“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
As we approach the fall Feast Days most of us are busy with all of the many details of planning for the Feast of Tabernacles. Properly keeping the feast typically entails a long list of things to do as far as getting ready and making sure all our plans are intact for traveling, hotel reservations, packing, taking time off of work and school, etc.
Much preparation has to be thought out ahead of time for the Feast of Tabernacles, but what about the Day of Atonement that occurs just 5 days before the Feast of Tabernacles begins? God also expects us to properly prepare physically and spiritually for the “Feast of Fasting” that is the one time of the year that God absolutely commands that we fast in accordance to the Biblical mandate for that day. We fast on Atonement, which is a Holy Day, in obedience to Leviticus 23:27.
Leviticus 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 23:28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God.
Today I thought I would write about fasting in general and how it develops strong character by conditioning us to resist our own human cravings and makes us stronger to resist the added temptations of Satan and his minions.
Fasting is not to be done just for the sake of fasting. Many Scriptures show the importance of prayer, study, and meditation combined with fasting. The Bible records many times when men and women of God petitioned Him with heartfelt prayer along with fasting. We read about many examples of those who were used mightily by God who fasted or called for fasting at various times when there was a need for repentance, forgiveness, revival, or divine intervention in the affairs of their nation.
What are some of the examples of fasting that we can learn from by the men and women in the Bible who employed this dynamic spiritual tool? When we go to the Bible to look for examples it seems that just about every servant of God fasted at some point in their lives for various reasons. If we do any kind of Google search on “Fasting in Scripture” we can find charts that list every instance of fasting in the Old and New Testaments. Bible.org has a comprehensive chart that lists all the instances of fasting in Scripture. Here are just a sampling:
Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast throughout Judah to seek YHWH for fear of the armies of Ammon and Moab. (2nd Chronicles 20:3)
Ezra calls a fast to seek God’s protection for those leaving Babylon for Israel. (Ezra 8:21-23)
Ezra eats and drinks nothing because of his mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. (Ezra 10:6)
Nehemiah mourns and fasts for days over the news of the state of Jerusalem, confessing national sin. (Nehemiah 1:4)
The people of Israel assemble with fasting to confess their sin after Ezra reads from the law. (Nehemiah 9:1)
Daniel fasts, confessing Israel’s sin, upon reading Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy weeks. (Daniel 9:3)
All of Nineveh fasts, repenting at the preaching of Jonah of the destruction of the city. (Jonah 3:5)
These are few examples of God’s servants fasting taken from Appendix 2: Fasting In Scripture on Bible.org.
Jesus Instruction Regarding Fasting
When Jesus was instructing His disciples about fasting it was expected that they would fast for He said to them “when you fast” and not “if you fast” and then gave further instruction in the manner in which they were to fast. He warned them not to fast as the hypocritical religious leaders of their day who wanted to be seen of men in their fasting and to impress others with the fact that they were fasting. Rather, Jesus told them that they should be discreet when they were fasting and to try not to make a big show of it. He taught them, and all His disciples that would come after, that fasting is between us and God alone and to fast just to impress others because they should see us fasting is the very opposite of what fasting is about. Fasting is about coming before God in humility, not about being prideful about the fact that we are doing so in front of people.
Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 16:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 16:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
It may be that sometimes it is necessary that others see and know that we are fasting, for instance on the Day of Atonement when it is commanded for all of God’s people and we assemble together; or perhaps when our family members need to know so that they do not expect us to be at meals with them. The basic principle is that the focus is to be on God when we are fasting and to be seeking and petitioning Him for our needs, humbling ourselves, and in drawing ever closer to Him; not to impress others by the fact that we are fasting.
When the disciples of John asked Jesus about why His disciples did not fast as they did, He explained that they would fast after He was resurrected and when He would no longer be with them as their Teacher on earth. This tells that those called to be His disciples are to fast.
Matthew 9:14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? 9:15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
The Purpose of Fasting?
Throughout history, God’s servants whose lives displayed the power and miraculous provision/protection of God used fasting as a vital spiritual tool. To prepare for His ministry, we are told that Jesus fasted just after He was baptized by John.
Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Jesus fasted for 40 days just before He began His public ministry. Jesus knew that He would need the empowerment of His heavenly Father to overcome the temptation from Satan and to accomplish the mission for which He was sent to earth as a human being. He also set an example for those who would become His followers. (Not that we attempt to fast for forty days but that we, too, need to fast to gain spiritual strength to resist Satan and his temptation.)
