043 – Fasting – Spiritual Disciplines Series


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“In most Christian circles you will rarely hear fasting mentioned, and few will have read anything about it. And yet it’s mentioned in Scripture more times than even something as important as baptism (about seventy-seven times for fasting to seventy-five for baptism).” -Donald Whitney


A careful examination of the Bible does indicate that fasting is important to God. Fasting is simply a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Today we’ll look at a thorough explanation, God’s expectations, and the purposes for fasting.

In today’s podcast episode I will continue the book review series of Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life by Donald Whitney. As a result of overwhelming response to my 2014 reader survey, I want to focus on the challenges of personal spiritual growth. Literally, 100% of those that participated in my readers survey selected personal spiritual growth as a challenge in their life. With that, I’m diving into a very influential book that offers practical application.

Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life by Donald Whitney has been powerfully impactful on my personal spiritual growth. I’m convinced it will help you as well. I encourage you to get a copy, read it, and begin to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).

Book Notes:

  • Fasting… For the Purpose of Godliness
    • “[Fasting] is mentioned in Scripture more times than even something as important as baptism (about seventy-seven times for fasting to seventy-five for baptism).”
    • Fasting Explained
      • “A biblical definition of fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.”
      • Richard Foster – “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
      • “The Bible distinguishes between several kinds of fasts.”
        • Normal fast
          • A normal fast involves abstaining from all food, but not from water.”
          • Matthew 4:2 – After fasting forty days and forty nights, [Jesus] was hungry.
          • Luke 4:2 – Jesus “ate nothing during those days.”
        • Partial fast
          • “A partial fast is a limitation of the diet but not abstention from all foods.”
          • Daniel 1:12 – “vegetables to eat and water to drink”
          • Matthew 3:4 – “his food was locusts and wild honey”
        • Absolute fast
          • “An absolute fast is the avoidance of all food and liquid, even water.”
          • Ezra 10:6 – “ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles”
          • Esther 4:16 – “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day”
          • Acts 9:9 – “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
        • Supernatural fast
          • Deuteronomy 9:9 – “I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water.”
          • 1 Kings 19:8 – Elijah same fast as Moses
        • Private fast
          • Matthew 6:16-18 – “not to be noticed by others”
        • Congregational fast
          • Joel 2:15-16 – “Blow a trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly.”
          • Acts 13:2 – “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting.”
        • National fast
          • 2 Chronicles 20:3 – “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.”
          • Nehemiah 9:1, Esther 4:16, Jonah 3:5-8
          • US Congress proclaimed 3 national fasts
            • Under Presidents John Adams, James Madison, & Abraham Lincoln
        • Regular fast
          • Leviticus 16:29-31 – every Jew was to fast on the Day of Atonement
        • Occasional fast
          • “Special occasions as the need arises”
          • Matthew 9:15 – “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, then they will fast.”
    • Fasting is Expected
      • Matthew 6:16-17 – “And when you fast… But when you fast…”
    • Fasting is to be done for a purpose
      • To strengthen prayer
        • John Calvin – “Whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.”
        • “There’s something about fasting that sharpens the edge of our intercessions and gives passion to our supplications.”
        • “God is always pleased to hear the prayer of His people. But He is also pleased when we choose to strengthen our prayers in a way He has ordained.”
      • To seek God’s guidance
        • “There is biblical precedent for fasting for the purpose of more clearly discerning the will of God.”
        • Judges 20:26-28 – “fasted that day until evening. Shall we go up again to battle with Benjamin our brother, or not?… Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands”
        • Acts 14:23 – Paul & Barnabas first prayed with fasting to receive God’s guidance
      • To express grief
        • Judges 20:26
        • 1 Samuel 31:13 – they mourned when they fasted seven days
      • To seek deliverance or protection
        • “One of the most common fasts in biblical times was a fast to seek salvation from enemies or circumstances.”
        • Jehoshaphat was afraid and “resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4)
      • To express repentance and the return to God
        • “It also can signal a commitment to obedience and a new direction.”
        • 1 Samuel 7:6 – “they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.”
      • To humble oneself before God
        • “Fasting, when practiced with the right motives, is a physical expression of humility before God, just as kneeling.”
        • Psalm 35:13 – King David – “I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting”
      • To express concern for the work God
        • Nehemiah 1:3-4 – “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”
      • To minister to the needs of others
        • “In the most extensive passage in Scripture dealing exclusively with fasting, God emphasizes fasting for the purpose of meeting the needs of others” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
        • Isaiah 58:6-8 – 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 turn away from your own flesh and blood?
      • To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself of God
        • “Fasting is a way of overcoming temptation and of freshly dedicating ourselves to the Father.”
      • To express love and worship God
        • “Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God. That’s the case when disciplining yourself to fast means that you love God more than food, that seeking Him is more important to you than eating.”
        • “Another way of fasting to express love and worship to God is to spend your mealtime in praise and adoration of God.”
    • More Application
      • Will you confess and repent of any fear of fasting?
      • Will you fast as the Holy Spirit directs?
      • Will you plan a fast of dedication now as an expression of your willingness to fast from now on?

Links to resources mentioned in today’s podcasts:


Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life

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