HOW IMPORTANT IS FOOD IN THE BIBLE
- ADAM & EVE plunged the entire human race into sin over food. (Gen. 3:6)
- ESAU sold his birthright for a little bit of food. (Gen. 25:34)
- THE ISRAELITES murmured against God in the wilderness because of food and consequently lost God’s blessing. (Num. 11:4, 5, 21:5, Ps. 78:29-31)
- ELI’S house was cursed because his sons ate part of the offering that belonged to God. (1 Sam. 2:12-17)
- SODOM was guilty of the sin of “…fullness of food…” (Ezek. 16:49)
- KING HEROD while feasting made a tragic oath which resulted in John the Baptist being beheaded. (Mark 6:21-27)
NINE REASONS WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD FAST
- In Obedience To God’s Word – Isa. 58:6-9, Joel 2:12, Ii Cor. 6:4-5, Ii Cor. 11:27, Matt. 17:21, Matt. 9:15
- To Be Humbled In Order To Receive The Grace And Power Of God – James 4:10, Phil. 2:8, Ps. 35:13, 69:10, 1 Pet. 5:5,6, Deut. 9:3-4, Ezra 8:21, Ii Chron. 7:14
- To Overcome Temptations In Areas That Keep One From Moving In God’s Power – Luke 4:1,2,14, Matt. 9:15-17
- To Be Purified From Sin – (Either From Your Sins Or The Sins Of Others) Dan. 9:3, 1 Sam. Page 1 of 107:6, Neh. 9:1-2, Jonah 3:5
- To Become Weak, So God’s Power Can Be Strong – Ps. 109:24, Ii Cor. 12:9-10
- To Obtain God’s Support In Order To Accomplish His Will-Acts 13:3,14:23
- When Asking For God’s Help In A Difficult Situation – II Sam. 12:16, Esther 4:16, Matt. 17:21, Isa. 58:6
- For Help In Seeking God’s Direction - Ezra 8:21,23
- To Provide Understanding When Extensively Studying The Bible Or Seeking Divine
- Revelation – Jer. 36:6, Dan. 1:8-17, 10:7, Acts 10:10
EXAMPLES OF FASTING IN THE BIBLE
1. Esther – (a godly queen) fasted without food or water with the other Jews in her land in order for them to be supernaturally delivered from certain destruction.
Esther said to Mordecai,”…gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise…” Esther 4:16
2. Anna – (an 84 year old Jewish widow) “…this woman…did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Luke 2:37
Anna’s faithfulness in not departing from the temple and continually fasting and praying enabled her to be present when the Baby Jesus was brought into the temple for the first time. We too should fast in order that we may see Jesus.
3. Cornelius – (an unconverted, Gentile Soldier) “…and Cornelius said: ‘Four days ago I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house…’” Acts 10:30 His willingness to pray and fast ultimately resulted in him being able to hear Peter preach the gospel and be saved.
4. Paul and a Roman ship’s crew fasted for fourteen days in Acts 27. This fasting combined with Paul’s obedience to God’s directions resulted in all 276 people on the ship being saved from certain destruction.
FASTING THROUGHOUT CHURCH HISTORY
Excerpts from “Revival Now! Through Prayer and Fasting” by Gordon Cove
REVIVALS COME THROUGH PRAYER AND FASTING
In the early Church, we learn that the worldwide Missionary movement was born at a time when the leaders of the Church at Antioch “ministered to the Lord, and fasted.” (Acts 13) All through Church history it has proved the same. Great spiritual movements and revivals owe their birth to prayer and fasting.
The fasting prayer is the most successful Revival method known – to obtain more of the Spirit of God! Through the 2nd and 3rd century the early Church fasted two days a week. The Church “Fathers” and great Evangelists of the past believed in Fasting.
POLYCARP in 110 A.D., urged fasting upon the saints as a powerful aid against temptation and fleshly lusts.
TERTULLIAN wrote a treatise on the subject in 210 A.D. In it, he defended fasting as a better aid to religion than feasting.
MARTIN LUTHER used to fast frequently. He said his flesh would grumble dreadfully at abstinence, but fast he would, for he found that when he was fasting, it quickened his praying.
Luther fasted for days while translating the Bible, and herein undoubtedly lies the secret of his unrivaled translation. It was also responsible for bringing in the great Reformation which changed the destiny of Europe.
JOHN CALVIN, the noted expositor of the Scriptures, was also a man who fasted regularly, and lived to see his prayers answered in the conversion of almost a whole city.
JOHN KNOX in Scotland fasted and waited upon God until intervening Providence drove Mary Queen of Scots into exile.
REFORMATION LEADERS. The leaders of the Reformation in England practiced fasting as faithfully as they offered their prayers. Latimer, Ridley, and Cramner, all martyred for their convictions, were among this number.
