A Revelation of Fasting
Duvon Bailey | January 20, 2023
I am understanding more and more why fasting is a necessity for man. God introduces man to the concept of fasting for more than one reason. It is not just a practice of “not eating” or starving yourself, but it is a conscious effort to feed your spiritual appetite (one most often neglected). In fasting, one is willingly disengaging their natural habit to consume food that strengthens the physical body and replacing that with the value of spiritual consumption. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). This was Jesus’ response when he was tempted by satan to turn stones into bread or to simply “EAT”. He tempted him to eat of the world, presenting him with everything the carnal man desires. Jesus’ response to the temptation of worldly pleasures further drives home the point that consumption, based on our natural appetite, cannot be our only concern. Our spiritual appetite which is fed in part during fasting is necessary for our survival.
Fasting Allows Discipline
Along with the benefits that come when obeying Gods word, another reward of fasting is the discipline you acquire. As natural consumers, we struggle with moderation. We fall prey to the idea that I MUST HAVE NOW or else… With this concept in mind, we tend to overdo many things. We overdo negative things that affect us immediately,and we do the same with things that are positive, which can lead to negative effects in the future. When it comes to food, a necessity for survival, we have the strong impulse to eat in large portions; not because we are hungry but because we have food in abundance. We indulge so deeply in our desires (eating for the sake of eating) that we lose sight of everything else (having moderation and self-control).
Fasting stands in firm opposition of our natural desires. It puts within us the ability to say, “NO” when our body is crying out, “NOW”. This is a principle that leads to having discipline. It turns down the volume of the flesh that is programmed at maximum levels and it turns up the sound of the Spirit. In Mathew 12, Jesus casts out a demon from a man who was blind and mute. Shortly after healing him, the people accused Jesus of doing this by the power of satan. Jesus would answer his critics with an illustration of binding and plundering the house of a “strong man”. He made it clear to those who heard that the only way one can take hold of territory occupied by a strong man is through the presence of one stronger than the current man. In this case, the strong man who controlled the demon possessed man was satan. The illustration can aid in understanding the similar binding effect fasting can have on individuals. It binds the strong man (the flesh) which is temporary and makes way for a stronger man (the Spirit) which is eternal. This concept can only be effective with choosing the Spirit of Christ as your desired strong man.
Revelation of Who You Are (What drives you?)
Frequent fasting as mentioned before turns up the volume of the spirit. This causes our focus to shift from the outward things and allows us to look inwardly. As my internal wheels are turning, I am beginning to consider times of being “Hangry”. This relatively new word was recently added to the Oxford dictionary in 2018. The term describes the action of one who is hangry as “a person who is bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger”. The word is now often said passively and even used as a descriptor to justify upcoming negative responses. Unfortunately, it has become the slogan of the undisciplined. To simply put it “I am… because I want…”
I do shamefully confess to using this term in justifying actions that were not just. Through fasting I was able to reflect and truly see what was driving me. Frequent fasting breaks that default setting of seeking pleasure; an all too familiar mode we commonly revert to as a result of sin. It breaks the cycle of instant gratification, teaching us to have self-control. Proverbs 25:28 best explains the nakedness of a person who has no self-control. It says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”
It can be easy to point at everything else as the source of who I am and why I do the things I do. When this happens, I begin to unconsciously evade responsibility and never own up to the contributions I have made to the end results. Fasting compels us to first do an introspection and become accountable for our own actions. It was through fasting that I realizedthat I can never have a positive impact on others until I became accountable for me. Until my nakedness was covered and my walls were rebuilt, I could not assist someone who had no covering.
So the question is: do you know what is driving you? Is your city covered?
A Heavenly Audience
Throughout the bible it becomes evident that when a person desired to get the attention of heaven they fasted. In response to calamity and situations that seem to have no human solution, men and women touched God by missing meals. It is in this act of turning down the plate that I have gain insight through them, the dependency that God wants us to have on him. These individuals, sometimes even cities and entire groups of people would submit their everyday practice of independence to get to God. Choosing to go without the natural in order to touch the supernatural. Fasting has the innate ability to remind us that we need to be less self sufficient. We can mistakenly fall prey to believe we are the providers and sustainers of life. When we see the results of putting hand to mouth, we can be deceived by our physical expansion and consider ourselves to be the source of our existence.
Though this (physical expansion) can pass the eye test in the naturally, we are faced with the harsh dilemma that our spirit is not that way. The only way we can feed the Spirit is through recognizing God. Fasting aids in understanding more clearly that he is the provider and also the sustainer. As we master the lesson of dependency and graduate to applying it, we become suitors in getting the audience of heaven. In the book of Esther an example of this is on full display. Though Esther sat as the queen of Persia she desired that the people go into fasting before she went to see the king (Esther 4:16). Her plea to fast, made it known that she needed a divine intervention. Although she was queen and possibly could have convince her husband through her own strength, she saw how beneficial it was to become less self sufficient and get heaven involved.
I can, let me rephrase this, I must take a page from Esther’s book and get heaven involved. Realizing that I can gain access to the resources of heaven through less independence.
Eyes of Compassion
Lastly, fasting breeds compassion within us. When examining the word compassion, I became aware of its Latin origins, the word [compati]. Using etymology to break down the word, I found a much deeper understanding of it. The prefix (com) means “with” and the root (pati) means “to suffer”, when it is put together, it literally means “to suffer with”. In Matt 9:36 the word is used to demonstrate a pattern for believers to follow. Jesus has compassion on others before then transforming their lives. With seeing Jesus’ investment, believers can understand just what true compassion looks like. It can be easy to have pity, sympathy and even get to a place of empathy when seeing devastating things happening to others but when compassion enters, everything changes. Each of the reactions of having pity, sympathy or empathy towards someone’s situation stops with our emotions and our feelings. When compassion is presented, a person is sprung to action. Compassion requires moving from just an emotional connection to getting involved.
This is what fasting does: Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
Essentially the call to action for these travesties that take place in our world is turning down the plate.
This scripture presents so many challenging questions for me as a lover of the word and a follower of Christ. It is forcing me to ask the uncomfortable self assessing questions of how. Asking, How can I have the heart to feed those that are hungry when I have no idea what is feels like to go without food? How can I clothe a person when I have never been naked before God and have been clothed with righteousness? How can I speak to injustice when I am only concerned with myself and my things? These questions have lead me to realize that to believe Christ message I must get to a state of servant hood. This can never truly be done without ever fasting.
These questions challenge the bare minimum that had been given and calls for more. They are questions that garners a response of taking responsibility and brings me to a place of making a commitment.
My heart is stirred when honestly pondering and answering these questions. As I will again state, fasting cannot be summed up to merely “not eating” it is an introduction to compassion. God intentionally designed man to exist with him. After creating Adam, he found that it was beneficial for him to have a companion that he can exist with as well. It is by design, we live with someone. This revelation of dependence on others (not in a negative sense) will then lead to frequent fasting. When we are concerned about others as we say, it will prompt us to miss meals. Then springing into action and looking out for those that are less fortunate. Fasting will push us to be concerned about our neighbors, bringing clarity to the purpose of life. When man understands he is made to be “with” he will be a more efficient design.
In a short conclusion, the revelation of fasting changes the internal and external make up of man. It remedies the mind, body and spirit. In the most ironic way, I now understand, “I MUST FAST TO LAST”.
“His ways are not our ways…” Isaiah 55:8.
“The revelation of fasting changes the internal and external make up of man. It remedies the mind, body and spirit.”