WHAT DOES GOD DO WHEN WE FAST?
WHAT DOES GOD DO WHEN
By: Dustin Shramek
Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the
Tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has Heaven's gate stood wider;
never have our hearts been nearer the central Glory "
Is this true? Do Heaven's gates stand wider when we fast? Do our hearts come
nearer to the central Glory when we fast? Does God really work on behalf of
those who fast?
He certainly does! God has many blessing in store for His children who come
before Him fasting. Through fasting, God works miracles, God sanctifies,
inclines His ear to our prayers, withholds judgment, frees the captives,
cleanses the body physically, and most importantly, He glorifies Himself.
God works miracles through fasting
A great illustration of this in found in 2Ch 20. King Jehoshaphat and the
Israelites were surrounded by the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites. When word
came to King Jehoshaphat that they were planning to invade, he understood that
the Israelites would be doomed. There was no way that the Israelites would be
able to defeat all three of these peoples. So what does King Jehoshaphat do?
"And Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord; and
proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah," (v.3).
King Jehoshaphat knew that without God's intervention, they were doomed. In
drastic times, he called for drastic measures. He called a nation wide fast and
humbly sought the Lord through prayer.
God answered this desperate cry. In v.15, Jahaziel says, "...thus says the Lord
to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the
battle is not yours but God's."' God was taking over, He had heard their cry for
help and was taking charge.
The next day when the Israelites went out to meet the Moabites, Ammonites, and
Meunites; they didn't have to even raise a sword. All of their enemies were
already dead. God had turned them against each other. All Israel had to do was
collect the spoil which took them three days.
Through fasting, God had turned certain doom into great blessing. Do you face
situations in your life that are overwhelming and can't be won on your own? Have
you brought them before the Lord with fasting? Maybe He is waiting for you to
fast and pray, seeking His help. Maybe He is waiting to turn your trial into
your blessing. Why not follow in the footsteps of King Jehoshaphat when
circumstances become to much to handle on our own? What keeps you from seeking
God through fasting?
God's sanctifying work through fasting
The first aspect of God's sanctifying work through fasting is humility. Humility
is essential for holiness. Without it, we cannot live up to the life that God
has called us to live (iPe 1:15-16). Fasting is one of the chief means of the
Bible to humble ourselves. "I humbled my soul with fasting," Ps 35:13.
Within the Old Testament it is clear that pride and a full stomach are closely
associated. Moses warned the Israelites about this in Dt 8:11-14, "Beware lest
you forget the Lord your God.. lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied,..
.your heart becomes proud, and you forget the Lord your God..." In Hosea 13:6,
we see that they did not heed Moses' warning, "And being satisfied, their heart
became proud; therefore, they forgot Me." (See also Ezekiel 16:49).
"Fasting, then, is a divine corrective to the pride of the human heart. It is a
discipline of the body with a tendency to humble the soul." With fasting we
are able to humble our proud hearts. "Then I proclaimed a fast.. .that we might
humble ourselves before our God Ezra 8:21.
In God's work of sanctification through fasting, He not only uses humility, but
also mourning. In Mt 9:15, Jesus used the terms 'mourn' and 'fast'
interchangeably. Fasting was practiced to show mourning at funerals (iSa 31:13)
as well as to mourn over sin with an attitude of repentance (iSa 7:6, Ne 9:1,2).
That's an interesting thought, mourning over sin. Why would we mourn over sin,
isn't asking for forgiveness enough? Certainly not! We must hate sin as our
Father hates sin. We must be grieved by sin as our Father is grieved by sin.
"Mourning over personal sin and failure is an indispensable stage in the process
of sanctification, and it is facilitated by fasting."
God also uses fasting to consecrate. This happened in the ministry of Jesus when
He fasted right before His temptation and His ministry. This was also true of
the ministry of the early church (Ac 13:3, 14:23).
Through consecration, mourning, and humility, God uses fasting to sanctify us.
Is it your desire to be sanctified by God? If so, fasting is a necessary
component for sanctification.
God inclines His ear to those who fast
"So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our
entreaty," Ezra 8:23. There is a direct connection between God hearing us and
our fasting. Why is this?
We've already seen that through fasting we humble ourselves before God. When we
humble ourselves before God, He listens. "0 Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of
the humble; Thou wilt strengthen their heart, Thou wilt incline Thine ear."
Ps 10:17. God promises that when we humble ourselves he will strengthen
us, He will hear us.
What is it about a proud heart that keeps God from listening to our prayers?
Pride is sin and Isaiah 59:1-2 is very clear that because of our sin God will
not hear us. Through fasting, with the right motives, we humble ourselves and
get rid of the pride that blocks our prayers from being answered by God.
Je 29:13-14 says, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with
all your heart. And I will be found by you,..." When we fast, we show God that
we are serious. We not only seek Him with our minds and our hearts, but we also
seek Him with our stomachs. Our real hunger is for the Lord, not food. Clearly
when we fast, we seek God with "all our heart".
Fasting emphasizes our prayers. It adds an exclamation point to the end of each
prayer. When we fast there is a real sense of urgency. Andrew Murray says,
"Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are
ready to sacrifice anything, to sacrifice ourselves to attain what we seek for
the kingdom of God."
Through fasting, God inclines His ear to us. Certainly we want God to hear and
answer our prayers, don't we? If it is true that fasting adds to our prayers and
God hears us, why is it that many of don't fast when we need Divine
God withholds judgment because of fasting
Fasting has saved many people from God's wrath. Yes, fasting has saved
many people from God's wrath.
