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Fasting Day 3: The Purpose of Fasting

The Purpose of Fasting

According to Isaiah 58:4, the purpose of fasting is “to make your voice heard on high.”

When we fast with the right motives, our voice is heard in heaven. In other words, we come into God’s presence in a powerful way.

Making My Voice Heard on High

We spend so much our time with God on the run – hastily reading a Bible verse or devotional and throwing out a few prayer requests before moving on the rest of our day’s demands. But fasting demands that we expend effort and time seeking and entering into God’s presence.

I love Godiva dark chocolate truffles. My favorites are: double chocolate raspberry truffle, Grand Marnier truffle and extra dark chocolate truffle. (Just what you wanted to hear while you’re fasting! A list of food!) Fortunately, I don’t live near a Godiva location. However, after frequenting the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in recent years, I know where almost every Godiva location is in the area.  If I’m in mid-cities and have 15 minutes to spare, I’m going to park in Macy’s at the Northeast Mall and zip on through to Godiva.  Or in North Dallas, it’s the Galleria, just a few stores down from the Banana Republic entrance. Or at the North Park mall in central Dallas, Godiva is right across from Dillard’s.

If I have a few minutes to spare and I’m near the area, I’ll do my best to get my favorite truffles at Godiva – just once per DFW trip. I may be exhausted, tired and short on time, but I’ll sacrifice just about anything to taste Godiva truffles when I have the opportunity.  If my meetings and appointments didn’t take me near Godiva, I’ll sometimes rearrange my route home  – even causing me to sit in traffic – so that I’ll pass a major mall with a Godiva store.

Think about the effort we go to in order to eat when we’re hungry – or have our favorite food. Most of us will make a way when there is no way. We’ll change our route for that fast food restaurant or Starbuck’s coffee in the morning.

Why? We’re desperate to satisfy our hunger – our cravings. When you fast, you are desperate to satisfy a need in your soul.  You’re desperate to make your voice heard on high.

Self-Humbling

In Isaiah 58:5, the Lord says fasting is “a day for a man to humble himself.”

In Tony Evans Speaks Out on Fasting, Dr. Evans described the relationship of fasting and self-humbling:

It is a humbling experience to say no to something you crave, to bow low before God and admit there is a need in your life. Fasting demands humility, and humility means self-denial.[i]

Sharp Focus

When we humble ourselves through fasting, God gives us sharp focus. He sharpens our spiritual focus so we can see things more clearly. Jesus fasted for forty days before facing the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). And when Satan tempted Him to make bread out of the stones, Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (v.4).

Correct Orientation – Spirit, Soul and Body

In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul prayed that his readers would be sanctified and preserved in their “spirit and soul and body.”  Paul’s order has purpose. We’re not body, soul and spirit. We’re spirit, soul and body.

Dr. Evans continues:

We are created to live from the inside out, not from the outside in.

You say, “Why is that important?” Because if you look at yourself as a body that happens to house a soul and a spirit, you will live for your body first. But if you understand that you are spirit at the core of you being, you will live for the spirit.

Your spirit is the part of you that enables you to communicate with God. It gives you God-awareness. Your soul enables you to communicate with yourself. It gives you self-awareness. Your body enables you to communicate with your environment. It gives you other-awareness.

We need to live from our spirit out to our bodies. The reason so many people have messed up bodies is because they have messed-up souls. And the reason they have messed-up souls is because their spirits are not under the control of the Holy Spirit. If we want to really live, the spirit or the inner person must be set free. Our spirits must be cracked open to release the Spirit’s life, and fasting helps us do this.[ii]

An illustration of Dr. Evans’ point is popcorn. You can’t eat a kernel of unpopped popcorn because it’s too hard – the shell is so thick and hard it would break your teeth!

A popcorn kernel has moisture in the center. When you put popcorn in the microwave, the microwave heats up the moisture, which turns into steam, which pushes against the shell of the kernel. You hear a pop, then another pop, then a lot of pops as the shells of popcorn kernels are cracked open to reveal the popcorn underneath.  In the environment of the microwave, the shell breaks open, revealing what’s inside.

So it is when we come to God in the environment of fasting:

He heats up your spirit, which inflames your soul, which then breaks through your body and results in righteous living. That’s a great result, but it only happens when you come into God’s presence and bow before Him in humility and allow Him to break you. To be broken means to be stripped of your self-sufficiency.

Ending Self-Sufficiency

We often hear the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” But what God wants to hear from us is, “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t kick my addiction in my own power. I can’t stop these drugs. I can’t succeed in my job without you. I have tried to do it myself, but I can’t. I’m broken.  I bring my inadequacy and failure to your feet.”

“Ah…now I can do something,” replies God.

When we do not humble ourselves before God, we end up trying to live the Christian life in our own power.  We rely on our flesh to help us defeat the flesh. This is impossible! We need to get our flesh out of the way. And fasting is a way that we can do this. When we fast we set aside our flesh in order to deal with our spirit. We shut down our natural man so the spiritual man can rise up.

“I humbled myself with fasting” – Psalm 35:13

Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Prayer Focus: As you have humbled yourself with fasting, have you become more yielded to the control of God’s Spirit? More sensitive to His voice? Less self-sufficient? Allow the Holy Spirit to break open any hard shell of resistance and release His life within.

“Our bodies, with their physical organs and appetites, make wonderful servants but terrible masters. Thus, it is necessary to keep them always in subjection….Fasting deals with the two great barriers to the Holy Spirit that are erected by man’s carnal nature. These are the stubborn self-will of the soul and the insistent, self-gratifying appetites of the body…. Rightly practiced, fasting brings both soul and body into subjection to the Holy Spirit.”

– Derek Prince.
Shaping History Through Fasting and Prayer

“In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly. They recognized that this fasting…is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are.”

–  Hudson Taylor

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 


[i] Tony Evans, Tony Evans Speaks Out on Fasting, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2000), Kindle edition.

[ii] Ibid.

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