Church of God, New World Ministries

Should Christians Fast Today?

Jesus Christ came to this earth so we “might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came to give us eternal life in God’s Kingdom, but He also came to show us how to live a rich, joyful, productive life right now in this human flesh. As part of that abundant Christian life He (Christ) taught fasting.

Jesus Christ humbled Himself often by fasting. He made fasting a part of abundant living. Jesus instructed His disciples: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but by your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will REWARD you” (Matt. 6:17-18).

Notice that Christ did not say if you fast, but rather He said when you fast. This means there would be a time when Christians should fast.

When the disciples of John the Baptist asked Christ why His disciples didn’t fast, Jesus said: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15).

Question: Has the bridegroom been taken away? Then those days that Christ spoke of are here, and God expects His people (His called out ones) to be fasting. But WHY?

Believe it or not, to most people the word “fast” is just the opposite of “slow”! They don’t know that to “fast” means to voluntarily go without food and water.

One doctor called fasting the Fast Way to Health, yet another person says it is a Starvation Diet. There are people who think that if they miss a meal or two they would die.

Question: Is “FASTING” dangerous? Is it beneficial? Is it nature’s way of healing?

Wise fasting under proper conditions is beneficial, and not dangerous. Fasting does not heal either; healing is a divine miracle. Healing is the forgiveness of SIN—and none can forgive sin, but God. Fasting is a self-inflicted, human effort, not a divine miracle, and fasting cannot forgive sin.

Jesus Christ healed the sick. It was always His will. He healed the sick in ancient Israel, long before His human appearance, born human of the virgin Mary. One of His names is “Yahweh-Ropeheka” which in English means our “God-Healer”. To the griping, complaining Israelites in the arid lands approaching Mt. Sinai, He said, “I am the Lord that healeth thee.”

What is sickness—disease—debility—pain and suffering? It is the penalty being paid for the violation of the physical laws of the human body. It is not natural to be sick, it is “UNNATURAL”! God so designed the mechanism of the human body that, given proper food, drinking the right amount of pure water; breathing properly of pure air; getting sufficient exercise, and keeping the mind in a positive and cheerful, active and peaceful state, our bodies more than most part will not get sick.

What, then, is the use of “FASTING”? For one thing, fasting is not penance; neither is it a “hunger strike” to try to force your own will on God or other people. That is the way that Mohandas Gandhi fasted.

Fasting is a little-used “tool” or “key” to overcome our human nature which God has placed at our disposal. Fasting shows God that you are “in earnest” about seeking Him—that you’re depending totally upon Him for all your physical and spiritual needs.

Fasting for spiritual reasons is intended to help bring about a “humble attitude” and to draw one closer to Almighty God. This closeness to God is what produces a life of abundant living, coupled with a peace of mind never before experienced!

In Lev. 23:26-27, 29, 32, we read that God commanded His people Israel to afflict their “souls” or bodies, one day of the year—on the Day of Atonement. Today, Christians are spiritual Israelites and therefore are still required to fast on the Day of Atonement.

Also, God said that anyone who did not afflict himself by fasting upon this solemn “FEAST DAY” was cut off from among the congregation of Israel. King David knew that when one afflicts his body he is fasting. “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer returned into mine own bosom” (Ps. 35:13). In Ps. 69:10, David chastened himself often with fasting and in verses 11-12 and in verse 18, David’s enemies reproached him for fasting.

The word humbled in Ps. 35:13 is translated from the Hebrew word “ANAH” which means “to afflict, abase, beat down, chasten, and humble the self” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). The same Hebrew word is translated “afflict” in Lev. 23:27-32.

Does the Bible give us any examples regarding abstaining from food and drink when one “afflicts” one’s body; that is, to fast? (Deut. 9:9, 18) “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16 and also Acts 9:8-9.

The Old Testament command to observe the Day of Atonement by fasting is not the only command God gives His people to fast! Notice the New Testament injunction for Christians to fast today—in addition to the Day of Atonement.

Did Jesus Christ fast? “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights he was afterward an hungered” Matt. 4:2. Just what was the purpose of this fast? “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil” (Matt. 4:1). Note: Jesus Christ had the Holy Spirit without measure, so why did He fast?

Jesus fasted to draw close to God the Father in prayer and receive spiritual strength to withstand the sinister temptations of the Devil.

What did the Apostle Paul tell us about Jesus Christ? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Does Christ live His life in Christians today? “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5; also Rom. 8:9; and Gal. 2:20).

Paul plainly shows that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. If He fasted when He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, then He will be fasting today—in us—if He lives in us by the Holy Spirit. Are we not to follow His examples? (I Pet. 2:21 and I John 2:6). Since He fasted over 1900 years ago, and since Christians are those who follow Christ’s example, they will be fasting TODAY!

