I purposefully put off this blog until after the holidays. There was no way I was going to write about fasting while fudge and Christmas cookies were so abundant! But now….here it is! As we look at the topic of fasting I will share a little of what I have experienced as a result of fasting. We will also be looking much to Christ, our ultimate example of obedience, sacrifice, and humility before the Father.
There have always been those who have misunderstood the purpose of fasting. God wants more for us. It is not the heart of our heavenly Father to impose strict regimens on His people to appease Him or to gain His favor. Christ has already provided all we need to stand before God holy and without blame in love ( Ephesians 1:4.)
So what is fasting all about? What was in God’s heart as His word was given as revelation to the prophet Isaiah and through God’s people throughout the ages? Let’s go to the Living Word of God and see what insight He brought to us as He came to Earth. In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus is sharing amazing truths about what fasting is-and is not. Here is what He says, ” 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.” These beautiful words of our Savior echo His previous teaching on prayer ( Matthew 6:5-15.) Since it seems that in the same heavenly breath He speaks on both of these subjects I believe that we can safely conclude that God designed fasting and communing with God to work in harmony.
The phrase that stands out to me in these passages is ” the secret place.” Isn’t that captivating and breathtaking?Doesn’t it make you want to come in closer to find out about this secret? Here, Jesus the Son of God, gives us a fresh look into what made Him so powerful and alluring-He was always in communion with the Father. Jesus gave us insight into where His true power and the source of all that He did came from.
As Jesus was teaching His disciples, the Pharisees-and others who were waiting to catch Him in His words sat by, He was acutely aware that fasting was not a new teaching or practice of God’s people. Surely the words of Isaiah 58 were in His thoughts and heart as He spoke that day. Every Jewish person was accustomed to what God expected of them-or were they? God seems to ask the same question to His people in chapter 58 of Isaiah. For the sake of time I will not share the content of this chapter but highly recommend that you read and study God’s heart spilled for us to see. It is moving. God poured out His heart so ours would be moved closer to His and His ways. This is what fasting is all about.
This is what Jesus is capturing. The living Word of God, Jesus, was breathing into the words and intentions of God as He spoke on this day the words in Matthew 6. Jesus was modeling that fasting has way more to do with the posture of our hearts before the One who knows them and created them than with strict religious duty that we, at times, gravitate toward.
We can argue that Jesus was fully God so He really did not need to fast. Why did He then? Why did He follow the Spirit into the wilderness after His baptism in Matthew 4:1-11 to be tempted, tried, attacked by Satan, and given to fasting and prayer as if His life depended on it? Because it did. This passage of scripture sets the stage for a season that was extremely difficult for our Lord. Satan knew Christ, the Anointed One, would soon be walking in and fulfilling the fullness of the Father’s plan for Himself and for mankind. God’s kingdom was coming to earth. As Jesus experienced an onslaught from the powers of darkness and Satan himself, fasting was one of His weapons. Jesus deemed what was at stake here so valuable that He was willing to give up food for forty days and forty nights. Talk about hungry! No wonder Jesus had such powerful words on fasting and prayer for His disciples in Matthew 6-He learned how to live this out in the wilderness as He was fighting for His life. Now He teaches us to fight for ours. Jesus also brings in the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, as another powerful weapon that defeats Satan only after a very fierce battle. Beloved, keep your eyes on the prize when the enemy is fighting you with every lie and scheme from hell, because just as Jesus overcame and began walking in greater anointing and power after His battle, so will you!
You see, Jesus knew why He came. He also knew that by coming He ,the Son of God, would be encased in flesh and experience what we do. He was handed a set of challenges that He had never before experienced first hand. Yet He chose to come anyway. As God, He has intimate knowledge of us, His marvelous creation, but was now experiencing the reality of living in a fallen world. He could not escape this because it enrobed Him. He did not simply look down and see the skin He created covering His body, but He felt the effects of what this meant for Him-and us. Jesus was now entrenched in the fullness of temptation. For the first time He experienced what we do daily. He was now grappling with the pull of His flesh that wanted to take Him away from everything He has ever known and experienced that is perfect, holy, and true. From the perfect fellowship He had always known with His Father. He, now as a human, has to walk in greater power over demonic influences, sickness, and the desires of this new flesh He has taken on. As we meditate and ponder what Christ has done for us by coming to this earth may we grow in deeper love and adoration of Him. It is truly amazing. Jesus realized He needed to cling to His Father’s words and commands to fast in order to stay in close fellowship and obedience to His plans. For Jesus, fasting was a very effective key to living in, and fulfilling His destiny.