THE GREAT EVANGELISTS. When we come to great evangelists, such as Finney, Jonathan Edwards, Wesley, Spurgeon, and many others, we find that fasting played a part in the ministry of all these mighty men of God.
Charles G. Finney, in speaking of the beginning of his revival work, says, “I had been in the habit of rising early in the morning, and spending a season of prayer alone in the Meeting House. I used to spend a great deal of time in prayer; sometimes I thought, literally praying without ceasing. I also found it very profitable, and felt very much inclined to hold FREQUENT DAYS OF PRIVATE FASTING.
“On these days I would seek to be entirely alone with God, and would generally wander off into the woods, or get into the Meeting House, or somewhere away entirely by myself.”
He declares that when he detected a diminishing of the Spirit’s wonderful presence in him and through him, he would fast for three days and three nights, and after doing so, he testified that he would invariably be again filled with the Holy Spirit’s marvelous power.
Jonathan Edwards, the man who preached a famous sermon where strong men clung to the pillars of the Church, thinking they were falling into hell, is likewise among those who believed in fasting. He required all of his ministers to fast, and he strictly uphold this teaching, although he was not against warning them about going to extremes, knowing that by so doing, fanatics could do much harm to the movement.
Early Methodist customs observed Friday as a day of abstinence. The primitive Methodists of Wesley’s day followed the custom of the early Church, and fasted twice a week on Wednesdays as well as Fridays.
They became powerful in prayer and preaching, and great revivals followed. Wesley himself is said to have followed this practice. He is understood to have said that he would as soon think of cursing and swearing as to omit the weekly custom of fasting.
It would appear that in the early days of Methodism, at first nearly all Methodists followed the early Church custom of fasting twice a week, but some of them carried it to excess in their zeal for God, with the result that their health was affected. This caused a certain amount of consternation in the movement and many stopped fasting altogether.
Wesley feared that the practice would die out altogether, and wrote a famous sermon on fasting.
Spurgeon said: “I am not sure whether we have not lost a very great blessing in the Christian Church by giving up fasting. I think I may fairly ask you who are lovers of souls, who have eyes which do weep, and hearts which can feel, to TRY MY MASTER’S PRESCRIPTION (viz. Fasting) – and see if the most unmanageable devil which ever took possession of a human heart, be not driven out as the result of prayer and fasting, in the exercise of your faith!”
“I can advise brethren to try fasting; it will be good for their health, and it certainly will not harm them,” Spurgeon declared.
The following account is that of fasting in the life of David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians. We give here some extracts on fasting from his diary. “Monday. I set apart this day for fasting and prayer to God for His grace, especially to prepare me for the work of the ministry.
“My soul longed for God, for the living God. Oh, how delightful it is, to pray under such sweet influences! I had at this time no disposition to eat (though late in the morning), for earthly foods appeared wholly tasteless. Oh, how much better is this than one’s necessary food.” (Job 23:12)
SADHU SUNDAR SINGH Sadhu Sundar Singh, who has been called the “St. Paul of India and Tibet”, fasted forty days, and obtained such a revelation of the presence and nearness of God, that it became a powerful factor in his success as an evangelist.
REES HOWELLS Rees Howells, the well-known founder of the Swansea Bible College in Wales was also an advocate of fasting. His life story, written by Norman Grubb, and entitled, “Rees Howells – Intercessor,” is a remarkable document on the power of prayer and fasting.
Mr. Howells became a famous prayer warrior. He was working in a coal mine as a young man when he first saw the need for fasting. He was taught by the Holy Spirit to have only two meals a day, consisting of a plate of soup with bread and cheese. Later, when he went into the ministry, he partook of only one meal every two days, and finally was led of God to undertake a fifteen day fast.
During World War II, Mr. Howells would often call the whole Bible College of which he was Principal, to a day of prayer and fasting, and his diary makes remarkable reading of how he, with others, held back the powers of darkness from destroying the nations which cherish the Gospel. (Eph. 6:10-18)
JOHN WESLEY ON FASTING
“First, let it be done unto the Lord, with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven; to express our sorrow and shame for our manifold transgressions of His holy law; to wait for an increase of purifying grace, drawing our affections to things above; to add seriousness and earnestness to our prayers; to avert the wrath of God; and to obtain all the great and precious promises which He hath made to us in Jesus Christ…Let us beware of fancying we merit anything from God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to ‘establish our own righteousness,’ to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts. Fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for His unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of our, He hath promised freely to give us His blessing.”
FOOTNOTE: John Wesley, Sermon 27 (Discourse 7 on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:16- 18), also found in GOD’S CHOSEN FAST by Arthur Wallis, pgs. 34-35.
