Coming off the holiday, I am reminded that feasting is a good thing!
I don’t know about you, but I certainly enjoy a good Thanksgiving meal, complete with all the trimmings! It’s good to celebrate all the things we are thankful for!
And it’s also good to set aside times of self-sacrifice.
Last week we reviewed why the people in the Bible fasted.
This week, let’s discuss the benefits of a Biblical fast:
1) Fasting has long-term health benefits for the physical body.
So much good happens inside us when we go without food for a time, which is why so many people who are not of the Church are applying this discipline apart from God. Unfortunately, fasting has become a bit of a fad to those who are zealous about their health. Scientific study shows that skipping several meals in a row clears toxins from our system, rests our organs, and sharpens our senses.
2) Fasting weakens the grip of the flesh.
Many Christians don’t realize the power our sinful nature has over us. We can grow complacent and give in way too often to temporary pleasures. We can become desensitized to the things of God because we’re focused on ‘feeling good in the moment’. Fasting brings to light those areas where we’ve been catering to the desires of the flesh. This would include addictions and any kind of over-indulgence, not necessarily food related (too much TV, video games, social media, romance novels, etc.) Fasting breaks this power over us, freeing us from bondage.
3) Fasting cuts off worldly distractions.
Because we live in a sinful world, we are constantly bombarded by things that contradict God’s Word, and we must constantly be on guard for areas where we may grow weak. Fasting helps us to refocus and anchor on God, rather than getting side-tracked by what’s going on around us. We stop wasting time worrying about work, school, social events, culture, politics or our children’s extracurricular activities. We give God more of our attention.
4) Fasting heightens our awareness of the spiritual realm.
Our eyes become opened to the furtherance of the Kingdom here on earth, like in the story of Daniel (Daniel 10). We see things that we ordinarily would have missed because we are not looking for them. When we fast, we become less interested in our own agenda, and more focused on God’s will unfolding around us. We better understand His intentions and see His directions more clearly because we’re more attentive. All else fades as we intentionally seek Him and His purposes.
5) Fasting can spare us from evil.
One fascinating story in scripture is about King Ahab, who was considered one of the most horrid rulers of Israel. (1 Kings 21) However, when he was confronted about his sin, he repented and fasted, begging God for mercy. God chose to hold off the punishment due him and keep evil away from his household. We have no idea what evil God will hold back from our own lives if we humble ourselves before Him in fasting.
6) Fasting chastens us, bringing moderation and righteousness.
Similar to weakening the pull of fleshly desires, fasting exposes areas where we are out of balance or ignoring sinful behaviors/attitudes. Since God wants us to do all things in moderation, fasting brings to light areas where we may not have realized (or admitted) we were in trouble. This could be any area of our life that is out of balance, such as people pleasing, habitual complaining, a problem with punctuality, a critical attitude, a harsh temper, a workaholic lifestyle, misunderstanding our personal value, vanity or arrogance, etc.
7) Fasting can make God gracious toward us.
When David sinned with Bathsheba, a child was conceived. When David was confronted about his sin, he fasted in hopes that God would be gracious and spare the child (2 Samuel 12). However, we don’t always get what we ask for; God did not to spare the child as David asked. He did, however, choose to be gracious to David for his repentance. Later when David and Bathsheba conceived another son, God made this child the next ruler of Israel. God blesses us in ways we don’t expect, but fasting always brings about some kind of goodness.
8) Fasting makes God’s voice clearer.
Although God can talk to us often and in various ways, we don’t always hear Him. There could be many things that create barriers, but fasting can break down any hindrances that may be between us and God, allowing us to more clearly hear when He speaks. When we need guidance on a big decision, or when we feel far from Him, or when we need wisdom on responding to a difficult situation, fasting can open channels of greater communication and understanding.
9) Fasting develops a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God.
When we fast, we make a deliberate sacrifice of something we enjoy as a means of reaching out to God. Because of this act of surrender, God’s heart grows more tender toward us. (Don’t you feel loved when someone goes out of their way to get/make your favorite treat, or sets aside a lot of money to buy you a gift? The extra effort makes it extra special.) God appreciates our sacrifice; a humble heart moves Him. He makes Himself more real to us and we connect with Him on a deeper level during times of fasting.
10) Fasting can inspire God to rescue us from trouble.
There are countless stories in scripture where the people cried out to God in times of trials and He delivered them. But he didn’t just show up to help, He helped in a miraculous way. How many times have we faced trials, and we prayed for God to intervene, but we never considered humbling ourselves in a fast? When huge storms come against us, or when the enemy forges a major attack, sometimes fasting will bring the deliverance we need, at just the right time, in a miraculous way.
In my personal experiences with fasting, I have received all 10 of these benefits, not necessarily at the same time. It just makes me more determined to keep this a regular discipline in my life!
Next week, I’ll share why fasting matters in the Church today.
Also coming soon, I will share with you more details about some of the resources I studied, different types of fasts, maintaining a proper motive/attitude, and some tips for getting started if you’ve never fasted before.
Have you considered joining our corporate fast in January? Click here for more details: 21-Day Group Fast