A few weeks ago I received a call from a young minister of the gospel who wanted to know my view on the subject of fasting. He explained that he attended a Christian conference recently where the guest preacher got him confused about fasting. According to him the preacher made a mockery of Pentecostal Churches and Ministers that are in the habit of fasting and was discouraging believers from fasting claiming that fasting is not relevant in the New Testament. The young minister left that conference confused and troubled. I know there are many other Christians out there like that young minister of the gospel who are very confused about the issue of fasting and need some enlightenment. It is for this reason I have decided to address the subject of fasting in this article.
I believe in fasting! I think it is lazy, reckless, and frankly, very misleading for any preacher of the gospel to be discouraging believers from fasting. It is true that because of ignorance many preachers have abused and continue to abuse fasting and many Christians do not have proper understanding of the biblical concept of fasting but that is not enough reason for any preacher to mock fasting or discourage fellow Christians from fasting. If you have proper knowledge of God’s word I would rather you teach believers the purpose of fasting and how to fast effectively than to discourage them from fasting. Fasting has both spiritual and physical benefits. However my main focus in this article is to highlight the spiritual benefits of fasting and to offer a simple biblical and practical guide for effective fasting from the perspective of the New Testament.
SPIRITUAL BENEFITS OF FASTING
Fasting is an essential spiritual and physical exercise and a vital aspect of our spiritual walk. Fasting has never lost its relevance. To start with, fasting is a spiritual discipline that temporarily relieves you of the weight of the ‘flesh’ and elevates your spirit. It is in this regard that fasting facilitates prayers because it positions your spirit to connect effectively with God in prayer. Effective fasting enhances your spiritual sensitivity and alertness thereby enabling your spirit to receive divine signals, instruction or revelation from God through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is a purposeful act of sacrifice and worship because you deliberately give up certain pleasures of the flesh temporarily in order to establish a deeper communion with God and advance your spiritual life.
Although fasting is not and can never be a substitute for the fruit of the Spirit but fasting certainly promotes humility because fasting temporarily subdues the flesh and creates an atmosphere of sobriety. Since fasting promotes humility fasting is therefore a channel of grace. James 4:6 tells us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble”. Fasting is a way of humbling and submitting yourself to God. The Bible tells us that God exalts those that humble themselves and submit to Him.
WHY I BELIEVE IN FASTING
I believe in fasting for the following reasons:
- Fasting is scriptural and was endorsed by Jesus. In Matthew 6:16 where Jesus warned his disciples against improper conduct in worship, he said “When You Fast” not “If You Fast” – which suggests that Jesus expects his disciples to fast from time to time.
- Jesus (in his human form and earthly life) believed in fasting and personally fasted as he was led by the Spirit of God. Just before Jesus began his Galilean ministry the Bible tells us in Matthew 4:1-2 that “Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry”. I am not by any means recommending this type of fast for any Christian. I am just asserting that Jesus believed in fasting and personally fasted. Some people have argued that Jesus did not fast but that is not true. Matthew 4:2 states clearly that Jesus fasted. The Greek word that was translated “fasted” in that scripture is “nesteuo” which means “to abstain from food”. So there’s no argument about it. Jesus fasted. Period!
- Ministers of God in the early church believed in fasting and they fasted often. In Acts 13:3, the Bible says “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”. In 2 Corinthians 11:27, Paul the Apostle revealed that he fasted often.
- Paul the Apostle admonished ministers of God to give themselves to fasting. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, he said “we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fastings”.
- There is no minister of God that I know who has a supernatural ministry and is doing exploits in ministry that does not know the value of fasting. Oral Roberts was a man that God used tremendously in the work of the Kingdom in his days. In one of his publications he said he learnt never to start a new project without doing two things – Fasting and Sowing a Seed of Faith for that project.