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, the first thing that Satan tried to get Him to do was to break His fast. Satan first tempted Jesus by trying to reason with Him that if He were the Son of God that all He had to do was to perform a miracle and change stones into bread and in that way satisfy His severe hunger. Jesus countered Satan’s bait by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 and said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”.
If the Son of God fasted to receive power from His Father in heaven, how much more we mere humans need to follow His example to receive the power we need to overcome and to know that we are to live by every Word of God which sustains us spiritually, just as physical bread sustains us physically.
The Hebrew word for “fast” is tsum (Strong’s #6684) and literally means , “to cover the mouth”, in other words to abstain from food. A true fast by definition involves covering one’s mouth and abstaining from food and water.
We all know that when we take in food for our physical bodies, the food sustains and nourishes our bodies; healthy food is absolutely necessary for life, and for babies and children to grow to be strong healthy adults. When we eat food, we literally take in the produce and the meat that the earth produces and it nourishes and also becomes a part of our bodies.
The eating of food also provides us with an analogy of what God wants for His children in way of taking in of His divine nature by the things that we feed our spirit with. When we study the Word of God and apply it to our lives, we are taking in spiritual nourishment and making those things a part of our character and, we, over time internalize the divine nature of God becoming more and more like Him. The object lesson of eating food for our physical bodies gives us a graphic picture of what it means to truly nourish our minds and hearts and make God’s own nature our own as we fill up our mind with every word that proceeds out of God’s own mouth which is the Bible, the whole Word of God.
When we eat physical food it sustains us during our temporary lifetimes, but ultimately we all succumb to illness, accidents, and/or aging and eventually at some point this life comes to an end. But if we feed on God’s Word and apply it to our lives, we have the potential of being a part of the resurrection to spirit and then living for all eternity. In the long term, God’s spiritual food is much more valuable and its effects are much more lasting than the physical food that we eat. Jesus made this very clear when He told Satan in the wilderness when He was being tempted,”It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
Taking in physical food serves as an allegory of taking in of the Word of God as our necessary food that nourishes and sustains our spiritual life similar to the way that physical food nourishes and sustains our physical life. Just as food strengthens and maintains our bodies, the Word of God nourishes, fuels and strengthens our inner man. Notice what both David and Jeremiah said in regard to the pleasure of eating the words of God by comparing it to tasty food.
Psalm 119:103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.
When we fast, we give up all food and drink, and we exemplify that our true sustenance is from God and His Holy Spirit. We choose for a set period of time, to deny our physical cravings for physical food to focus on our spiritual cravings for the spiritual things of God. We deliberately focus on the food that God offers us in way of spiritual food and seek it just as much as we crave physical food and in this way we satisfy a spiritual hunger which takes priority over physical hunger for the duration of our fast. We still get pangs of hunger and experience the weakness and physical symptoms of not eating, but we try to keep our focus on God and on what He wants to fill us with, realizing that those symptoms remind us of our need for God’s strength to resist our physical cravings.
Fasting is not an attempt to make God do anything, or to impress Him with our sacrifice of not eating; it is not a hunger strike to refrain from eating until we get what we want. It is a tool we use to humble ourselves to draw closer to God. By fasting we replace our natural hunger for food and the pleasure that food brings, for the deep spiritual things of God. We fast to humble ourselves before our Great God, to seek to draw closer to Him and His spiritual reality. When we fast we detach ourselves from the things of this world to have our minds free, to then seek to be shown certain personal sins or deceptions that we may be blind to and ask for forgiveness and help to overcome; or to beseech Him for protection and deliverance from Satan knowing that we are powerless on our own to fight him off.
God knows everything about us and He knows everything that we have need of. Fasting is a way of shutting down the world around us so we can tune out the noises and voices that so easily distract us so that we can clearly hear God’s voice and hear what He has to say to us. Fasting serves as a means of intensifying our spiritual awareness so that God can get through to us and so we are open to hear what He has to say to us or as to what He wants us to do (or not do). We empty ourselves of our own desires and wants and He can then fill us with His Holy Spirit.
Fasting for Faith
Fasting is linked to faith for when we let go of the physical attachments of this world including food and water, we must have faith that God can and is willing to sustain us; have faith that He hears us and to trust that He is all that He says that He is, and that He can do great things.
