“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred” (Matt. 4:1-2).
Following the baptism of Jesus, the Bible says that He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. There in the desert Jesus learned to depend upon God. By prayer and by fasting the Lord prepared Himself for His public ministry. Because many Christians have not considered the issue of fasting, let me share some specific points.
Fasting as a religious duty is almost universal. Christian and non-Christian religions practice the act of withholding food from self in order to concentrate on God. Under the Old Testament economy, the Mosaic Law prescribed only one public occasion of strict fasting. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the people were to fast and worship. As the years passed, the Hebrew people instituted the habit of fasting for a variety of reasons. People fasted whenever they were in hard, and trying circumstances.
When Elkanah, the husband of Hannah taunted her because she wanted a child, Hannah did not answer, but she did go into the house of the Lord to pray and fast. “And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat” (1 Sam. 1:7).
Some would fast whenever they were in hard and trying circumstances. During the days of Saul, it was obvious to all, that the king had gone insane with jealousy over David. At the palace court, Saul threw a javelin at David and tried to kill him. David had to flee for his life. In so doing he had to leave his friend Jonathan. When Jonathan knew how his father treated David, the Bible says that he “arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat” (1 Sam. 20:34).
When Divine discipline was about to be administered, people would fast. When David became king of Israel he did a terrible thing. He looked upon the wife of another man, and found a way to kill her husband, and take her for himself. But the thing which David did displeased the Lord, and the wrath of God was poured out upon him. Word was sent that the child that Bathsheba was to bear would not live. “David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth” (2 Sam. 12:16).
In the New Testament, fasting was practiced by the Apostles. In Matthew 9:15 Jesus had predicted that “When the Bridegroom shall be taken away…then shall they [His disciples] fast.” That happened. The apostle Paul speaks of being in fasting often. He knew the agony of the heart seeking the salvation of souls.
Throughout the centuries, many people have found value in fasting. . In recent years Richard Foster has called the Christian community to reconsider the value of fasting in his book, The Celebration of Discipline.
By fasting, we, as Christians, tell God, and show God, that there is more to life than physical pleasure. There is an immortal soul to be concerned about. By fasting, a measure of self-discipline is exercised. By fasting, time is freed to concentrate on other religious duties and delights.
Perhaps someone would like to engage in this holy and spiritual exercise. There is a longing for God to pour out His Spirit without measure, and with great power. It is time to cry aloud with the prophets of old, “O Lord! Revive thy people!”
If we never fast, if we never pray, if we never seek to be alone with God the Father like Jesus did, we will never know the spiritual power that comes from defeating the world, the flesh, and the devil.
As there is individual fasting, so there can be corporate fasting. It is not enough for a church to be financially stable. It is not enough for a church to have an active program. It is not enough for a church to be well organized. Satan knows how to take all of the religious activity in the church and turn it into disaster.
Apart from Divine grace, greed can replace giving. Activity can replace being still and knowing God. Money can become the focus of desire, instead of the Desire of the Ages. Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store, from each idol that would keep us, saying Christian, “Love Me more.”
By loving Christ more than anything else, the saints will not allow Satan to gain a foothold in the sanctuary. Satan will not be allow to quench the Holy Spirit. The love of Christ will be free to flow, and there will be the fruit of the Holy Spirit, such as joy, and peace, and longsuffering.
Christian, consider the value of fasting.