Jesus Christ was face with the trial of overcoming Satan the Devil in spiritual combat. Had Christ failed to overcome the Devil, He would have disqualified Himself as the Savior and Ruler of all mankind.

Just how did Jesus prepare Himself for this, the greatest of all trials? (Matt. 4:1). Jesus Christ went into the wilderness for the specific purpose of being tempted by Satan the Devil. He had to overcome the Devil’s temptations to prove He was qualified to become the Messiah and Savior of mankind.

This was a spiritual battle far more significant and stupendous than any of us can realize. Satan the Devil laid before Jesus Christ the reality of this temptation in a manner more poignant and real than any temptation that has ever been placed before any of us! Jesus knew he would have to be successful in overcoming the Devil.

Now just what did Christ do to begin preparation for His encounter with Satan? “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward hungered” (Matt. 4:2).

Jesus prepared Himself by fasting! He afflicted His body by denying Himself food and water. Christ had to endure and overcome the desire to eat and drink for forty long days and nights! Matt. 4:3-9 details the temptations that Christ had to endure. What were the results of Christ’s fasting and praying? “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth Him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him” (Matt. 4:10-11).

Jesus had the spiritual power from His Father necessary to combat the great spiritual force of Satan. He depended on the Father’s power for deliverance—not His own! Jesus’ human strength had all but left Him by this time.

Jesus Christ endured the greatest spiritual battle ever fought! Satan the Devil obeyed Christ and slunk away. Christ won over Satan because He humbled Himself by drawing close to God through fasting and “much prayer”! Thus Jesus Christ qualified to become our Savior and the future King of this earth.

Jesus Christ knows the kind of life to which His disciples—true Christians—are called. He knew we would have to face various trials and temptations. He knew we would need to prepare and condition ourselves as well. “More over when ye fast” (Matt. 6:16-18).

Jesus’ clear-cut and concise teaching applies to all of His Spirit-begotten children today since we are still fleshly mortal beings. Jesus’ teaching reveals that fasting is the way a physical human being can truly humble himself and really draw close to God in “prayer”.

Notice what James (the brother of Christ) had to say: “Submit yourselves therefore to God (by prayer and fasting) resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Was Jesus Christ able to resist Satan the Devil through prayer and fasting? Did Satan have to leave Him alone? Then would this not also apply to us today, the Church of God?

Some people think that the purpose of fasting is a kind of penance—that God is please if we “punish” ourselves by a fast. Fasting in order to try to “bargain” with God—fasting in order to try to bend God to our way of thinking, in order to get our own way or own will about some matter is an abomination to God! It is absolutely wrong!

We fast to draw closer to God—to get our minds off the world and the flesh and on God! Fasting—doing without food and water—also teaches us a vital, priceless spiritual lesson.

Does Almighty God have great regard for those who are humble and contrite— repentant—in attitude? “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: But to this man will look even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my Word” (Isa. 66:2). Also read Isa. 57:15. Does God give grace—unmerited pardon to the “humble”? “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” (I Pet. 5:5).

True humility is not penance or a state of poverty. It is an attitude of “mind”! And the one who is humble and repentant in attribute—respectful of God’s Word and has a teachable spirit—is the one God favors and richly blesses!

God requires men to walk in humility before Him (Micah 6:8; Eph. 4:1-2). Not only walk with humility, but we are to be clothed with humility before our Creator (I Pet. 5:5; Col. 3:12).

What happens when a person walks and is clothed with humility? “Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. When He maketh inquisition for blood He remembereth them: He forgeteth not the cry of the humble” (Ps. 9:11-12). Read Psalm 10:17 and Job 22:29. Not only will God answer the prayers of the humble, but He will give “honor” and “eternal life”. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life” (Prov. 22:4).

Envy, strife, jealousy, etc., come from a stubborn, unyielding attitude that is anything but humble. This is the natural, carnal mind with which you and I were born. The natural mind is not and can not, of itself, be truly humble. God calls the carnal mind what it really is: “Deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”! This means that our carnal minds are “puffed up, crooked, polluted, sick and woeful.” In other words, a sinful mind is what we were born with. This is what our hearts are really like! God ought to know, He created us. If a person thinks he’s “naturally humble,” his carnal mind has totally deceived him! The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves to help us see ourselves as we really are, and to see God as He really is.

True humbling is repentance, not penance. It leads to conversion, admitting one’s human ways are all wrong and turning to God’s ways, receiving the power of His Holy Spirit to completely overshadow one’s own puny human strength.

Fasting is a humbling experience. It cuts us down and lets us know how small and weak and insufficient unto ourselves we really are. You learn real humility from fasting.

Without fasting, you may mentally admit that you are not much.

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