A father came to Jesus to petition Him to cure his son and said that he had first brought him to the disciples but they could not cure the boy. What was Jesus’ reaction? He said that it was because of the disciples lack of faith (at that time) that they were unable to cure the boy. Then Jesus added that along with having faith to do such things, that prayer and fasting are also required in some circumstances because of particularly strong forces that are set against us.
Matthew 17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 17:16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Jesus informs us that in our spiritual wrestling match against Satan and his demonic spirits, that there are certain kinds that are no match for us and will not leave us because of our lack of faith. He then said that “except by prayer and fasting” would be a means of increasing our faith and overcoming the tough trials that beset us. This record of the failure on the part of the disciples to “cast them out” is indicative that when we, too, sometimes have trials and challenges that we just cannot overcome, it just might be time that we are to fast and pray.
Fasting to Beseech God to Show Us Our Sins and then Seeking His Forgiveness
The very foundation of prayer and fasting is repentance. If we have willful sin in our lives it will hinder our prayers and cut us off from God. God requires that His people repent of their sins before He will even hear their prayers.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
But often we just cannot see our own sins. We must ask God right at the start of a fast to reveal the things in our heart that are not pleasing to Him and then seek His forgiveness just as He promises to do in John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
True humility is an attitude of the heart, a kind of brokenness or an acknowledgment that we have a natural human desire to sin and to harbor sinful attitudes. It is of necessity that we become humble in order to see them and then we can ask God to wash us and cleanse us from those sins and to enable us to overcome them. David said when seeking God’s forgiveness of his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51 that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
God will hear us and respond to our cry when we come before Him in humility and brokenness and when we acknowledge and repent of our sins, asking Him to cleanse us by the atoning blood of Jesus and to fill us with His Holy Spirit. Fasting gets our focus off of self and allows the Holy Spirit to do a more intense work within us. It also helps us to see ourselves as God sees us.
Psalm 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. 19:13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 61:1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. 61:2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 51:9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 2:14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?
When we humble ourselves and combine that with sincere intense prayer and fasting it can ignite the power of God dwelling within us and enable us to overcome sin and a deceitful heart.
Fasting to Hear From God
David was constantly praying to God to teach him and to guide him in right judgment and we, too, need to ask God to show us what we are to do in difficult and complicated matters; and especially to show us the right path to His righteousness and truth.
Sometimes it feels like we are walking through a maze trying to seek out what is God’s truth and/or will on certain matters for we are surrounded and bombarded with deception from all corners. When we start out on a fast we can journal and write out our questions to God and ask Him to show us just what He would have us to do or what He would have us to believe and let Him know that we earnestly desire to do what is right and pleasing in His eyes. We can ask Him to open the understanding of our heart to see His reality of truth and to help us to let go of our own preconceived ideas that do not conform to His Word.
Psalm 25:4 Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
Psalm 86:11 Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
Psalm 119:26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.
Psalm 119:33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
Psalm 119:66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
We fast to more clearly hear the voice of our Shepherd and claim His promise that He will help us to hear His voice and know the way we should go if we are earnestly seeking Him.
John 10:2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Fasting for Divine Intervention
One of the things that Jesus taught His disciples was to ask that God would deliver us from temptation and from evil. We can certainly pray for this as we fast and pray when we face temptation and are facing threats of being destroyed or harmed by our powerful enemies; just as God’s servants did in both the Old and New Testaments.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
There were many times when God intervened on the behalf of His people to protect and deliver them from those who wanted to destroy them.
We too can beseech God to deliver us from the power of the enemy when we are being threatened. When we are powerless to do anything for ourselves, we know that we have a powerful All-Mighty God that is willing and able to help us.
Fasting to Grow Strong Spiritually
As a spiritual tool, fasting from food and drink is a dynamic, vital exercise that is meant to help us to grow spiritual muscle as well as drawing closer to God.
Though fasting deprives the physical body of nutrition and strength for a time and we begin to feel weak; a proper, biblical fast can add deeper conviction and might [strength] to our inner, spiritual man [person].
In Ephesians 3, the apostle Paul prayed that the brethren would be strengthen by God’s might by God’s Holy Spirit in the “inner man”, meaning the inner-most part of their being, in their very deepest recesses of their hearts and minds.
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Strengthening the inner man, just like strengthening our outer physical bodies requires hard work and intense effort on our part.
The ones who teach that “all we need is faith and that God did all the work for us so that we do not have to” balk at the idea that God actually requires His people to work at their own spirituality to build up and enhance spiritual strength within themselves. The apostle Paul clearly states that God created us “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus also teaches that we are to put to use what He has given to us and to do our part to make it grow and increase. This too takes hard work and effort on our part.
