A Fast Sermon

A Fast Sermon

As we conclude our study on prayer, we need to see what the Word says about fasting. Fasting is a withdrawing from food and/or drink, or other activities (1Cor 7 by mutual agreement). It is done for a specified period of time, and it must be led by the Holy Spirit. Fasting is a discipline to enhance our communication with God and strengthen our battle against the forces of darkness.

Mark 2:18-20 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

While the Bridegroom is present, the occasion calls for feasting; however, Jesus knew there would come a time when He would not be physically present with us. Now the Bridegroom is absent and we would need to pray and fast. (The Good News is that the Bridegroom is returning to take His Bride—the Church—home with Him. There we will enjoy the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God. There will be no need to fast then. We will feast.)

There is great power in the principles of prayer with fasting. But so many people either ignore fasting or misunderstand what fasting is all about. There are three basic types of fasting mentioned in the Bible:

A normal fast is no food, only liquids like water, juice, etc…it can last for 1 day Judges 20:26 Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.

A partial fast is good if you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, or some other condition which precludes a normal fast. Daniel did a partial fast for several months, abstaining from the rich food from the king’s table, and eating only vegetables and water.

The absolute fast is where nothing enters your mouth at all. Moses and Jesus did absolute fasts. Unless there is divine intervention, it can be only be done for a very short time.

So, why should we fast? Fasting is a way for us to discipline our bodies for the spiritual battles God needs us to fight. As athletes train their bodies for physical contests, fasting trains our spirits for spiritual battles.

1Cor. 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Another reason to fast is to demonstrate repentance from sin (and to intercede for others who need to repent).

Jonah 3:1-10 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

God planned on wiping out the Ninevites, but when they believed His Word and turned to Him with fervent prayers of repentance, accompanied with fasting – God changed His mind and had mercy on them. It is one thing to pray, “Lord I’m sorry for what I’ve done.” It is something else to deprive ourselves of food and plead with God to have mercy upon us for the sins we’ve committed against Him.

Such a fast is called for in situations where we face a sin that constantly ensnares us. If we are willing to fast and pray, we can know deliverance from that sin, and the joy that follows! A decision to fast in such a situation demonstrates to God that we are truly serious about our repentance, and that we sincerely long for new life in that area.

We can also fast to receive God’s wisdom and direction.

Acts 13:1-3 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The church is blessed with prophets and teachers, gifted with the ability to lead the church, but instead of relying upon their own gifts, we find the leaders of this church fasting and praying to God for wisdom about how to proceed as a church. We see this practice repeated in the new churches established by Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

By doing this, the Apostles demonstrated to God that they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to guide their decision making. They disciplined their bodies with fasting in order to hear more clearly from God.

When we need wisdom, we should use the gift of fasting, which will focus our minds upon whatever situation we’re praying about. Every time we desire food, we’re reminded to pray.

Likewise, we fast to receive deliverance in times of crisis.

2 Chronicles 20:1-4 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you…Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

When the diagnosis is bad news, when our nation is at a crisis point like an election or because of calamity, when our family is facing a crisis, these are times for fasting. At these times, we need God’s intervention in our lives much more than we need food. In 1863 President Lincoln designated April 30th as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. Let me read a portion of his proclamation on that occasion:

"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, who owe 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 a history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. 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. 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. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has grown, but we have forgotten God."

It is important to note, however, that fasting is not a “magic” way to make our prayers get answered, or to somehow force God into answering our prayers a certain way. God cannot be coerced. We may still have to go through the difficult circumstance, such as the Civil War, but the more we are willing to fast and pray through the process, the more we will be rewarded with the power and the presence of God to strengthen us and give us faith to go through the trial.

Why is FASTING so productive in releasing spiritual power? I don’t have the full answer to that, but the Word of God teaches it is so—if it is done properly.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 "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. 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.”

We must guard against: 1. Attempting to manipulate God with our fasting; 2. Attempting to impress others with our fasting so they know how “pious” we are; 3. Becoming legalistic about fasting; 4. Becoming prideful about fasting; 5. Focusing on food. Otherwise, this is what could happen:

“I don't wish to wine, but starting on sundae it seems that a number of people (probably those not so well bread) have bean sending cereal messages around to their "friends" to remind them of their empty tummies. This process should be discontinued because it goes against the grain, so lettuce stop at once. I have as good a sense of hummus as the next person, yet a pear of my friends have extended my tolerance to its limits with their mouth-watering emails. In pasta years, I have found fasting most pheasant, but now I quail each time I seafood. To those whose poultry efforts have failed to make my tummy rumble, I have only one thing to say. May you meat with your just desserts!”

On most occasions, only our spouse needs to know we are fasting. The exception to this rule is when the whole church is fasting together. As always, we need to have the Holy Spirit give us the right attitude.

Is. 58:3-10 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 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. 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? "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? 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? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 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, 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.

From this Scripture, we not only see what attitude we need during a fast, we discover what God wants to accomplish through our prayer and fasting.

1. Fasting to get freedom from addictions and conquer mental and emotional problems--v. 6 “loose the chains” (things you’d like to lay down but have been unable to). “I’ve tried to quit smoking, but I can’t!” you say. Try fasting! Maybe you have an addiction to pornography, sugar, drugs, alcohol, cussing, or an evil thought life; then try fasting with your prayers! God has ordained that when we get serious about walking in victory, we demonstrate it through fasting. God wants to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.

2. Fasting for revival and soul winning--v. 6 “set the oppressed free” (personal example)

3. Fasting for health reasons or healing. When there’s no hope from a human perspective, put it in God’s hands…it may be His will to honor that--v. 8 “your healing will quickly appear.

4. Fasting for a more righteous life and influential testimony--v. 8 “then your righteousness will go before you.”

5. Fasting for the glory of the Lord, to protect us from the evil one--v. 8b “the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” Do you have an unsaved loved one under Satanic oppression, or possession?  Jesus tells us what to do.

Mt. 17:14-21 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,  "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"  So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

God has given us fasting for enhancing our communication with Him and fighting against the powers of darkness. How exactly it works remains a mystery to me. But for those who are willing to make it a regular part of their life, the Bible shows that God will unleash power into their lives. So, the next time you need to demonstrate repentance, or intercede for someone who needs to repent, or if you need wisdom or deliverance from a crisis – I encourage you to make a commitment to God to a set amount of time to fast and pray. Then you will discover that this powerful tool helps tremendously.

However, if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, no amount of fasting will help until you repent and believe on Jesus and His atonement for your sin on the Cross. You can do that today by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believing in your heart, and following Him in baptism. By doing so, you will be born again of the Holy Spirit and possess eternal life.