- Water but no food
The normal fast is abstinence from all food and liquids except plain water that may last anywhere from 1-40 days.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:2
B. The Absolute Fast -- no food or water
Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. Ezra 10:6
"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." Esther 4:16
For three days Paul was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. Acts 9:9