Matthew 25:20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
And Peter adds to this principle by stating that God the Father judges us “according to our works”.
1 Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
Paul explains that it is not our works that save us, but when we put all the Scriptures together, we see that how we respond when God calls us, what we do and how we apply God’s Word to our lives, plays a very important part in our salvation.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
James instructs us that our works are proof that we do have faith and the works show evidence of that faith when it is put into action. When we do the works that God wants of us, that contributes to the strengthening of the inner man.
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
When we do not exercise our bodies they become flabby and weak; it is the same when we do not exercise our faith in the ways that God instructs throughout the Bible. Spiritual hardening and growth takes effort, struggle, working at it, expending our time and energy in study, prayer, applying what we learn, and then occasional fasting. To strengthen the body, exercise must be regular, consistent, with enough exertion to cause the heart to beat faster and bring out sweat: like the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”. It is the same with spiritual exercise: “no pain, no gain”.
The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to an athlete who is in training and does whatever it takes to reach his goal.
1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
From these Scripture and more we learn that the conversion process to become like God requires much effort and struggle and these things in themselves, help us in the fashioning and molding of our characters to be more like Christ. Jesus mentions that to enter the Kingdom of God we have to fight and strive for it and only through putting forth the effort and taking it by force can we attain to it.
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Fasting Exercises Temperance
One of the fruits of the Spirit is “temperance” which is also defined as “self-control”. (Galatians 5:22-23) Most of us have come to realize by our struggles in this life that self-control is one of the most difficult fruit of the Spirit to apply. In another letter, Paul freely admits that he has a problem with this very thing and that it is a struggle that he has to battle, just like we all do because of this flesh that we live in.
Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
The apostle James tells us that God does not tempt us, but that we are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lusts and are enticed to sin; and in Romans we are told that the carnal mind of man fights against the laws of God.
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Because God desires sons and daughters and not robots operating in His Kingdom, He grants men and women free moral agency; He designed us with the capacity to sin and rebel. Also, human beings because of their carnal human nature, are subject to the intense pulls of their fleshy appetites rather than being naturally subject to the ways of God. God allows us to be this way for a purpose and it is ultimately for a good purpose; for the experiences that men and women acquire from living in this corrupt world during the six thousand years of man’s rule will serve its purpose when God calls all of humanity in the future. Paul writes about this principle in his letter to the Romans; this principle involves “HOPE” in spite of man’s natural proclivity to sin and the grim picture that we witness of the world we live in currently.
Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 8:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Just like a potter puts his clump of clay on the potter’s wheel, the constant resistance to the potter’s hands and the motion of the spinning wheel eventually transforms the clay into a beautiful vessel.
God, in His wisdom, knew that man’s continuous struggle against his own corrupt nature and the constant struggle to resist the temptation that comes by Satan and his cohorts would mold and perfect (of those who yield to Him) the character needed to be in God’s Family and to rule under Christ as priests and kings. When God’s called-out resist constant temptation to sin, and vigorously put forth the effort to overcome their human nature, it is like vigorous exercise that builds strong muscles over time. When we exercise with weights or exercise equipment, the repeated resistance eventually builds strength and strong muscles; it is the same when we are constantly resisting the pulls of our flesh and we are determined put up a resistance to all the temptation that Satan throws at us.
When humans have little or no challenges in life, they lack the opportunities that could enable them to grow and to achieve seemingly impossible goals. They do not grow and become even more complacent if they just seek the easy and comfortable life. The more easier and comfortable life is, the more spoiled and lazy most of humanity becomes.
Things that are most valuable to us are those things that we have had to strive and sacrifice for. Trials and spiritual warfare produce perseverance and patience into our character that would be lacking if we never had to work to achieve the things that are worth having and worth attaining to. The test of trials is that they either make us bitter or they make us better. God wants us to keep getting better and better and the only way to do that is to have obstacles that make life hard sometimes. “Harsh schoolmasters make for sturdy students”.
The harsh elements that a giant oak tree are subjected to only make it send its roots down deeper and that is how it should be for believes. Our trials and challenges are meant to make us stronger if we are looking to our Maker and are drawing ever closer to Him as a result of those things.
It matters not if one is called in this life or not, life is hard for every one. When man sinned, God made life hard so that he could learn certain things about the ways that lead to death and the ways that lead to life.
