As a youth desiring to be Christian,
I never heard about anybody fasting, except Mahatma Gandhi,
and didn’t know what the Bible says about it.
So I never fasted.
Jesus says “When you fast” (Matt. 6:16)—not if!
Maybe we go “Whew! Jesus doesn’t say when and how often!”
Except that as the God of the Old Testament, He commanded fasting annually on His Holy Day, the Day of Atonement. He specified going without food and drink for the 24 hours of this special time He sanctified.
Yes, it “afflicts your soul” (Lev. 23:27) and that’s good! God afflicts the comfortable so that we can comfort the afflicted!
Besides the obvious physical benefit of emptying and cleansing the digestive system a few days before we will be eating and drinking “whatever our heart desires” at the Feast of Tabernacles which pictures the bounty of the Millennium, we need to humble ourselves to be spiritually ready to serve under Christ in His Kingdom. And we need to sigh and cry for this suffering world (Ezk. 9:4).
Jesus fasted 40 days to be up to His encounter with the Tempter. This was no ramadan—Jesus fasted during the 40 nights also!
Because the Bible details only Satan’s no-doubt top three lures, it’s easy to think He was tempted only three times, maybe three different days. But Jesus was “tempted for 40 days” (Luke 4:2).
Since Jesus was going to walk the earth 3-1/2 years unmarried, with 12 male companions—many rough and earthy fishermen—it amazes me that Satan didn’t try some kind of sexual temptation.
Maybe he flashed that the other 37 days! Jesus became our High Priest because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Satan probably realized that he would need more than that to faze Jesus because the spirit realm has “pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11) that trump anything this physical world offers. In the resurrection we won’t marry (Matt. 22:30) except to marry Christ as His spiritual Bride!
Fasting is considered one of the four main tools in a Christian’s toolbox—along with prayer, Bible study and meditation.
So it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t say much about it except that a Christian must not do it “with a sad countenance … disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting” (Matt. 6:16). Jesus said to shower, comb and brush. Fast in secret and the Father would reward us openly.
And He told the disciples that some spiritual tasks are accomplished
Only by “prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21)
Jesus also talked about the Pharisee who fastidiously disciplined himself twice a week but was really only praying “thus with himself” (Luke 18:11)—because he trusted in himself and despised others. Proper fasting would have helped him humble himself and repent of his horrible attitudes!
When Jesus was asked why His disciples weren’t fasting, He answered that they would fast when the Bridegroom was taken away from them (Mark 2:20). Today Christians must fast to be ready when the Bridegroom returns!
When & how often still on the table
Now in my 47th year of understanding that a Christian needs to fast, I still regularly have to assess when and how often. Moses fasted 40 days—twice, Esther and her supporters three days. A person might want to fast for lunch on a workday. You might stop a fast when an answer comes from God. But generally a fast is for 24 hours.
A person should consult a doctor if any risk is foreseen. For me, where I don’t drink coffee which often leads to withdrawal headache, the challenge is always mental not physical.
When Atonement comes, as it will on Oct. 12 this year, it would prick my conscience—stab, actually—if I hadn’t fasted since Atonement last year. I would be neglecting so great a salvation (Heb. 2:3).
I have always heard old-timers say they have learned that once a month is a good balance to aim for. That’s what I’ve experienced and advise also.
So a Christian who doesn’t fast? Plain and simple—an oxymoron. Unless you’re an adult with health problems. These evil days are flying by fast. Regular fasting helps us to hunger and thirst for God’s way. I wrote this to help you but also to remind myself that I need to do it fast!
Until next time,
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