FOUR TYPES OF FASTS
1. COMPLETE FAST-NO FOOD OR DRINK
A. Maximum Time – 3 Days and 3 Nights
Unless supernaturally sustained, these fasts cannot last more than 3 days and 3 nights. Ezra – Ezra 10:6 Mordecai, Esther and her maids - Esther 4:16 Saul of Tarsus - Acts 9:9
B. Supernaturally Sustained – 40 Days and 40 Nights
This is only possible because of a Divine enabling. Moses twice did a complete fast for forty days and forty nights – Ex. 34:28, Deut. 9:9,18 Elijah once fasted forty days and forty nights – 1 Kings 19:8 Both Moses and Elijah ended their early lives in a supernatural finale, and even appeared to Jesus while He was on this earth. (Matt. 17:3)
2. NORMAL FAST-NO FOOD, AND DRINKING ONLY WATER
This water may be in the form of plain drinking water, lemon water, herbal tea, etc. CAUTION: Coffee and caffeinated teas are not recommended
3. PARTIAL FAST-ELIMINATING ONLY CERTAIN FOOD AND DRINKS
(e.g. – meats, sweets, pleasant foods, etc.) It is recommended that those who have never been involved in a “normal fast” perhaps inaugurate their relationship to fasting with a “partial fast.” Though this requires less discipline than a “normal fast,” there are still great benefits to be received.
4. GROUP FAST-CORPORATE FASTING AS GOD DIRECTS Judah under King Jehoshaphat - II Chron. 20:1-4 Ezra and those returning to Jerusalem - Ezra 8:21-23 Joel called all of the elders and people to fast - Joel 1:14
Some men of God went on lengthy partial fasts.
Daniel fasted for three weeks: “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Dan. 10:2-3 Daniel ate only vegetables, and drank only water. (Dan. 1:12) Elijahalso did a partial fast of cakes made of meal and oil. (1 Kings 17) In the New Testament, John the Baptist ate only locusts and honey. (Matt. 3:4)
Examples of Partial Fasts:
- The Lord may lead you to do a partial fast eating and/or drinking certain foods and avoiding others. This might include:
- Drinking fruit juices(non-acidic)
- Eating bland foods (foods which are nutritional and yet are not especially pleasant to the taste)
- Eliminating meats
- Eliminating sweets
- Eating only fruit, nuts, and vegetables
Abstaining From Certain Non-Foods – fasting from watching television, and sexual relations between married couples. (1 Cor. 7:5)
Benefits: You will still experience some of the spiritual benefits of fasting, and yet would not need to alter your daily schedule because of lack of energy.
Fasting helps to: 1. Humble you. (Ps. 35:13)
THE BENEFITS OF FASTING
- Establish priorities in your life (what is really important.)
- Work out areas of imbalance.
- Make you really appreciate what you already have. (e.g. air, food, shelter, health, family, etc.)
- Show you what is most important in your life.
- Make you more sensitive to God’s Spirit. (Ezra 8:21)
- Bring your areas of weakness and susceptibility to temptation to the surface so that God can deal with them.
NOTE: Even with all of its benefits, we are not saying that fasting is a “cure- all.” Fasting on a regular basis is better than fasting once or twice a year.
Suggestions: Regularly –
1. One day per week-
a. Begin after dinner at night and fast until dinner the next night. (23 hours)
b. Begin after dinner one night and fast through the next day until breakfast the following
morning. (36 hours)
SEVEN FACTORS THAT INHIBIT CHRISTIANS FROM FASTING
Many Christians are ignorant of the Biblical exhortations to fast and the subsequent benefits of fasting in a proper way. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Hosea 4:6
It is possible to allow mere temporal desires to cause us to esteem food (earthly pleasures) more than doing God’s perfect will. “If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above,where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col. 3:1-3
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom. 12:1
After having acknowledged that the Lord is calling us to fast, the greatest motivation to do so lies in seeing the needs in our own lives and those around us. We must be the value and necessity of fasting in order to subject ourselves to this essential discipline. “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12
4. LACK OF SELF-CONTROL-
One aspect of the fruit of the Spirit of God is self-control. We must appropriate this aspect of God’s character in order to discipline our spirit, soul, and body to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23 “And when He had called the people to Him, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35
5. WRONG PRIORITIES-
Wrong priorities can cause us to improperly place good and even “pleasant food” (Dan. 10:2-3) as a greater priority than seeing the Kingdom of God firmly established in our own lives and in the world around us. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt. 6:33
“For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 14:17
6. A FALSE CONCEPT OF CHRISTIANITY-
This false concept involves not being aware of what it really means to be a disciple (disciplined follower) of Jesus Christ. “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness,in fastings:” II Cor. 6:4-5
“In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” II Cor. 11:27
7. LACK OF MAKING CHRIST LORD- Either He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.
The Bible says of some people, “whose God is their belly…who set their minds on earthly things.” Phil. 3:19 It mentions others who “…do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” Rom. 16:18
“…feed me with the food you prescribe for me.” Prov. 30:8 PHASES OF A FAST
(Excerpts from God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis, pgs. 77-78)
PHASES EXPERIENCE FIRST CRAVING FOR FOOD -This can last a few days or longer.