Geneses 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
It is not God’s intention that man coasts along in a comfortable, easy, blissful state of being. Even before Adam sinned God intended that he work and manage the earth and to be a caregiver of the rest of the living creatures.
Our Creator has granted each person the power to choose regarding what kind of person he or she aspires to become. He wants every one who has ever lived to ultimately choose to come under His rule and embrace all of His ways. But He is working with a few now in this present evil world who have chosen to take on the rigorous challenge of living a life of obedience that leads to eternal life working and teaching the rest of humanity under God in His Kingdom. When God calls us to come and follow Him, the decision to do so may at first appear like a simple choice, but it seems that as soon as we embark on the journey, the trials and persecutions come upon us and we have to keep making the choice to endure no matter what and resolve that we will never give up. As we all know, many are called but only a few are willing to give up the pleasures of this world, take up the cross that is given to them and undergo the rigors and challenges of following Jesus whithersoever that kind of life should take them.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Most of all mankind since Adam have taken the easy and broad way. As free moral agents we are given the choice to live God’s way of life or to live according to the flesh that leads to misery and death. To make these kinds of choices it must be from the heart of each individual and not because of forced coercion by anyone. God wants children who come to love Him and who desire to live His way above all else; those who will work to take on His divine nature because they want to; and in this way they are truly being made in the likeness of Jesus Christ and come to think as He thinks without being forced to.
It takes a free moral agent, making right godly choices to create a true spiritual son of God who genuinely wants to choose to follow Christ. God constantly encourages us to make right choices; He will help us if we seek His help but He will never rescind our freedom to choose to live His way of life and to keep all of His laws. Built into God’s plan to make man into His likeness is the element of personal choice to live, or not to live, according to all that God tells us. It is God’s desire that we do choose life, and not death. He tells us so here in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 30:15 I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
30:16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
30:17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
30:18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
30:20 That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
If we will answer God’s call to choose life, and make the choice to obey Him, He will give us the gift of His Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:32)
Exercise Builds Strength
When we fast, we employ a vigorous spiritual exercise by which we deny the appetites of our flesh for a predetermined period of time. Of ourselves, it seems that the pulls of the flesh that take us down are impossible to combat and resist, but with God’s help we CAN attain self-control. We come to realize that it is by God’s supernatural power and by His Holy Spirit dwelling within us that gives us the strength and motivation to master those things that attempt to have the rule over us. God will empower us to resist those pulls and will make it possible to obey Him in all things if we are willing to walk in the Spirit and resist Satan’s temptation to fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Satan knows that we are humanly weak on our own and that we have certain human needs such as food, water, sleep, sex, affection, approval from others, physical comforts, etc.; and he will do all in his power to intensify those cravings. He constantly attempts to bait us into serving our human cravings just as he tried to bait Jesus in the wilderness.
We need the strength of God’s Holy Spirit to help us to fight off these carnal pulls of the flesh and wholeheartedly imitate Christ in our lives. It is a spiritual war that we are struggling against on a daily basis and fasting exercises our resolve to resist the enemies’ fiery darts. Paul warns of this spiritual warfare and tells us to be strong in the power of God’s might, not our own, and then he gives us the protocol of how we do so using the spiritual weapons and armor that God provides.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
6;12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Fasting provides us with the opportunity to exercise our refusal to yield to our human appetites and in this way we are choosing to deny the cravings of our flesh, thereby building up spiritual resolve to not give in to them when we are tempted. When we fast, we choose on our own volition to exercise spiritual control over those things that tend to have mastery over us and we are making a conscience choice to seek God’s strength and empowerment to overcome our human nature and any sin that has taken us captive. Willing to forgo food and water for a day or so, we show that we truly do desire to live for God, that we are serious about our calling and are serious about overcoming the sin in our lives. By doing the things that are needful to overcome, we demonstrate that we are choosing the things that God has for us in this life and in the life to come.
Fasting brings us face to face with our human frailty, our lack of any kind of real strength and it forces us to cry out to God for His help. Many places in Scripture God promises to give us His strength to endure weakness and privation when we are in need. As one of God’s faithful children, we can cry out to Him to give us more of His Holy Spirit and the extra strength to resist the heightened temptation when we are fasting and when we feel the craving to satisfy our human desires and pulls of the flesh. And this conditions us to resist when we are hit unexpectedly during the times we are not fasting.
