Daily Success
Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 12 : Practice Secret Disciplines | Day 82

Know the Functions of Fasting!

Jesus called His followers "disciples." Being a disciple requires being disciplined, and that is what this command is all about. Biblical disciplines are designed to bring our physical desires under the control of God's Spirit, because the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Nowhere is this more challenging than in the discipline of fasting.

Fasting adds intensity to our search for God, our study of His Word, our sincerity of faith, and our surrender to Christ.

The King of Nineveh called the city to fast as they sought God's mercy. (See Jonah 3:6-10.) Ezra proclaimed a fast at the river to appeal to God for protection. (See Ezra 8:21.) David fasted in his appeal for the life of his son. (See II Samuel 12:16.) Esther fasted in preparation for making her request before the king. (See Esther 4:16.) Nehemiah fasted for the king's favor in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 1:3-4), and Daniel added fasting to his supplication for the return of the Jews to the Promised Land (see Daniel 9).

In each case, there was an important spiritual objective to be achieved. This focus was in direct contrast to the public show that the Pharisees exhibited in their fasting. “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. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 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” (Matthew 6:16-18).

God's goal for fasting is “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6)/.

Some Christians wonder whether fasting is intended for our day. Their question is understandable since the Church is doing far more feasting than fasting. However, when Jesus was asked by the disciples of John the Baptist why His disciples were not fasting, He explained that while He was with them they would not fast, but when He departed they would fast. (See Mark 2:19-20.) I know many great Christian leaders who have made fasting and prayer a vital part of their walk with the Lord.

Once, I asked some young people in a church youth group how many had ever gone one whole day without food. No one raised a hand. What a sad commentary on the lack of this discipline in today's church! If you were asked how often you fast for spiritual purposes, what would your answer be?

One husband fasted every noon hour for a month. During this time he memorized Scripture. With the money he saved from buying lunches, he bought a special gift for his wife, which she treasured. If you follow his example I know God will openly reward you!

Give secretly; pray secretly; fast secretly; "... and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-18).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard