When You Fast

Scripture: Matthew 6:16-18
Date: 10/08/2005 
Pastor Batchelor deals with the Bible subject of fasting. Jesus had much to say about fasting and excepted this Christian discipline to be a part of our walk with God. There are many different reasons to fast, such as an intercessory fast, health reasons, and to clear your mind.
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Doug: Our message this morning is based really on a study that you find all the way from cover to cover in the Bible, dealing with a Christian truth teaching on the subject of fasting. Now, I thought I ought to say a few things just here at the beginning. No, I am not preparing to proclaim a week of fasting and prayer right now. More than that, I wanted to teach what the Bible says about this subject because I believe the subject is often neglected. But beyond that, it came to my attention that fasting really is a Christian discipline that had a high priority with Jesus and I think it's lost that place in the modern church. I remember hearing about a little girl that heard the pastor talk about a day of fasting and prayer, and then as they went home from church on the way home, the little girl said to her father, well, we can't fast dad.

And he said, why not? Well, if you don't eat, you'll die. And he said, dear, there are lots of men and women, kings and prophets in the Bible that fasted. She said, that's what I'm thinking about and they're all dead. So, people get really nervous when you start talking about fasting because eating is very personal. And they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and it is true that eating is a big part of our lives every day and I would venture to say that there are probably maybe over 50% of the people who are listening to my voice or even sitting in this assembly that has not gone a day without eating this last year or even longer. It's something that we're very used to and we like, and I'm one of those also, I thought I should mention, since there is a potluck today, I don't want you to feel guilty at the potluck.

I'm teaching you about fasting. I'm not telling you too fast today. Is that clear to everybody? Do you feel a little better now? Good. You thought, man, and I had such a good meal waiting at home after church, and he's going to talk about fasting and make me feel bad. It's a teaching that I would encourage you to incorporate into your life, but that doesn't need to start immediately, of course, unless the Lord impresses you that way.

Turn back with me to Matthew. This was our scripture reading. I want to look at this with you again. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, taught about fasting, we're going to look at what Jesus said about fasting. Jesus and fasting. Matthew 6, verse 16. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites. Wait a second. You notice he doesn't say, moreover if you fast. He's talking to his people, he's talking to his church and he said, when you fast, doesn't that imply that he expected they'd be doing it? He just says, don't do it the wrong way. Don't be like the hypocrites with a sad countenance, for they like to disfigure their faces that they might appear unto men to be fasting.

Assuredly I say to you, they have the reward. But when you fast notice again, not if you fast, when you fast anoint your head, I did that this morning, wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting but your father, who is in the secret place, he will see what is in secret. He'll reward you openly. Now, three times Jesus addressed Christian disciplines and said, don't do it this way, do it this way. He talked about praying. He said, when you pray, pray like this. He talked about giving and then he talked about fasting.

Let's face it, praying is a Christian essential, giving is a Christian essential but not too many churches still teach that fasting is a Christian essential. Jesus put a very high priority on this teaching but it is almost universally neglected by Christians. Would you agree? Because let's face it, who wants to go to a church where they teach people to deny themselves food? That's not very popular, but it's biblical and I have a responsibility to tell you what the word says. Amen.

Congregation: Amen.

Doug: It's so important that if you really think about it, Jesus began his ministry with fasting, the wilderness, and he ended his ministry with fasting. He went 24 hours from the last supper till he died on the cross, fasting. Matter of fact, it was a pretty radical fast because he didn't eat or drink. That's why he said, I thirst. Jesus speaks of fasting as essential.

Now again, if some of you're wondering, does Jesus really support this? Is this a New Testament teaching? You can read Matthew 9 verses 14 and 15, I have a lot of scriptures for you today and I'll have some corresponding slides. Then the disciples of John came to him saying, these are John the Baptist disciples. Why do we in the Pharisees fast often? Notice even John the Baptist taught about fasting and even the Pharisees taught about fasting, but your disciples don't fast. And Jesus said to them, can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them then they will fast. In other words, fasting is something like the opposite of feasting. If I tell you, Hey, we're going to have a celebration, come on over to my house we're going to fast. Does that make sense? No.

I suppose we could but it's easier to celebrate with food and that could be one reason that some churches don't teach about fasting very much because if I say, let's all get together, we're going to have a great church fellowship, and fast. I don't think we'd get as many if I said, we're going to have a lot of food. Isn't that right? Do you all know that some people come for the loaves and fish? Isn't that true? But it's sort of the opposite. Christ was living and walking among them, and it's like we have God in our very presence. How can we mourn now, but he will be taken away? And he said, there will be time for fasting then. Now, I should begin with some definitions. What is fasting? Fasting is to voluntarily abstain from or eat very little food and or drink for a specified period of time as a religious or health discipline.