Psalm 138:3 In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
In 1st Corinthians 10, Paul tells us that God gives us His promise that He will give us the power we need to overcome all temptation and He will see us through if we are seeking Him and are one of His faithful.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
To build strong physical muscle, we have to begin the process by first breaking down existing weak muscle. When we embark on an exercise program, we exercise our muscles to the point of exhaustion and then we are generally sore for a day or two; that is what is meant by “no pain no gain” for the pain is evidence that we are breaking down the old muscle tissue. The soreness forces us to rest and while we rest the muscles regenerate and renew themselves with stronger muscle fibers. As we keep repeating this pattern, over the weeks and months the muscle grows bigger and becomes stronger than it was before we started our exercise program.
The same principle works to build spiritual muscle, or in other words, holy righteous character (which makes up the inner man). Godly character grows stronger when we continuously resist the heavy downward pulls of our carnal nature. Just like the resistance of weights forces the muscle to contract and to work harder, so godly character is forged when it is continuously subjugated to resisting the temptations of Satan and when we resist our own human tendency to seek after the things of the flesh. Over the course of our lifetime, even as we age and get weaker humanly, the more we have successful resisted our human nature, the more we get stronger in character and in having the mind of Christ.
Just like the process of building physical muscle begins with tearing down existing muscle tissue, so, too, fasting begins the process of tearing down old, familiar sinful habits that have kept us enslaved to sin as we read in Romans 6:16 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
Fasting provides us with the means of pulling down the kind of strongholds that refuse to budge and that have kept us captive to sinful habits and thought patterns for many years. But through God and by humbling ourselves and drawing close to Him; He gives us the means of gaining the victory over them if we submit to Him.
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Before building up what is good, we must first tear down what is bad. Ironically we become stronger when we allow ourselves to become weakened. In the weakened state we submit and yield to God and He becomes our strength; we do our part by fasting and submitting to Him and God does His part by building us up in His image and in His character. When we fast we are being proactive in our spiritual development, and then God completes His part by responding to us by drawing us closer to Him.
James 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
When we fast we demonstrate to God our acknowledgment of our helplessness, dependency, and human frailty. As we feel our strength ebbing away, we realize even more vividly that we do not have the wherewithal to overcome on our own. We come to see even more deeply how much we do need God in our lives and that it is only through Him that we are able to resist evil and to stay on course in our journey to the Promised Land. When we humble ourselves in this way, God then gives us more of His Holy Spirit, and combined with our determination to trust and obey and stay focused on Him, He can therefore build within our inner man His holy righteous character.
If we consistently walk as Christ walked when He was here on earth, we will continually grow stronger on our life-long pursuit to be made in His image.
As we saw earlier in Matthew 4 our Lord received strength through a 40 day period of fasting and with that strength He was able to withstand the confrontation with Satan and beat him at every turn; He was able to clearly see through and to resist every bait that Satan threw at Him to tempt Him to sin.
In 2nd Corinthians 4 we are told that Satan is the god of this present evil age who tries to keep us from seeing the light of God’s truth, he stops at nothing to tempt us to sin just as he tried to do with Christ in the wilderness. Fasting is like working out in the spiritual realm that enables us to keep in good spiritual shape; as we grow spiritual muscle and fortitude in the power of God’s strength, we are more able to resist Satan’s temptations and our own human proclivity to satisfy our fleshy appetites.
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Jesus Christ set the example for us on how we, too, can resist Satan and his tempting us to sin against God and to give up our pursuit of righteousness and attaining to eternal life. Fasting is a tool that God has provided us with that we are to use on occasion to put us in the proper perspective of trusting God, humbleness of mind, and reliance on God’s strength and not our own, that will keep us close to Him to be able to resist Satan’s temptation to sin against God.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
When we are called by God, we are subjected to spiritual warfare with the unseen forces of darkness which is part of our training and conditioning, and in overcoming and defeating them we qualify to become kings and priests in God’s Kingdom. Sometimes it can seem like we are immersed in a life-and-death spiritual struggle with the challenges of this life and if we really desire to defeat them and win our battles, we will find it necessary to draw close to God in a regular program of fasting and prayer. When we put off our normal meals to replace them God’s spiritual food for a period of time, it will give us the strength necessary to resist the mind-set and ways of Satan and our own fleshy desires, as well as to grow in the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit and to grow in the image and mind of God.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Have very wonderful Sabbath today and a very enriching and meaningful Day of Atonement!
A Biblical Fast is to eat, drink or to take nothing into the body, by mouth or by any other means, from one sunset to the next sunset.
Constance Belanger and James Malm