The same is true for us. If Jesus needed to fast then…..we are going to have to also. Let the Holy Spirit give us a new mindset even in how we think about fasting. We get to! Yes! Wet get to be more like the perfect One and live closer to our Creator. We get to go to the “secret place” that Jesus was talking about and gain the reward our Father has waiting for us. His presence, love, and affirmation all come when we say no to something else in order to say yes to Him. It is in the secret place that Jesus was constantly affirmed by His Father in the midst of ridicule and rejection from others. It was here that He leaned in close to the bosom that He came from (John 1:18) to hear what God had planned for that day. It was here He gained everything He needed. This is where we too will find all we need and desire-in His presence.
We not only need to fast for ourselves but for the situations, circumstances, eyes, and hearts of others. Both those who do not know the Lord and those who do. We can certainly all relate to feeling helpless in the natural to see a difficult person or situation change. Fasting aids in opening our eyes to see what God sees. I love the words on prayer in Romans 8:26-27 that say, ” Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” I have experienced what these verses talk about. I have also seen that when I fast and let the Holy Spirit pray through me that there is a greater power and anointing than if I only pray. I am able to perceive what God is wanting to do with greater understanding and compassion and then pray from this place when I am fasting. I also notice I see who He is and what He is wanting to do more clearly.
Studies and scientists have concluded our bodies respond in specific ways when we fast ( I certainly do not need a study to tell me that I can get kind of cranky!) One of the ways our body reacts is that our eyesight becomes keener. I believe that this does not only apply to our natural eyesight but to our spiritual vision as well. Jesus shows us that this is true from the Word.
In Matthew 17:15-21 Jesus says, And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, ” Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, ” O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ” Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, ” Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you will have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Jesus was not only able to cast out the demon from this boy but also to see what was behind what He was experiencing in his body. Notice the words Jesus uses, ” this kind.”
How many “this kinds” of situations and people to we face daily that we will have no clue what to do with except for if we live a fasted lifestyle as Christ did? I think He may have been a bit irritated that He talked and taught His disciples about prayer and fasting, modeled a lifestyle of it, and then sent them out to do the very thing this boy needed, and they were not able. He says it was because of their unbelief. Apparently, they still did not truly trust in who God was and who they were because of Christ and His commands to them. I can, at times, relate.
God wants us to see with His eyes and to perceive what He is doing and desiring to do both in our lives and the lives of others. We are simply not smart enough to look at a situation and know what God is wanting to do all the time. But-we can walk in the wisdom and discernment of God the way He wants us to! I have experienced this as I fast. I will walk away from a person or situation and suddenly “see” things I did not or could not before when I was all wrapped up in “me.” It is so exciting to grow closer to God as we give something up in order to simply be with Him. He takes us and allows us to soar with Him and shows us what He sees from His vantage point. When we sacrifice something that is necessary or meaningful to us to see God bring healing or freedom in someone else’s life we are becoming more like Christ who did this very thing for us. He gave up Heaven, comfort, perfection, beauty, and peace to reach down and rescue us. We get the privilege of joining with Him to see Him do that for others. How amazing! Our prayers, coupled with fasting, bring a reward of freedom and breakthrough for ourselves and others that is explosive!
I long to see more miracles, people being set free and healed just as Jesus did. I believe you do too! Are we willing to follow Jesus’ example in how to get to this place? All of these results of God working through Jesus were simply the fruit of what happened in the secret place. The fruit of a life fully surrendered to the Father and His plans. Fasting gives us the ability to operate in greater measure in the supernatural. This is the realm where God dwells. When we fast we get the opportunity not only experience God’s rule and kingdom, but to see that come to earth!