I want to say that again. Some of you may be jotting this down and I want you to catch it. Fasting means to voluntarily abstain from or eat very little food and or drink for a specified period of time as a religious or health discipline. Fasting is not a tool to win God's audience by manipulating him and torturing yourself. Some look upon it that way and that's why Jesus said. He said, wash your face, comb your hair. It's something between you and God where you're appealing for something. Fasting is the opposite of [inaudible] They might fast for spiritual, physical, mental, and even emotional reasons. Now I'm going to elaborate on some of the spiritual reasons to begin fasting that you find in the Bible. First of all, fasting, there is a spiritual significance to it. We have these very basic needs in the body.

Food is God's design mechanism to supply physical energy. Something like in our children's story the hummingbird needed its nectar and we need this for physical energy. It's a very powerful physical need. This is why Jesus began his ministry. The first temptation had to do with not eating what the devil was tempting them to eat. How did the human race fall into sin? Ate something we weren't supposed to eat. It wasn't just Eve, it was Adam too. And so God is saying, you must get the victory in this area. And so whenever we fast, we're actually exercising self-control of the spirit over the flesh. And that is a good discipline for Christians.

I hope you all pray before you eat and I hope some of you still eat as families where you sit down together and you can't do it maybe every meal, but you sit down. Isn't it a good idea for everyone to wait until you're seated before you eat? And we discourage the kids from nibbling before we've had the blessing. I tease them, if you start eating before we have prayer, you're going to get worms. They know I'm kidding. But I say, it's good self-control. Oh, but I'm so hungry, just one chip. And I probably have fallen in that area before myself. But it's a good discipline to say, oh boy, I sure wish I could even begin nibbling. Wait. It's good for your soul. And fasting goes a lot more than waiting 10 minutes for a meal. It can go beyond that, but I think that's a good starting point.

There are spiritual reasons. Romans chapter 8, verses 6 through 8. To be carnally minded is death. To be spiritually minded is life and peace, because the carnal mind, the physical mind, is at war against God. It isn't subject to the law of God. Neither indeed can be. So, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. There's a constant battle raging between the spirit and the flesh. Whenever we fast, we are exercising self-denial and you are strengthening the spiritual side of your being when there's this constant battle that's raging between the flesh and the spirit.

Galatians 5, 17, another verse. For the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and they're contrary to one another so that you do not do the things you wish. Sometimes you would like to have better control over what you eat, but because there's a battle between the spirit and the flesh, the spirit's willing, but the flesh is weakened and wins.

Isn't that right? I should have had an amen in there. I know a lot of you struggle with diet issues and that's the battle between the spirit and the flesh. And even Paul said there, often you do the things you don't wish because of this battle, they're fighting. Fasting will improve your spiritual strength and muscles, and you're moving when you fast from a spiritual realm of faith or a physical realm into a spiritual realm.

Now, there are different kinds of fasts in the Bible, and you fast for different reasons. A broad spectrum. You might just jot down some of these titles of what the reasons are. Sometimes there's a fasting of repentance. You'll often find this in the Bible. When the children of Israel sinned against the Lord, they proclaimed to fast. 1st Samuel 7 to 6. So they gathered together at Mizpah and they fasted that day and they said, we have sinned against the Lord. They were humbling themselves before the Lord, fasting and repenting. And again, in 2nd Samuel 12, verse 16, when David sinned with Bathsheba, he fasted and prayed for 7 days. And that was sort of a combined fast of intercession for the child that was sick and repentance for his sin as the 2 are connected. But many times in the Bible, prayer and repentance are accompanied by prayer and fasting and repentance. And maybe I should pause and explain what's the connection.

When you deny yourself food, it is a little easier for your mind to be clear. It is a fact that when you eat, maybe 20 minutes after you eat more specifically, your body has begun to absorb and process the food, and a lot of the energy and attention of your body that might be directed to thinking and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit is then redirected to digestion and it actually can make you mentally a little clouded or spiritually a little clouded. So fasting is a way to try to tune in a little better to the frequency of the Holy Spirit and it really does work. I don't know that I can explain it all scientifically, except there's a lot of Bible support and testimony that something happens spiritually when you deny yourself food. Wait, I've got an issue. My disclaimer is here. Some people have medical conditions.

I am not a doctor. Some people struggle with other eating disorders, anorexia or bulimia. And you need to consult a physician and that's a different issue. I'm speaking to healthy Christians in general now. Just want to make sure everyone understands that some people struggle with diabetes and other eating challenges and so this teaching here is the general Bible teaching on fasting and it's directed to people who have healthy systems in that respect. Clear, now the attorneys can't come after me. But when you fast and you deny yourself food, basically, that part of your body is shutting down and it's easier to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Not only is there fasting during times of repentance but there's also fasting during times of mourning and sadness.

