I. MOREOVER WHEN YOU FAST.
A. The assumption is that you will fast.
1. The disciples of John one day asked Jesus:
Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
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.
2. Fasting has been a part of many religious systems.
a. The Moslem's fast during Ramadan. They do not eat during the daylight hours.
b. Fasting is a common practice among the Buddhist's, as they are attempting to divorce themselves from any materialistic desire.
3. We find that fasting was practiced in the Old Testament.
a. Moses fasted for forty days while receiving the Law.
b. David fasted for his child who was dying. He spoke in the psalms of his 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.
When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
c. Nehemiah said upon hearing of the discouragement of those who had returned to Jerusalem:
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned [certain] days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
d. Daniel when he knew by the prophecies of Jeremiah that the time of Babylonian was about over said:
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
e. Jesus fasted for forty days.
f. Cornelius was fasting and praying when the angel directed him to send to Joppa for Peter.
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in rembrance in the sight of God.
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of [one] Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
g. Paul spoke of fasting often.
4. There were times when the whole nation was called to fast.
Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured [it] out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.
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.
Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
B. There is a wrong way to fast. "Be not as the Hypocrites having a sad countenance and disfiguring their faces."
1. In the days of Jesus, the market days were on Monday and Thursday. These were the busiest days in the week, as the people would come from the countryside to buy and sell their goods.
2. These are the two days that the Pharisee's choose to fast.
a. They would deliberately muss up their hair.
b. They would wear soiled clothes.
c. They would whiten their faces so they would appear pale. This is the practice that Jesus alluded to.
3. The people that would see them would extol them for their piety and devotion to God.
4. Some of the prophets spoke out against the way people were fasting in their day.
a. In Isaiah's day the people were complaining to God,
Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not? [wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
b. God answered: Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as [ye do this] day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? [is it] to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
c. Joel called on the people:
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.
d. Zechariah said:
Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh [month], even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, [even] to me?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat [for yourselves], and drink [for yourselves]?
[Should ye] not [hear] the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when [men] inhabited the south and the plain?
And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
e. This sounds much like what the Lord had said through Isaiah concerning the fast that He had chosen.
[Is] not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
[Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
II. THE PURPOSE OF FASTING.
A. To draw God's attention to your plight.
1. That was certainly the purpose of David.
2. I think that is what Daniel had in mind.
B. To show signs of penitence and repentance.
1. The fasting was often accompanied with ashes on the head, and wearing sackcloth, which was a camel's hide worn with the hairy side against the skin. The idea was the afflicting of yourself.
2. Not like the sackcloth prophet that was holding meetings in Santa Ana some years back.
III. THE IDEA BEHIND FASTING.
A. We are in a war between our flesh and spirit. They both seek to control our lives. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Now the spirit is warring against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit, and these two are contrary."
1. All day long every day issues come up where I must choose to react in the flesh or in the spirit.
2. We are told that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
3. We struggle because more than we desire, we react in the flesh, and wonder why we are so weak spiritually.
B. Take a look at your life.
1. You are very diligent about feeding your flesh three times a day, should you miss one of those feedings, you can have a very fleshly reaction to having missed a meal.
2. In the normal routine, many people rarely ever feed their spirit. You can go days without prayer or the word.
a. Is it any wonder that the flesh triumphs over our spirit on so many occasions?
C. Fasting offers a reversal of the usual pattern of life.
1. When I fast and pray, I am starving my flesh and feeding my spirit. The spirit gets stronger as the flesh gets weaker.
IV. THERE ARE VARIOUS TYPES OF FASTS.
A. A complete fast where you only drink water.
B. Fasting during the daytime hours.
C. A partial fast, often known as a Daniel fast. No meat, wine, or pastries.
V. ONE LAST NOTE.
A. When Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, a father met him with a son who was possessed by an evil spirit.
1. He had brought the son to the disciples who were powerless.
2. Jesus cast out the evil spirit.
B. Later the disciples came to Jesus to find out why they had been unsuccessful.
1. They had cast out evil spirits before, they had rejoiced that even the devils had been subject to the name of Jesus as they used it to exorcise those who had been possessed.
2. Jesus answered. "This kind cometh out only by fasting and prayer."
3. From this I would take it that in some way fasting and prayer gives us greater spiritual power to fight the spiritual warfare.