Easter is nearly here and as a church we decided to do 21 days of prayer and fasting. We truly believe this is very significant and we have faith to see God move in fresh and extraordinary ways leading up to Easter. Do you believe that God has more for us? I am convinced that we’ll only see that MORE when the church (which is you) has a serious commitment to prayer, fasting and seeking Jesus like never before. And so, we thought it would be good to teach a little about fasting.
Maybe you’ve done a lot of fasting or this is the first time you’ve ever heard about it. Whatever your experience, we hope it would be beneficial for everyone to understand WHY we do this. We’ve been singing a beautiful song in church recently called New Wine. It’s such a beautiful song but I feel challenged to sing the chorus because I feel the weight of what we’re declaring to God…
“Make me your vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever you want me to be.”
Lord, make me WHATEVER you want me to be. Do we really mean that? Do we realise what we’re asking God? Make us kind when someone is really frustrating us. Make us patient when it takes three hours to get out of the church car park. Make us disciplined when our alarms goes off at 5am for the gym. Make us pure when our very hot boyfriend or girlfriend wants to cross physical boundaries. Make us abstain from that triple caramel ice-cream when we’ve already had half the tub. It’s easy to say but we all know that in reality making yourself into WHATEVER God wants you to be is really hard. Our flesh, our human nature, is always at odds with what God wants. But if we’re serious about this Jesus loving life, which I believe we are in this church, then overcoming our flesh is a priority.
Look at this scripture,
Galatians 5:16-17 NIV
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
So we can’t just do whatever we want. We can’t allow our flesh to rule and one of the ways to discipline our flesh is to fast. Cornelius Platinga, an American theologian said this about fasting, “The early Christians believed that a person’s appetites are linked; full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God.”
The biblical definition of fasting is that it’s a christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual reasons. In the bible fasting was always with food but if you can’t fast food for some reason, maybe you’re diabetic or pregnant, or you really feel lead to fast something else that you think takes your attention away from God like TV or social media, then you can fast that but there is something about food that REALLY effects us physically.
All through the Bible it’s very clear that doing something in the physical is a catalyst to seeing breakthrough in the spiritual. What we do in the physical gets the attention of heaven and mobilises the angel armies like when the Israelites fled from Egypt in Exodus 14. When they reached the Red Sea, God told Moses to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand. His OBEDIENCE to do the physical action resulted in a supernatural miracle. Here are three things that fasting is not and six things that fasting is. This is not a comprehensive list but things I hope can help us for now.
FASTING IS NOT:
1. Not to earn God’s favour or acceptance or to impress Him (God accepts us only by the finished work of Jesus on the cross.)
2. Not to get God to do what you want Him to do. The point of fasting is for it to change you not God.
3. Not be a burden or a duty, but rather a voluntary decision. For the rest of your life, you can chose to do it or not do it because the bible doesn’t command us to fast but it does tell us how beneficial it can be. It won’t effect your SALVATION, but it will affect your SITUATION.
In Matthew 6:16, Jesus doesn’t say “if,” but “when you fast…”, so it’s safe to say that He just assumed that His followers would fast.
1. To seek God’s guidance. In Acts 14:23, the early church fasted and prayed when they appointed new leaders. If you’re at a point in your life where you really need guidance in your business, career or relationships, now could be a good time to fast.
2. To seek deliverance or protection. If you read the stories of Ezra, Esther and King Jehoshaphat, they fasted and God intervened. We can fast for ourselves or others to be delivered from sickness, fear, anxiety, depression, addiction, poverty, you name it.
3. To express our passion for the work of God. Nehemiah’s passion to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem caused him to fast for help from God. We fast because of our passion to build God’s house in order to build this nation so people will call it a delightful land.
4. To overcome our flesh and draw closer to Jesus. Fasting teaches us to hunger for Jesus MORE than food or luxuries. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus who is the only one who can satisfy. He is the Bread of Life and Living Water. Jesus himself said: “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ – Matt 4:4 NIV
The word IS actually Jesus, so he’s saying we cannot live on food alone, but on Jesus who satisfies. When Jesus meets the woman at the well He tells her that what HE has to give is far greater than the natural water she is drawing from the well. Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. – John 4:13 NIV
You see, intimacy with Jesus will satisfy your thirst far more than any natural water, Coca-cola, coffee or even Castle Lager for that matter.
5. To express love and worship to God. You can read about Anna the prophet in Luke 2 who literally just lived in the temple worshipping God constantly with fasting and prayer. That’s how she expressed her love for Him and fasting is one of the ways we can express our love for Jesus.
6. To strengthen your prayers. When Ezra, Daniel, Ether, Nehemiah and the apostles in the New Testament fasted, they always prayed. Fasting and praying always go hand in hand. Fasting without praying has a very common name. It’s called a diet. Fasting is not a diet. It’s more than just NOT eating. Prayer is a weapon and fasting helps to remind us to pray. So the idea isn’t to be dramatic about how much you want the food and constantly think about how much you miss it and need it but to be moved to fill the lack in your physical body with and abundance of prayer.
We really believe that this is the season for enlarging our prayers, for our church, our communities, our families, our country and ourselves. So we’d love to invite you to join us on this 21 day fast until Easter. We’ve start already, but feel free to join us from right now. If you’ve never done a fast before, take it slow. I wouldn’t recommend a full fast, which is to eat nothing, but maybe rather a partial fast, like just fruit and veg. Whatever you fast, at the end of the day what matters more than any practice is the heart motive behind it.
Our greatest desire is just to see our church encouraged and inspired to passionately hunger for more of Jesus.
WHAT WE ARE PRAYING FOR:
-To be closer to Jesus
-Rain in Cape Town
-Miracles at revival nights
-Easter salvations & people all over our country experiencing an over the top genuine authentic love
Gillian Stander / Hillsong Church South Africa