2nd Samuel chapter 1, verse 12, says and they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and Jonathan. This is when Saul and Jonathan died, for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they'd fallen by the sword. They basically fasted one day there when Jesus died on the cross. Don't you think that the apostles, while he was in the tomb, were fasting, it was because of mourning for loss? And when any of the patriarchs died, there was often a period of fasting right after that and prayer. How many people in the Bible fasted 40 days and 40 nights? Moses, Elijah, Jesus. Isn't it interesting that on the Mount of Transfiguration, what 3 individuals were together? Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, all 3 fasted 40 days and 40 nights. The difference is when Moses and Elijah fasted 40 days and 40 nights, they had supernatural help. Moses was up there on the mountain, and you can read Exodus 34, verse 28.

He was with the Lord, 40 days and 40 nights, he neither ate bread nor drank water. What do you think? Can you really live in a desert on a mountain without even drinking water for 40 days and 40 nights without supernatural help? I think as he was in the presence of God, he was sustained the way angels are sustained. Remember Jesus said, when the Holy Spirit came into his heart, I have food that you don't know about. He was nourished spiritually because of the Holy Spirit. Somehow that happened when Elijah was fleeing through the wilderness, 40 days and 40 nights. He went in the strength of one meal. Wouldn't you like to have that meal in your lunchbox? Angel fed him some food under the broom tree. And it says he went in the strength of that food. He's going through the desert, with no water, no food, 40 days, 40 nights.

But Jesus' fast of 40 days and 40 nights was without supernatural aid. He didn't drink water. That was a pretty serious fast. It is possible. Matter of fact I remember ago, there was a member of the IRA who was imprisoned. He went on a hunger strike. Sometimes they force-feed you in prison when you go on a hunger strike. But in this case, they decided not to. I think they probably wanted to get rid of this character anyway because he had so much political clout. I can't remember his name but one of these, they called them terrorists back then was imprisoned. He went on a hunger strike and they started counting on the news after he got to like 60, 70 days every day they would tell. He made it to 80 days. He finally did die from no food, but he was drinking water.

So people can go a lot longer than you think without food. How many of you have heard someone say, when lunch is 20 minutes late, I'm starving? We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. But they were able to do it. Moses and Elijah had no food and water supernaturally. There is a severe fast in the Bible, but it never goes beyond 3 days. Jonah tells us here in chapter 3, verse 7, he said, let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Do not let them eat or drink water but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and cry mightily to God and turn from their evil ways. This was another fast of repentance. Neither food nor water, and it doesn't say here how long it was but probably it wasn't 40 days I'll tell you that. All the cattle would die after a few days, probably 3 days and one reason is, you go to acts with Paul.

Do you remember when Paul has his experience where he saw the Lord on the road to Damascus? And it says he was 3 days without sight and neither ate nor drank. He realized he had been persecuting and killing Christians and he had been persecuting Christ. He had been fighting against his own Messiah and he was so overwhelmed with repentance. He performed a severe fast. And then Esther, when all the Jewish people were going to be annihilated because of the king's decree, she went in before the king, she told her messengers to tell Mordecai to ask all the Jewish people to fast for me a severe fast, neither eat nor drink for 3 days and that was the time when she said, I'm going to go into the king and if I perish, I perish.

I remember hearing, a boy who had been paying attention to the church service preaching on Esther went home that day and folks served Brussels sprouts for dinner, which he really didn't like. He took his fork and he stabbed one of the Brussels sprouts, and he stared at it with disgust and put it in his mouth and said, if I perish, I perish But these were fasts that were severe. They never lasted more than 3 days and you need to be real cautious if you're going to go even a day without water and I'm not recommending that. Those were life and death-issues.

We might fast and pray about guidance and protection from the Lord. Ezra chapter 8, verse 21. Before they left Persia on their way back to the promised Land, they were asking for the Lord's guidance and protection. Then I proclaimed to fast that the river of AHAVA, that we might humble ourselves before God to seek from him the right way for us, the right course, and for our little ones and our possessions that they might be protected from robbers along the way.

And again, in Acts 13, verses 2 and 3, it's a New Testament teaching. As they minister to the Lord and fasted the Holy Spirit said, now separate to me Barnabas and Saul, you notice the Holy Spirit spoke after they fasted. I think a lot of times we have missed what God wants to say to us because it's not just praying. We don't fast and pray to really seek to know what is the voice of the spirit saying. Something about when you're fasting and praying, you know one reason it works. When you fast, you get hungry.

And I've had people say, well, Doug, I can't fast. Why not? I get really hungry. We all do. That's the idea. You just got to be hungry. And you know what, initially after a while, your stomach and digestive system will relax. I'm talking about if you fast a day or more and it gets easy and you can go days without fasting. And I should probably mention at this point, I think in our time for a person, I can't imagine a reason you would go a week, beyond a week. I've known people that have gone 40 days and I think that they were putting their health at risk. I think Jesus did that on our behalf. In many cases, it may just be a day where you would fast or 2 or 3 days of fasting and prayer. And some of that will depend on how you're made up.