I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the story of Jonah. Jonah was told
by God to go to the city of Nineveh and proclaim that within 40 days God would
judge that great city and overthrow it. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian
empire and had done much evil in God's eyes. In fact, Jonah didn't even want to
go to Nineveh because of all their evil, he wanted the city to be
overthrown (Jonah 4:2). Immediately, when the Ninevites heard Jonah's message
they declared a fast. "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they
called a fast ...'ln Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do
not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink
water.. ..Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so
that we shall not perish?"' (Jonah 3:5-9)
Sure enough, that's exactly what God did. "When God saw their deeds.. .then God
relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them,
and He did not do it." (3:10)
Nineveh's sins were so serious that God was going to destroy them in 40 days.
The Ninevites understood the reality of this and did the only thing they could,
they humbled themselves with fasting. What did God do? "He relented concerning
the calamity which He had declared"
The people of the Old Testament knew the power of fasting and they weren't slow
in using it. (See iKi 21:27-29, 25a 12:16,22) Surely America's sins are as great
as Nineveh or Sodom or Gomorrah. If we continue in sin as they did, can our fate
be any different? Could it be any more clear that fasting is what this country
It seems clear from the prophetic Scriptures that
ultimately judgment must fall upon the Christ-rejecting nations. Even
Nineveh was ultimately overthrown. But if God can find those who will stand
in the gap, even in this eleventh hour, and humble themselves with prayer
and fasting, there may yet be a lengthening of our tranquility. God may yet
turn and repent and leave a blessing behind Him, giving us mercy instead of
wrath, and revival instead of judgment. Such a deferring of the evil day
could mean the salvation of multitudes, but there is no time to be lost.
Will you stand in the gap for nations around the world? "'Yet even now,'
declares the Lord, 'Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping,
and mourning;"' Joel 2:12
God frees the captives
This is exactly why Jesus came to the earth, to free the captives. "The Spirit
of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight
to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden," Lk 4:18.
We can continue Christ's mission to free those who are captive to sin. How?
Through fasting. "Is this not the fast which I chose, to loosen the bonds of
wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and
break every yoke?" Is 58:6.
"[Fasting] is not to bring men into bondage but to loose them from it; not to be
an instrument of oppression but of liberation."
Do you have unsaved friends or family members that are always on your heart? Why
not use God's formula when asking Him to intervene in their hearts? What is
keeping you from fasting "to loosen the bonds of wickedness" that control your
father, mother, room mate, best friend, cousin?
God cleanses our body physically through natural means
The human body is an amazing thing. Surely it does point to a masterful
designer. One of the most amazing things about the body is its ability to heal
and repair itself.
Can fasting help with this as well? Wouldn't fasting be dangerous because it is
In order to understand the physical benefits of fasting it is important to make
the distinction between desire/appetite and hunger. Our appetite is merely our
stomach whining because it has been spoiled by getting three meals a day, every
day of the year. Hunger, however, is when the whole body aches for the very
thing that will keep it alive. Hunger is the cry of the body out of need, not
Also, can you imagine that something as Biblical as fasting could be harmful to
our bodies? Would the Great Physician who created us, want us to do something
that would only damage His temple?
On the contrary, fasting can actually be quite healthy, particularly an extended
fast. Isaiah 58:8 says this about fasting, "...and your recovery will speedily
While fasting, the body no longer needs to concentrate on assimilation. "It
therefore concentrates on the work of elimination. ..The deposits of surplus
fat, the waste material, and the decaying tissues are being digested and
eliminated." Dr. Buchinger, a specialist on the healing fast says,
The more inferior the material the less compunction
there is about burning it in the fire of metabolism. Gradually, however,
after deposits of fat, impurities, and degenerated tissue have been
consumed, the body substance can no longer be treated so generously.. The
delicate inner mechanism carries out work of amazing detail, like a surgeon
operating without a knife. In this phase dangerous and stubborn deposits are
mostly attacked. Only if the hidden corners have been cleaned out does the
organism have to approach valuable remaining areas of flesh to maintain its
metabolism while fasting.
Not only are all of the toxins and waste material removed,
but the senses become more keen and the mind is sharpened and able to
concentrate more. There is also a greater sense of physical well being.
Even with all of these physical benefits, it is important to remember that the
spiritual benefits are far greater. Clearly fasting is incredibly important and
carries along with it many benefits. But there is one more benefit that I think
is the most important of them all.
God glorifies Himself through fasting
That's right, the most important benefit of fasting is that it glorifies God.
Through fasting we humble ourselves, recognizing our complete dependence upon
God. We show Him that the only thing that can satisfy our deepest hunger is Him.
We truly seek Him with all our heart.
As John Piper says, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in
Him." I believe that when we fast we make it abundantly clear that it is God who
satisfies the longings of our soul.
The reason why fasting is such a lost practice today within Christianity isn't
because we are gluttons with every opportunity to feed our sinful flesh. Fasting
is not practiced today because we aren't hungry enough. We don't hunger for God
the way the OT prophets, or the NT apostles did. How often does our soul truly
long for Jesus? Are we more concerned about our next quiet time or lunch? Have
you ever noticed that we plan our days around meals? Breakfast to lunch is
morning, lunch to dinner is afternoon, and after dinner is evening. What if we
planned our days around our time with God?
We as God's children will never be able to understand fasting until we first
know God and who He is. If we don't long and hunger for Christ we will never
know the true power of God through fasting. Instead of hungering after God's
infinite joy and pleasure, we hunger after the momentary joys of eating,
television, computers, friends, etc. C. S. Lewis writes,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and
the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem
that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are
half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when
infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making
mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a
holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
A Special Message:
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you
can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have
the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like
to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He
did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day
and tell Him that you didn't need
the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and
get in right-standing with God? We plead with you ... please don't make
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