In our last lesson, we discovered that Jesus teaches in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) that giving, prayer, and fasting are a threefold cord of Christian conduct that is not easily broken. We discussed how we will grow closer to God than we ever thought possible if we put these three behaviors into habitual practice. We also recognized that many Christians are a giving and praying people, but that sadly, fasting as a habitual practice has largely fallen by the wayside. But did you know there are both right and wrong reasons for fasting? Today, we’ll explore sound Biblical motives for fasting as explained in the book “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin (Charisma House © Jentezen Franklin 2008, 2010)
There are different kinds of fasts. There are private fasts and those that the Bible describes as “called fasts”—when unusual times and situations call for unusual measures and supernatural responses from God. But before you fast, you must ask yourself three questions:
1. What are your motives for fasting?
You will lose weight, but that cannot be your motive. Also, your body will detox. Fasting cleanses you and your digestive track will be healthier, but that is not what a fast is all about. None of these great benefits are reasons to fast. So you must ask yourself, “What is my motive for fasting?”
2. What are the specific needs that I am fasting for?
When people fasted in the Bible, they always fasted for a specific need. Sometimes they were in trouble, sometimes it was for finances, and at other times they fasted for their children or for help or for direction from God. Get in your mind the specific reasons for your fast. If God asked you to list the top three things you want Him to do in your life and family, you should be able to articulate these reasons and keep them before the Throne of Grace during your fast.
3. Am I determined to minister to the Lord during my fast?
Normally, we think in terms of God ministering to us, but yes, it is possible for us to minister to God. Let’s look at Acts 13:1–2
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Notice how these verses say, “As they ministered to the Lord?” Fasting is a time we set aside for ministering to the Lord; it’s not about getting what we can get from God all the time. God will move when we fast, but it should be a time when our heart is crying out, “I want to minister to You; I want to love You more; I want to know you better; I want to draw closer to You; my heart cries for You.”
The way you approach fasting is extremely important. If you are not serious about it, then you won’t get serious results. The more serious you are about the fast, the more seriously God will respond. If you are frivolous or lighthearted about it and have a heart’s attitude that says, “Well, I’ll fast, but I don’t really feel like it,” then that’s not going to work. Your heart has to be in the fast, and when your heart is in it, there will come a fellowship with God like you have never known before!
Did you know it’s possible to go on a fast and have so many personal motives and agendas that you’re not even fasting for God—you are fasting for your own wants and desires. Turn in your Bibles to Zechariah 7:4–6:
Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying, Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
In this portion of Scripture, God is saying, “You have been doing this every year at the same time for seventy years, but I want to know if anyone is hungering for Me and My kingdom, for My agenda and purpose and plan on earth.”
When we fast, we submit our bodies to God and say, “Cleanse this body Lord, and deal with my habits and other things that are earthly. Get this nicotine out of me; get this lust out of me. I am presenting this flesh to You. I know my flesh will always be here, but I’m letting it know that Jesus is Lord in this temple.” In Getting on the Fast Track—Part 5, we’ll examine several of the seven different fasts described in the Bible.