As you get older, it becomes more difficult. For little children, the way they fast, if you're going to teach them as parents, you maybe need to give them simple food and different kinds of fast because they are burning up their energy like hummingbirds at that time in their life. And so be intelligent about it. But we would maybe want to pray and fast for guidance. Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have done for them. And having fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and sent them away praying for direction and guidance. Sometimes you're faced with difficult decisions. I don't hear very often about people who say I'm getting married. I'm not sure if this is the person I'm thinking about getting married. I'm going to fast and pray. That'd be good, I'll tell you if ever there's something you want to fast and pray about, do that.

And that's a very important decision. Amen. Fast and pray about this person you're going to spend the rest of your life with and ask God to give you very decisive guidance. When you are facing big decisions, it's a good idea to invest some time in prayer and fasting for guidance. That may mean you want to dedicate half a day and say, I'm just eating one meal today. I'm going to fast and pray. You might want to spend a couple of days. Sometimes if you're involved in more sedentary work, you can fast and pray longer. For those of you who do a lot of physical labor during the day, it's hard to do a fast for 2 or 3 days because you just run out of steam. And you might have to do a simple fast. Sometimes you can do a fruit fast or juice fast. There are a lot of ways you can do it where you are denying yourself so that you can direct your mind to prayer.

I might mention at this point, if you read into the history of the reformation, those who translated the Bible, both the Wycliffe, Tindale, Luther, and a number of the Bible translators when they were engaged in the very deep and important study of knowing how to translate the Bible. You'd be surprised how many of them would do a fast, where they would eat very simple food to keep their minds clear or eat very small meals and it helped them to be able to stay fresher mentally longer for that kind of studious work. God did not really design us as originally, man was made to work in a garden. We weren't made to sit at desks all day long and stare at computer screens. And I know I do it for friends, but I do it for you. We have to do it sometimes, but it's our bodies.

It's not healthy if you don't get out and exercise and use your body. And so if you're doing a lot of mental work, eating lighter is better. When you travel, I find when I travel overseas, it's tough because you're sitting on an airplane. Sometimes you're there for 10, 14 hours and all you got to do is eat or read and you start getting restless, but you're not doing anything but sitting. And that's a bad time to do nothing but eat. And so I pray whenever I go on one of these longer trips that God will grant me self-control. And often when they come by with the food tray, I'll say, yeah, I'm just going to skip a meal because all you're doing is sitting in there and it is not the best thing for your health.

Another important reason for fasting is an intercessory fast. You are fasting on behalf of another person so that God would save them, heal them, and lead them, to someone else. How many of you remember the story? Mark chapter 9, verses 28 and 29, and it's also found in Matthew 17, I believe. A man brings his son to Jesus. The boy is harassed by a devil. The devil has him falling into the fire, in the water, trying to burn him and drown him. He brings the boy first to the disciples and the disciples pray and do what they can and the evil spirit mocks him, but he doesn't come out. Later Jesus shows up. He's just come down the mountain from meeting with Moses and Elijah and he casts the evil spirit out. Later that day, the apostles meet with Christ in the house and they're a little bit embarrassed and they say, Jesus, why could we not cast this evil spirit out?

Do you remember what Jesus said? This kind cannot come out of anything but prayer and fasting. Did Jesus teach fasting as part of Christianity? Yes, he did. Prayer and fasting. A friend and I were talking together and he was really having struggles with his son. And he said, Doug, I don't know what to do. He said, I've tried everything, I prayed and I said Brother, have you ever tried fasting and prayer? And he got kind of quiet because as I said, most people haven't gone, it's been a long time since they've gone a whole day without food. He said no, I haven't. I read him this story. He said I'm going to do it. And the boy had been drifting from the Lord, had not been going to church. The next week when I saw him, he said, you know what, I spent a couple of days in fasting and prayer, and that next Sabbath, he came to church and I think he's still going now and this has been a year ago.

And I think we underestimate that if we would get serious about seeking after God through prayer and fasting in prayer in intercession, God might do for us things that otherwise are not being done. Psalm 35, verse 13. David said, but as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. I humbled myself with fasting and my prayer would return to my own heart praying and fasting on behalf of others that were sick. And you notice he says with sackcloth. Part of fasting and prayer can mean humbling yourself if it's a fast of repentance. Many times in the Bible, if you're fasting and it's a fast of repentance, you don't want to be dressing up in your ostentatious, flamboyant finery.

You want to humble yourself in heart and appearance. Now, Jesus said you don't have to mess up your hair and disfigure your face so you look like you're fasting. So, you can wash your face and comb your hair and still be a fast of humbling. Do you know someone you might need to intercede for? Do you have some loved ones that you've been praying over? Or someone who's sick and they've been struggling? We can anoint them but when was the last time that had special prayer and fasting for the sick among us, that God would heal them and intercede for them?

