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Fasting Day 5: Six Encouraging Reminders

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Over the years that I’ve been fasting, I’ve encountered the following six issues. These vital reminders are not only encouraging, they can determine whether or not you are successful in keeping your fast, whether it’s a joyful or joyless experience, and whether or not your fasting is effective.

If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt had thoughts of quitting by now. The thought may be fleeting, but it does cross your mind now and then. You’ve likely felt so bad that you’ve not had the desire or energy to pray. You’ve struggled with others’ opinions of your fast. You’ve battled discouragement and doubt as to whether your fast is accomplishing anything (other than making you miserable).

We’re human. When we fast, we’re going to struggle with one or two of these things, if not all of them. Some fasts are worse for me; some better. But when I stop and remember these six things, I hear a coach on the sidelines cheering me on! Giving me guidance! Giving me the tools and perspective necessary to persevere and fast effectively. I hear reminders that actually take some pressure off of my “performance” and enable me to enjoy what God is doing through my fast!  You know these things, but it’s so helpful to hear them again:

1. If you messed up, get up and keep going.

Did you mess up on your fast? Did you eat something you weren’t going to? Just get up and keep going. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Get up and head to the finish line! The race isn’t over because you fell. Don’t quit or let the enemy get you discouraged. You can start fresh and leave the condemnation behind.

Yes, get up and continue on, but don’t start counting at day one again. There is no cause for a complete “do-over.” Pick up with where you were (day five, day ten, etc) and persevere to the finish line!

2. Don’t let others be your Holy Spirit.

Don’t let others be your fasting police. Don’t let their expectations, approval, or disapproval determine what you do or don’t abstain from during your fast.

Fasting is not a legalistic effort. It’s something between you and God. We fast to please God – not others…and not even ourselves.

Let the Holy Spirit of God guide you in what to abstain from. Whether you are on a full fast (liquid only) or a partial fast (such as the Daniel fast), Elmer Towns guidance in The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting is helpful:

Ask God to lead you in what to drink, and fast with a good conscience toward God. Make sure you are comfortable with your fast in the presence of God, and eliminate anything that convicts your conscience: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith” (Romans 14:23). Drink only the liquid that glorifies God: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).[1]

The choice of what you abstain from can only be made between you and God.  If we’re not careful, the fast itself becomes our focus and not God. I know for myself, there have been times in the past when I was so focused on what I was drinking or not drinking that I was basically putting my confidence in the fast itself, not in God. I was so preoccupied with the menu that I missed the most important part – prayer!

“[Christian fasting] comes from confidence in Christ and is sustained by the power of Christ and aims at the glory of Christ.” ~ John Piper [2]

Fasting is from God, through God and to God. That’s why no one, not even you, can be the voice of God determining what you fast. No human strength can be the power by which you fast. And no one should receive the glory for your fast. Fasting comes from assurance in Christ, is sustained by the power of Christ and has as its aim the glory of Christ.

3. Combine fasting with prayer and the Word.

Otherwise it’s just a diet! Make sure that food consumption, or lack thereof, isn’t taking precedence over your conversation with God. When you skip a meal in order to fast, spend that time in prayer. Make time for reading God’s word! Internalize it. Don’t just sit in front of the TV!

  • “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
  • “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16).

4. Don’t expect all results to be immediate.

Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t experienced immediate results. There are some immediate results, such as discovering what bottom line desires have been controlling you, but there are also long term results.

When you invest in your retirement, you know the investment has accrued at the bank, but you can’t feel, see or touch it now. However, you know pay day is coming.

It’s the same with fasting. Know that if you are fasting with a pure heart and the right motives, you have an investment that is accruing during these twenty-one days. You can’t feel it, see it, or touch it, but pay day is coming!

Remember that victory often comes after the fast. Jesus returned in the power of the spirit after his fast. Many men and women in the Bible experienced results after a period of fasting.

5. Don’t judge your results based on how you feel.

These first few days might have been rough for you. If so, it’s a sign that your fast is working! You might have had a headache — especially if you normally drink caffeine daily and stopped for the fast. The headaches usually go away after three days, but if you still have one, keep persevering! It will get better!

Yes, keep persevering and drink lots of water. This will help flush toxins out. (If you’re on a full fast, it is imperative that you drink a lot of water.) A good goal would be to drink one gallon of water a day.

It’s helpful to understand the stages of a longer fast — to know know that in the beginning feeling bad, having a headache and feeling hungry are normal. In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes:

It is well to know the process your body goes through in the course of a longer fast. The first three days are usually the most difficult in terms of physical discomfort and hunger pains. The body is beginning to rid itself of the toxic poisons that have built up over years of poor eating habits, and it is not a comfortable process. This is the reason for the coating of the tongue and bad breath. Do not be disturbed by these symptoms; rather be grateful for the increased health and wellbeing that will result. You may experience headaches during this time, especially if you are an avid coffee or tea drinker. Those are mild withdrawal symptoms which will pass, though they may be very unpleasant for a time.

By the fourth day the hunger pains are beginning to subside though you will have feelings of weakness and occasional dizziness. The dizziness is only temporary and caused by sudden changes in position. Move more slowly and you will have no difficulty. The weakness can come to the point where the simplest task takes great effort. Rest is the best remedy. Many find this the most difficult period of the fast.

