As Christians, one of the greatest, most dangerous weapons in our arsenal is one that we rarely use. It’s like a weapon that the military saves for a situation in which they want to inflict some serious damage. However, I don’t think we use this weapon enough. So today I want to make a case for fasting.
Jesus said something interesting about fasting in Mark 9. In the story, Jesus sent the disciples to cast demons out and raise people from the dead. However, there was a demon possessed boy and the disciples were unable to cast out the demon. The boy’s father took him to Jesus and begged Him to cast out the demon.
“So He said to him ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him” (Mark 9:23-27).
Later, the disciples asked Jesus privately why they weren’t able to cast out the demon. He responded to them in verse 29, “‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
The Irony of “Fast”
I’m a student of words, and what I hear from my friends who speak English as a second language is that English is the hardest language to learn. I can understand why. So many of our words are confusing—especially the ones who have double meanings. For example, the word, “bound” can mean you’re tied up, but it can also mean you’re going somewhere. Another example is the word, “buckle.” It can mean to fasten, and it can also mean to crumble.
The same can be said for the word “fast.” It means to move quickly, but when you’re fasting, time moves at a pace that is anything but fast. It should be called “slowing.” When we enter into a fast, we have to be willing to slow ourselves down. In a culture that values going after things quickly, instant gratification, checking things off to-do lists, it doesn’t make sense to slow down. But in the kingdom of God, that’s the best way to accomplish our goals.
You might have heard the story of two brothers Esau and Jacob in Genesis 25:30. Jacob was cooking some stew and Esau came in from the open country. Esau was famished. I think that’s an interesting choice of words because the word “famished” in Hebrew means faint, exhausted, and weary. He was moving at a quick pace, and he became famished. Something happens when we move too fast. In the New International Version, verse 30 starts with an interesting word. Esau says, “‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew.’” Jacob said, “‘First sell me your birthright.’” Esau said, “‘Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?’” His condition changed the way he saw his own future. Esau put his cravings above his calling.
You Crave What Comforts You
I want to submit to you that fasting exposes our cravings. It has less to do with denying yourself food and more to do with revealing the craving or revealing the things with which we have replaced God. In other words, fasting reveals our false comforts. For some of us it could be a cheeseburger, a glass of wine, or Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things unless they become a false comfort. Because Scripture is clear on who our Comforter is.
Slow Down to Speed Up
We live in a culture that values the idea of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and making our own way forward to advance our lives. Have you ever heard the term self-made man or woman? The idea I want to submit to you is countercultural to what our society values. Rather than making our own way, we need to slow down and let God direct our paths. If you’re moving too fast, you’re going to get out in front of God. That’s when things get stressful. Maybe there’s something you’ve been agonizing over, or a battle you’ve been fighting, or something you just can’t get past. Maybe you’re relying on your own strength rather than on His.
Have you ever considered fasting? Have you ever thought about taking it to the Lord and giving it to Him?
In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus says, “‘Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.’”
In other words, when we fast—and don’t blast it all over social media for all to see—God rewards us. According to Scripture, those who “disfigure their faces” so they appear to be fasting—their reward is being seen. But look at some examples of what happens in Scripture when people fast privately.
Daniel fasted in private and received a public reward of wisdom and favor beyond his wildest imagination. Elijah fasted for 40 days when he was running from Jezebel, and his reward was a whisper from God. That might be the greatest reward you could get—a clarifying word from God. Esther fasted and received favor from the king. Paul fasted and it resulted in explosive growth in his ministry. Even Jesus fasted!
What if fasting became a regular process in our walk with the Lord? It takes private discipline, but it results in public reward. I believe that fasting helps you rediscover who your real Comforter is. It helps you rediscover where to place your trust and who your real Provider is. It becomes the key that can unlock things in your life.
If you need breakthrough, wisdom, vision for your life, healing, of just a word from God, I want to encourage you to utilize this powerful weapon of fasting.