Daniel chapter 6, verse 18, when Daniel was in the lion's den and he was at risk of dying, the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. Notice it's not weeks of fasting, but usually they banquet in the palace and when they brought him his dinner, he said, no, brought him his breakfast, he said no. And he spent the night in prayer and fasting, why In Daniel's behalf, and no musicians were brought before him. Again, that often goes with feasting. Fasting, it was more solemn.

2nd Corinthians 11, verse 27, Paul said, in weariness and toil and sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst in fasting often, was fasting something that Paul did once or twice in his ministry? Or what word does he use? Often. It was part of his life. He was often fasting and praying for the church. And every now and then I'll get caught in a situation where I don't plan well and I remember a story from the book, the Hiding Place by Cory Ten Boom. And when Cory and her sister Betsy were in this prison of war camp during World War II, they were starving.

And Corey liked eating and she was bemoaning that they were starving and they had no food and what little food they did have was full of bugs and it was rotten potatoes. Betsy always had such a positive attitude. She said, well Corey, let's pray that God will count this as a fast for him. And it changed her whole attitude about this situation. And so whenever I get in a situation, sometimes I travel and for whatever I forget to bring food, and I'm at a hotel on Sabbath morning, I don't go to restaurants on Sabbath. And so I'll just say, well, Lord, I forgot to plan ahead. I should have remembered, commandment says to remember, I forgot. So please give me credit. I'm going to fast this morning. And in most cases when that happens, God surprises me. And I find that that happens to be one of those hotels where they give you a free breakfast or something like that. But when you're in a situation like that, just say, Lord, I guess I'm going to fast and pray. I'll make the most of it.

Sometimes when you're reading the word and you're studying a certain subject and you don't understand some doctrine, pray for understanding and you might fast and pray again. It may not be a week or a day, it may just be a meal. My habit, now, I'm going to lose my credit for fasting today, but typically Sabbath morning, it's not every Sabbath. I'm praying, I'm studying, I'm thinking. I find I get tired after I eat and so I often skip breakfast or just eat some trail mix on the way to church because it's easier for me to understand and explain the word if I haven't just eaten a big meal.

And so, there's an example in the Bible for when they were reading the word. Nehemiah chapter 9, verse 1 through verse 3. Now, on the 24th day of the month, the children of Israel were assembled fasting in sackcloth with the dust on their heads. This is a time of repentance too, for their sins. They'd been intermarrying with pagan women. And those Israelites of the lineage separated themselves from all the foreigners. That means they separated from the foreigners that they had been working with and marrying. And they stood and they confessed their sin and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day. And for another fourth, they confessed and they worship the Lord. They got confession, prayer, repentance, and fasting. It was all part of seeking after God. In connection with reading the word, you might be fasting when you're seeking knowledge. Daniel, when he had a vision from an angel, he didn't understand. It says in those days I was mourning 3 full weeks and I ate no pleasant food, nor meat nor wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all till 3 full weeks were fulfilled.

Now, Daniel was an old man at this point. He couldn't go on a total fast because he would shrivel up and blow away. So what he did is he said, in order to pray that God would give me understanding in this vision, I fasted and I prayed and I ate no pleasant food. He ate simple food and this gave him clarity. And did the angel give him understanding? At the end of this verse, it tells us an angel came and gave him understanding. He was fasting and praying when the angel came. Doesn't always happen 24 hours later. He prayed 3 weeks at that point. You might also be praying and fasting to avert judgment. We already read, Nineveh, Jonah said, in 40 days, this city is going to be doomed. The people prayed and fasted, did God change his mind? When God told King Ahab wicked king killed Namath, and stole his vineyard.

When Elijah came and said, God saw what you did and your kingdom's going to be destroyed now. Ahab humbled himself, he fasted, he wept, and he put on sackcloth. And you know what God said? He said to Elijah even Ahab, that wicked king, because he's humbling himself greatly and fasting, I'm not going to destroy his kingdom in his day. I'll wait until after he is gone. He averted the judgment because he fasted and prayed. You'll see, as a matter of fact, I can't think of a case in the Bible, virtually every time I can think of when the children of Israel did respond and humbled themselves and fast and pray, God, either they bought more time or he completely repented of the judgment.

In the book of Joel chapter 2, verse 12, and this is something for us to remember in the last days because Joel is a last-day prophet too. Now, therefore, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and mourning. Turning to God and fasting are often like this in the Bible. With weeping and mourning surrender your heart and not your garments. Are you getting mad at Pastor Doug for talking about this? Is it biblical? Do you want to know what the Bible says? I know some of you look so somber right now because I think it's sinking in. You're going, well, I don't think I've ever gone a whole day in my life without food. And it's scary. It is. You start thinking about missing one meal, and you get scared. Doug, I can't, I'd get hungry. You'll probably survive. Again if you've got some medical condition or some special circumstances or disease or something, that's different. But for most of us, and I know I hear a lot of people say, well Doug, I can't fast. I've got low blood sugar. I get grumpy. We all do. You go long enough.