By the sixth or seventh day you will begin to feel stronger and more alert. Hunger pains will continue to diminish until by the ninth or tenth day they are only a minor irritation. The body will have eliminated the bulk of toxic poisons and you will feel good. Your sense of concentration will be sharpened and you will feel as if you could continue fasting indefinitely. Physically this is the most enjoyable part of the fast.

Anywhere from twenty-one to forty days or longer, depending upon the individual, hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation and signals that the body has used up all its excess reserves and is beginning to draw on the living tissue. The fast should be broken at this time. [3]

These first few days, you might not have felt like focusing on prayer and the Word. But stick with it. When things clear up, you’ll be in a deeper place with God.

Remember that fasting is a continual prayer before God. You may have days when there is no unusual revelation. You may have expected that on your fast your communion with God would be so strong, so passionate, so clear that it would be like seeing heaven opened up and hearing angels sing. However, your energy may have been so sapped that all you could do was barely breathe a prayer to God. You may have had no glorious prayer times and felt too bad to be acutely aware of God speaking to you.

If your energy for prayer is sapped, remember that fasting is a continual prayer. Keep a prayer list with you at all times to present to God. (This is one of the purposes of the Fasting Contract.)

As you fast, there may be days that you pray and meditate on Scripture out of sheer discipline. There may be other days when you feel the Spirit of God so close, so real that you don’t want the day to end. Either way, fasting is a continual prayer before God. It is body-talk expressing your heart hunger for Him. If you feel bad physically, don’t be discouraged. When you feel better (and you will soon!), you will be in a deeper place with God. For right now, trust that God is working!

6. When you fast, expect resistance!

Expect it. Be prepared. The enemy will try to send things that will get you discouraged and get you to stop. He’ll try to get you focused on how you feel. Or, if you’ve felt too weak and sick with a headache to sense God’s presence extra-super-gloriously these first few days, the enemy will try to get you focused on that — he’ll try to get you to conclude fasting is hopeless and give up.

Don’t be surprised when spiritual forces of darkness go on the offensive because of your fast. Fasting sets spiritual forces in motion.

Daniel’s twenty-one day fast is recorded in Daniel chapter ten.

“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over” (Daniel 10:2-3).

An angel was sent in response to Daniel’s fasting and prayer. He spoke an incredible word to Daniel. Clearly, God had heard his heart cry!

“You who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you…Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them” (Daniel 10:11-12).

The first day Daniel began to fast, God heard his prayer and an angel was sent from Heaven with his answer. Well then, why was the delivery delayed? The Prince of Persia battled fiercely, detaining the angel until Michael came to help.

“Since the first day…your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia” (Daniel 10:11-13).

The angelic battle lasted the same amount of time as Daniel’s fasting and prayer. What if Daniel had become discouraged and quit fasting before day twenty-one? His fasting and prayer not only resulted in a response from God, it affected the delivery of God’s answer. It affected the outcome of the spiritual battle that ensued. There are rewards from waiting on God, persevering in fasting and prayer.

It was later revealed to Daniel that while he was engaging in fasting and prayer those twenty-one days, he was:

  1. Making a difference
  2. Upsetting power structures
  3. Effecting the outcome of spiritual battles

Therefore, don’t be surprised, caught off guard and defeated by opposition. Fasting puts the power of God at work. It agitates Satan and demon spirits. Do NOT expect them to congratulate you on your fast! You will hear them whisper things such as:

  • “It’s not working. Nothing is happening. It’s a waste.”
  • “You’re too tired. You have too much responsibility to compromise your strength right now.”
  • “You’re going to die. Doing without food is going to kill you. Don’t you feel how sick you already are?”
  • “Your situation is beyond hope anyway. You’ll never get a breakthrough. You don’t feel anything different, do you? See there – it’s not working.”

If not through gentle whispers, demonic forces may come after you through discouraging, frustrating events. Opposition and hopelessness may confront you at every turn.

If you’ve felt discouragement and opposition during your fast – or if you do at any point in the coming days – see On the Attack. Samuel and the Israelites had a similar experience when they gathered together in a fast. If you don’t yet know the end of this story, I think you’ll be encouraged. What God did for them, He will do for you!

Questions: Did one of these reminders encourage you today? Did it affect your approach to your fast? If so, how do you think it will help you as you fast and pray?

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

_______________________________

[1] Elmer Towns, The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001 ), 39

[2] John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 48

[3] Richard Foster,Celebration of Discipline, (New York: Harper and Row,
Publishers, 1978), 51-52.

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6 Responses to “Fasting Day 5: Six Encouraging Reminders”

  1. Sophie says:

    This is very encouraging. I have been feeling low and the thought that maybe the fasting is in vain have cropped my mind a couple of times. But I now feel the strength to continue. I am on day 7 and I now feel excited to know that no matter what I encounter, pay day is coming. Sophie

  2. Kim says:

    Is it okay to tell someone that you were fasting once your fast is over (such as the next day or days following the end of a fast)?

  3. ob1jacobi says:

    I am fasting from 6pm to 6am for 40 days. I completely failed today. Thank you for reminding me that the enemy would like for me to start over or give up completely. I will persevere in the name of Jesus. I will forgive myself. I throw my weakness into His greatness!

  4. kimberley says:

    This is very encouraging, thank you so much for reminding me to stay strong.

  5. mahlatse says:

    I start today and will fast from 6pm to 6 am, I have a headache but I am praying every chance I get for to make me stronger against the enemy. thank you so much for sharing things

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