- I have personally tasted of the power and the benefit of fasting. In the early days of my ministry before God launched me into a global apostolic and evangelistic ministry I was led by the Spirit of God to do a forty-day fast. I did it dry (no food and water) for the first three days and from the 4th day I started taking about 2 to 3 glasses of water daily but no food. From the 7th day and throughout the remaining days of the fast I continued my daily intake of 2 glasses of water but added a glass of milk (i.e. a glass of water + 3 spoons of powdered milk) daily in the evening after prayers. Every night I would get up at midnight and pray in tongues for 2 hours. About the 28th day of the fast I had a supernatural encounter with God that changed my life and ministry forever. It was that encounter that gave birth to the supernatural ministry I operate today. I have not done that kind of fast again since then but I have done several other kinds of fasting at different times that lasted for 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, 28 days or 30 days as led by the Spirit of God and it has helped me greatly. I am not advising anyone to follow my example unless you are being led by the Spirit of God to do so. The reason I shared my personal experience is to testify to the power and spiritual benefit of fasting. Please don’t let anybody deceive you! Fasting is powerful! I truly believe that fasting is essential for any minister of the Gospel who desires to operate in the power or supernatural dimension of ministry. There’s a dimension of ministry that is beyond eloquent preaching. Ministry is beyond motivational speaking. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul the Apostle said “when I came to you, I did not with eloquence of speech……my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of Power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom (eloquent speech) of men but in the power of God”.Although fasting is not and can never be a substitute for Spiritual gifts such as the gift of Healing, the gift of working of miracles, and the like, I have personally observed that fasting enhances the manifestations of Spiritual gifts.
ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR EFFECTIVE FASTING
In order to fast effectively, here are some important points to note:
- Some people have suffered fatality or died in the course of fasting because of ignorance. It is important to have proper biblical understanding of how to fast effectively before embarking on a fast.
- Fasting is a spiritual exercise and should be done by faith.
- Fasting should be purpose driven. Know why you’re fasting.
- Fasting can become detrimental or counterproductive when abused.
- It does not necessarily have to be a lengthy fast for it to be effective.
- Never embark on a lengthy fast without the express leading of the Holy Spirit or proper spiritual guidance and supervision. Before Jesus embarked on a fast for forty days and forty nights the bible says he was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit of God.
- It is not advisable to do a dry fast for more than four days unless you are expressly led by the Spirit of God. Naturally speaking, the human body can survive without food for more than 21 days but it is dangerous to deny the body of water intake for more than seven days. To avoid dehydration it is advisable that you drink some water daily from the fourth day if your fast is longer than three or four days unless the Holy Spirit leads otherwise.
- It is not advisable to embark on a major fast when you’re very ill and taking prescription drugs that require food and water. However, there have been some exceptional cases of believers who while sick fasted by faith as they were led by the Spirit of God and got healed supernaturally. The point is this: If you must embark on a major fast at a time of sickness ensure that you are doing it by faith and by the help and leading of the Holy Spirit.
- Even if you’re a minister of God never force yourself into a lengthy fast when you know your body cannot take it at that time. You should know your state of health. Avoid lengthy fast when you’re physically weak or exhausted and not emotionally stable to cope with the stress of a lengthy fast. Sadly, there have been some reports of ministers of God who died in the course of fasting due to ignorance, ill health or dehydration.
- Avoid hypocritical fasting. You’re not fasting to impress anyone. In Mathew 6:16-18, Jesus 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. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face. So that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”.
- When fasting it is important to feed your spirit with the word of God and spend adequate time in worship and prayers.
- When breaking your fast, break with light meals and avoid highly acidic fruits, drinks and foods.
Finally, let me add that we must be careful not to misapply fasting. Fasting is not effective when the motive is wrong. Sometimes, some Christians fast as though they’re trying to improve on the finished work of Christ or force God to do their bidding. We must understand that fasting is not a substitute for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must also understand that the redemptive work of Christ was indeed total and thorough. We need not and cannot improve on the finished work of Christ. Remember, if the motive for fasting is wrong it will not be beneficial or rewarding. So let us be careful not to abuse fasting. That is why I carefully highlighted the purpose and the spiritual benefits of fasting and a practical guide so readers can have a balanced understanding of fasting. You are blessed!
I shall soon return with another edition! Until then, let’s keep up the conversation here. I look forward to your views and comments.
Author: Bishop Emma Omon
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Copyright © March 23, 2017 Emma Omon. All rights reserved.
Published online on Thursday, March 23, 2017 by emmaomonblog.com