I think we miss out on fasting because a lot of us think we got a medical condition we don't have. We just don't want to be hungry. I got this medical condition, my stomach starts to sides[?] shake hands together and it's this condition, I can't fast. We all have that condition, It's called hunger. Our bodies are in the habit of eating frequently. And as soon as you talk about not eating, you're going to have a reaction. But the more often you fast your body gets used to it and the reaction becomes a lot more subdued. Most of us have no idea what that means because we've never done it. But is it me or is it the bible? It's a Bible teaching friends. He said with fasting, with weeping, with mourning surrender your heart and not your garments return to the Lord your God, for he's gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. And he relents from doing harm. Who knows if he will turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him? When there's judgment facing, we can have a lengthening of our prosperity by fasting and prayer.

We may need to do that for our nation because I think that there is judgment looming in the world right now based on what you're seeing. I printed something out that I thought would be beneficial. There's been a radical change even in North America in the teaching of fasting. It was very common that they used to proclaim days of fasting and prayer. Now they just proclaim days of prayer. Are you aware of that? Let me read something from Abraham Lincoln. He proclaimed a national fasting day, which he set apart Thursday the 30th, and somehow that turned into Thanksgiving. Is that a day of fasting?

And then they completely skipped the time of year that Lincoln picked for this national day of fasting and prayer. They made it a day of feasting in prayer and they went back to the pilgrims. But that isn't the origin of it. Somebody kept hounding Lincoln. Anyway, all right. Lincoln wrote 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. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness and he proclaimed a day of fasting. But now we just have days of prayer. The fasting part got left out. Something else, 1877 used to happen more frequently than you think.

In Minnesota, the farmers had been ravaged the year before by grasshoppers that completely devastated the wheat crop. In the spring, all the grasshoppers began to hatch out of the ground. At the same time, the wheat was sprouting up. Governor John ss Pillsbury proclaimed April 26th, a day of fasting and prayer. That's the kind of fasting where you don't eat and pray. And the people participated. They spent 3 or 4 days fasting and praying about this plague of grasshoppers that had been sweeping through the whole Midwest. And you know what? God sent a freak killer frost that did not hurt the wheat but killed all the grasshoppers and they had a bumper crop of wheat that year in response to their day of fasting and prayer. God does still answer prayer, but I think sometimes we miss the intensity that the Bible teaches that goes along with it.

Now, as you study the subject, you'll find it also teaches a marital fast. A couple may choose to get together and fast and that not only may involve a time of not eating food, but of setting aside marital intimacy. And Paul says 1st Corinthians chapter 7, verse 5, do not deprive one another. The husband's body belongs to the wife and the wife to the husband, we become one flesh. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer and then come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. That should not be prolonged, but it is appropriate at times to also set aside the marital relations to pray to fast. And what you're basically doing is the physical pleasures are being set aside during that time of prayer. Is it now that we've entered the time of Ramadan?

Yeah, the feast of Ramadan in the Islamic faith, I think it's this month. What's interesting is they fast all day long and I don't want to be critical and they may not smoke, it's something like lent. They may not smoke all day long. There's no marital intimacy, they don't eat any food but then at night, as soon as the sun goes down, they compensate for the lack of the day. And I don't mean to laugh because I don't want to be disrespectful, but that probably isn't healthy. And the Catholic idea of fasting where you set aside, I'm not going to drink any more whiskey or cigarettes during lent. Well, if it's a sin during Lent, it's a sin that when Lent is over. A sin is a sin, you're not doing God a favor by saying, I'm going to stop using your name in vain while I'm fasting and praying. And of course, after you answer my prayers, business as usual. Now, that's not the kind of fast God wants. He wants our hearts and there should be a consistency of obedience connected with that. Amen.

There is a fast that deals with simple food and I touched on that. Daniel said, you know, I ate no pleasant food and I already quoted that to you in Daniel 10 verse 3 and no meat came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself with oil. He basically was saying, I'm going to eat simple food and it is a good idea sometimes and for children. This is a fast that you can do with the children. To keep the diet simple. Sometimes it's hard for kids. Fruit, they can eat things that will fill them. Matter of fact, a good way to fast sometimes if you need to keep your energy level up because of your work, but you're wanting to fast and dedicate yourself to God, fruit. Just say, all right I'm only going to eat fruit. It provides a lot of energy.

It's easier on the body. It keeps your mind clear. Sometimes what I've done, I used to fast where I would just have no food, but I would drink V8 juice and that's just something I came up with. I don't read about it anywhere. And I found that when I get hungry and I'd think I just can't make it any longer because I crave, just like you do, drink a can of that, It takes all the hunger pains away. And then I'd be able to just keep going on and completely forget about my hunger. You'll often find a glass of water we'll help you when you're hungry. But sometimes simple food, juice, especially if you're doing a prolonged fast. Fasting will build self-control. And it is true that the spirit's willing but our flesh is weak and we need to ask God to give us victory of the mind over the body.

