If you have been a believer for any length of time, you may have tried fasting at one time or another. Perhaps the last word that might come to your mind when you think of fasting is joy. So what is the value of fasting, and why does God expect His saints to fast on a regular basis?
Throughout the Bible we see that whenever God’s people set their faces toward the Lord in earnest prayer, they would accompany it with days of fasting. In the Old Testament we think of Moses fasting forty days, and Daniel fasting for twenty-one days. In the New Testament we recall Jesus fasting for forty days, and Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, going three days without food and water.
As we can see in the Bible, fasting was a means of humbling yourself before Lord for the purpose of prayer. It was a means of abstaining from food, in order to focus completely upon the Lord. The Psalmist wrote:
“I humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13 NKJV).
If you aren’t aware of this already, there are no hard and fast rules about fasting given in the Bible. It is something you purpose in your heart to do in your desire to seek the face of God. Whether you fast one day, three days, or more, is up to you. On occasion, the Holy Spirit may lead you to go on a fast for a certain number of days. In fact, if you are going to go on a protracted fast for many days, it is always good to be led by the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is also an act of faith where you are believing God to honor your abstinence from food, and hear the petition you are making before Him. It is a means of keeping your flesh under, so that your spirit can rise up before the Lord. In fact, the more you fast, the more your spirit will grow in its ability to rule over your flesh. It will also assist your spirit to be more sensitive to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit.
One of the clearest instructions on fasting was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, when He said:
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:16 NKJV).
Here Jesus made it clear that you are not to appear sad when you fast. How then should you appear? Full of joy! Yes, when you fast you should keep rejoicing in the Lord, as you would do on any other day. If you fast in joy, you will be amazed how it will help you maintain your fast before the Lord.
Now there are exceptions to this. There are times in your fast you may weep before the Lord, as you seek His face. You may also find yourself entering times of brokeness before Him. Both are acceptable before Him. However, for the most part, when you fast for a day here or there, as you go about your normal work day, you will find that joy will sustain you during this time of fasting.
Now Jesus had further instructions, He said:
“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:18 NKJV).
In this passage of Scripture, taken from The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave instructions about giving, prayer and fasting. It is clear that He expected each of His followers to do each of these things. He told His followers to do these things in secret, and God would reward them openly. This tells you that there is a reward for fasting!
Now God expects us to do everything by faith. We give by faith, we pray by faith, and we need to also fast by faith. The writer of Hebrews wrote:
“For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).
This means that when you fast you must believe that God will reward you for diligently seeking Him in this way. This is why I said you must fast by faith.
By fasting in faith, you will not be trusting in your own ability to fast, but in the ability that God gives you. The more you do this, the more your faith will grow in fasting.
Now let me share with you a verse that you may not have considered regarding faith. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all JOY AND PEACE IN BELIEVING, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NKJV, emphasis mine).
When you have joy and peace bubbling up in your spirit, then you know you are acting in faith. Believing God is an act of faith, and faith produces joy and peace. When these two attributes are missing, it is time to check your faith. Are you really walking by faith, or are you walking in your own strength?
Now you cannot rule out hope. Hope is the expectancy that something good is going to happen to you. When you fast, expect God to cause something good to happen to you, because He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. As Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in the secret will reward you openly.”
Let me ask you a question: Why would you fast if you did not expect God to reward you for your act of faith? When we fast, we must believe that God is going to give us the petition we have requested from Him. This should fill us with a sense of joy and peace, as we seek the face of God. This is why we must also spend time rejoicing in the Lord for what He is about to do in our lives. He is a good God and He has good things for us!
Jesus revealed the goodness of God when He said:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NKJV).
From everything you have learned, you know that you can now fast in faith, with the full assurance that God will reward you openly, and cause that desire in your heart to come to pass. This assurance should fill you with great joy and peace. God has good things for you. They are coming your way!
You are holy, dear saint!
[All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc.]