SECOND WEAKNESS AND FAINTNESS – This can last two or three days, or much longer. You may be required to rest a good deal during this time.
THIRD GROWING STRENGTH -Little or no concern for food, and only occasional spasms of weakness.
When this phase ends, the body begins to draw from the sound, living tissue. This can occur as early as the 21st day of the fast, and yet can go beyond 40 days. Though you may have a desire or appetite for food, it does not mean that you are actually experiencing hunger.
“It is important to distinguish between a desire and appetite for food and a hunger for food.” (God’s Chosen Fast, pg. 78) “Mere appetite relates to the immediate want of the stomach, true hunger to the real need of the body.” (God’s Chosen Fast, pg. 78)
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR FASTING
BEGIN SMALL -
Fast for one meal, then two meals, then three meals. After that, you can fast from one to seven days.Partial fasts are also recommended for those who are starting out. (Examples: no meats, no sweets, just vegetables, or fruit juices, etc.)
CONSIDERATIONS FOR A LONGER FAST
A. SUGGESTIONS BEFORE STARTING A LONGER FAST (THREE OR MORE DAYS) –
- DIVINE DIRECTION
Don’t try and imitate what others have done; find out what God specifically wants you to do. (i.e. What type of fast, and for how long?) Don’t be presumptuous. You can and should do only what others do if God specifically directs you to.
- NO CAFFEINE - A few days before you begin to fast, stop drinking caffeinated coffee or tea.
- EATLESS - On the day prior to starting your fast it is recommended that you eat smaller meals than normal so that your system will make an easier adjustment when food is stopped altogether.
- EAT FRUIT - Have some fruit for your last meal before you begin to fast.
- TEMPTATIONS - The devil will try to destroy your fast in a number of ways. He will attempt to:
a: Discourage you.
b. Cause you to end your fast at the wrong time and in an incorrect manner.
c. Put thoughts into your mind about different foods.
d. Make you follow your feelings rather than walk by faith. (II Cor. 5:7)
B. SUGGESTIONS DURING FASTING –
1.If you are fasting in a cold climate, you can expect that your body will be more susceptible to the cold, especially your hands and feet, so dress warmly.
2.When showering or bathing, use warm and not hot water.
3.Drink hot, warm, luke warm or even cold water, but not ”icewater”.
4. Exercise regularly, but do not overdo it. If you feel too weak to exercise, do not force yourself.
5. FASTING SHOULD NOT BE DONE BY:
- People who are malnourished
- Expectant mothers
C. SUGGESTIONS AFTER FASTING –
- Avoid Starches - Stay away from any starches for a few days, as they will only constipate your system.
- Chew your food very well. After breaking a long fast, it may be a few days before the bowels function normally.
- Whenever you begin to feel full, stop eating. The longer you fast, the smaller your stomach will get. Consequently, you will not be able to eat as much as you normally do.
- Don’t become physically active too soon. Rest as much as possible.
- Don’t tell other people how long your fast was, or pridefully express the dynamic things that you experienced while fasting. Jesus said to fast in secret. You can be overindulgent both physically and spiritually after a fast.
- “Eat to live, don’t live to eat,”as a life style after your fast.
BREAKING A LONGER FAST (Three or more days in length)
(Excerpts from God’s Chosen Fast, by Arthur Wallis, pgs. 88-92) It is essential that you not begin normal eating patterns at the conclusion of a longer fast. Because you have not been eating, your stomach has shrunk in size, and therefore you must gradually work your digestive organs back to where they were prior to the fast. Eat smaller quantities of only certain foods. Your desire for food will be great, but you must exercise self-control in not overeating and not eating the wrong foods.
WHAT FOODS SHOULD BE EATEN AFTER BREAKING A FAST?
1ST DAY – Liquids – take small amounts every few hours during the first day.
- Fruit or vegetablejuices (made fresh as opposed to processed, if this is possible)
- Freshly squeezed citrus juices(e.g. orange or grapefruit)
- Apple, tomato, or grape juice
2ND DAY – Solids
- After one day of juices, you may begin to eat small quantities of the fruit itself.
- You may also begin to drink milk or eat yogurt at this time.
2ND OR 3RD DAY – (the longer the fast, the more time you should allow before you eat these foods.) In small quantities:
- Fresh salads (without salad dressing)
- Home-made vegetable soups (without grease)
- Cooked vegetables
AFTER A FEW DAYS –
- For protein: Cheese, eggs and nuts
- Lastly – fish and meats