Proverbs 23, I like this verse, verses 1 through 3. When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you. Typically they have a feast. And put a knife to your throat if you are a man given the appetite, do not desire his delicacies for they are deceptive food. When you're fasting, I want you to conjure up that picture of a knife to your own throat because sometimes it requires that.

Ecclesiastes 10, verse 16, speaks of self-control. Woe to you O land when your king is a child and your princess feast in the morning. Blessed are you O land when your king is the son of nobles and your princess feast at the proper time for strength and not for drunkenness and the word feasts there means to eat. Why should we eat? Because we're in a gorge orgy. Do we eat for drunkenness? we've all seen it. Sometimes we call it a potluck. Now watch this, we have a potluck today. Everyone's going to be looking at everybody else, looking at their plates. That's okay. It's good for you. When they eat for strength and not for drunkenness, fasting builds up self-control.

There are health benefits of fasting that we've already talked about. Might have nothing to do with the spirit. How many of you know people in the world that fast that they're not even religious because of the spiritual benefits? And you'll hear this, a lot of doctors and nutritionists will tell you that there is some benefit. A lot of our systems suffer because they never get any rest and occasionally take, I remember I had this new-age teacher at this one school I went to, a total atheist but he fasted one day a week, every week. Sounded like Pharisee because he said `he found that it just helped his mind keep control of his body and that it was better for his health.

So, there are medical benefits to fasting that a lot of people have recognized and they're there for you. Now I hesitated whether or not to even mention this aspect of the study, but while I'm talking about fasting, I think it's important for us to realize that we've come a long way from this Bible teaching. What's the opposite of fasting? Feasting and gluttony. Does Jesus talk about beware speaking of the second coming, lest your heart be overcharged with eating and drinking in the cares of his life? Back in the days of Noah, they ate and they drank as it was in the days of Noah so will it be when the son of man comes. We become so instead of eating to live, we live to eat and the fact is we are living in a day of too much food.

All right, I want to read from National Geographic. One year ago, there was this article in August 2004 and it was a very shocking edition. Listen, the plates are bigger, the servings are bigger, and so are the people. In the US, adult obesity rates have doubled since 1971. And one-third of adults are now considered obese, not just overweight. Researchers are assessing how eating away from home contributes to the obesity epidemic. The Big Mac, this is not religious, this is National Geographic. The Big Mac, the big gulp, and I might add the whopper mentality may have something to do with it. Between 19 77 and 1996, the average US hamburger increased in size by 1.3 ounces and restaurant soft drinks by 6.8 ounces. In a historical first, catch this friend, there are now as many over-nourished people in the world as undernourished. We always think about all the people in the world that are starving. We are living in an age where there are actually more over-nourished people than malnourished. I think it's time for us to resurrect.

Here's the recipe for obesity on such a global scale. Take technology, cars, washing machines, and elevators that reduce physical exertion, increase calorie consumption, courtesy of increasing prosperity, add television, and video games, stir in the intensive marketing of candy and fast food, and you have the makings for an epidemic. More health problems are caused by overeating than the actual type of food. They did a study that I read about in preparing for this message where they took some rats, pardon me for the analogy and they put them in identical environments. And one group of rats fed them all that they could eat of their favorite food and the other group of rats, the exact same food, the exact same environment, but they fed them minimal amounts. The ones who ate less way outlived the ones who could eat all they wanted. One of the first and most important things we could do to lengthen our lives. Not to mention our health is to eat less. I wish I had at least one. Amen.

Congregation: Amen.

Doug: Let me share some things with you. This will be the last time some of you ever come. This is from the book Great Controversy. We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead, the food on this day should be more simple, less should be eaten in order that the mind might be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. Is that what we do or do we do the opposite? You go to someone's house and the pastor gets invited here and there frequently, and people want to make a good impression. And so, there are 30 different things you could choose from. When in the Garden of Eden, they'd go to the tree they'd eat from that tree. That was the meal. One thing. They didn't just go from tree to tree and no, I can't prove that. But the variety of stuff that we eat is we end up, you wouldn't want to take a camera and find out what our stomachs look like after the typical potluck. It's just a stew of who knows what and it's just not good for us friends. Amen. I'll amen myself because I believe it.

Overeating, no matter what the quality of the food, clogs the living machine and thus hinders its work. It might be good food, but you can eat too much of even good food. Well, thank you. I feel better.

How many are low on the scale of spirituality because they will not deny their appetite? The brain's nerve energy is being numbed and almost paralyzed by overeating. That's from counsels and diets. As a matter of fact, there's a book called Counsels on Diets and Food. There's a whole chapter. I don't have time to read to you and you wouldn't want to sit and listen to it, on overeating. And it is extremely beneficial and a little bit convicting, but I think it is very relevant in our day and age. Amen. Based on all the data friends the data is we eat too much as the people. And it's also what happens in our society, is also true in the church. Overeating even the simplest food numbs the sensitive nerves of the brain. I thought it was the nerves of the stomach. Overeating affects the brain and weakens its vitality.

Overeating has a worse effect on the system than overworking. The energies of the soul are more effectively prostrated by intemperance and eating than by intemperance and working. Eating too much can do more to hurt your mind than working too hard. The very important truth. I thought it would be important to talk about the most important fast. Isaiah 58, verse 6. Some of you have been waiting for me to go here. What is the most important fast that every Christian ought to participate in? The whole chapter really deals with this. As a matter of fact, I would like to go to verse 2. Bear with me. I think I've got time to read this to you. Isaiah chapter 58, verse 2.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways as a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of me the ordinance of justice, they take delight in approaching God. Why have we fasted? They say, and you've not sinned. Why have we afflicted our souls and you didn't take notice? In other words, the nation says, look, we're going through this ritual of fasting and you're not paying attention. And he's about to explain that they need more than just fasting. In fact, on the day of your fast, you find pleasure and you exploit all your labors. Indeed, you fast for strife and debate and to strike with a fist of wickedness. In other words, your hearts aren't changed. You'll not fast as you do this day to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen a day for a man to afflict his soul?

Is it to bow down his head like a bull rush and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast and acceptable day to the Lord? Verse 6. Now, here's what God does want. Is not this the fast that I have chosen to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, turn away from wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, that you let the oppressed go free not to be persecuting others, that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and that you bring into your house the poor who are cast out? This is the work of the church, that when you see the naked you cover him and you do not hide yourself from your own flesh. In other words, the picture for a second. People in ancient Israel, they're walking down the road, they're fasting, they got their sackcloth on, they've got money in their pocket, they're walking by people who are hungry, they're walking by people who are naked.

They don't care about their fellow man, but they're saying we're fasting, Lord, you've got to give us what we're asking for. And God said you're missing the point of fasting if you don't love me and love your neighbor. Are you picturing this? That when you see the naked, you cover him and don't hide yourself from your own flesh. We're all brothers and sisters. Then your light will break forth like the morning. Your healing and your health will spring forth speedily. This kind of fast, there's a promise for health. Your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you'll call and I will answer. You'll cry. And he will say, here I am. If you take away from the yoke, from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, gossiping, and accusing other people. If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will dawn in the darkness, and your darkness will be as the noonday.

Your darkest time will be like your brightest time now. Then the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul in drought and strengthen your bones. You'll be like a watered garden, a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And the promises also for the children, those who be from you, will build up the old waste places, raise up the foundation of many generations, and it goes on. All these promises are connected with what a real fast is. So, it's not just, okay, Lord, I'm not going to eat and you got to give me everything I want. What is it ultimately that God wants from us? Yes, we do need to physically fast, but even more than that he wants our hearts.

Which brings me to the closing verse. Romans chapter 12 verse one, I beseech you, therefore brethren, by the mercy of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The Lord wants us to present ourselves. That's what fasting really is. It's seeking after God, not living for your own personal pleasure, but finding out what best pleases him. Presenting yourself a living sacrifice.

What fasting really means is an attempt to get closer to God. Maybe it's interceding for others. Maybe there's a health issue, but it's really your way of mourning for your sins, denying yourself, and seeking after God. And then he says, if you humble yourself, he'll lift you up. Your light will break forth. Your day will be bright, your health will spring forth. All these promises are connected with this teaching. Now, in conclusion, I want to ask you, is it Bible teaching? Did you want to know what the Bible says? We need to pray that God will give us grace and tell us when and how to fast. And it may be a little different for each of us, but I do think we're living in a day and age when we need to rediscover the blessings of fasting. Amen.


We are going to have a week of prayer that our church has set aside. I think they may even call it a week of fasting and prayer. How many of you are willing to say that I feel that through what I've seen in the word, however, God directs me, and it may be different according to what your health needs are, and everyone's body's a little different. But I'd like to spend some time fasting and praying. Do you feel convicted about that? And I don't mean starting today, but you feel convicted about the teachings. Amen. Let's sing verse 4 together, verse 4.


Dear Lord, I believe that we have addressed today a teaching, a primary biblical teaching that Jesus wants us to rediscover. There are blessings that we've missed. Lord, we all know about the battle between the spirit and the flesh. We know the spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. And so, Lord, we would ask that you would help us to follow Christ and His word in this principle of learning what it means to fast and to pray. And Lord, we pray that you'll accept this as our way of seeking after you, of drawing near, of hungry and thirsting for the spiritual things and the spiritual food. I pray, Lord, that you will bless each person here. Help us to know how to apply these teachings in our lives, and as a result, may we all be closer to Jesus in heaven. In His name, we pray. Amen.


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