As we begin a new year, everywhere I hear of people and churches fasting.
I felt God leading me to write today’s article but resisted for fear I might offend people, but in the end, I feel strongly it must be said and pray God uses the words to lead those well-meaning believers who are fasting into a closer more intimate relationship with Him.
I would like to explain what Biblical fasting is and what it is not. My desire in writing this is to speak the truth in love so that those who genuinely want to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit more intimately in their lives will understand more fully how exactly to do that.
You see, fasting is so much more than denying the body of food. God’s ultimate desire is for us to deny our body of US – He actually says true joy is found in completely dying to our self, repenting of our sins, and giving God full control of our fleshly thoughts, actions and desires.
However, many times we still struggle with the battle of listening to His Holy Spirit within and listening to our natural desires. Fasting provides an opportunity to become more in tune with God and more aware that denying our natural desires is possible.
Some might say, “I just can’t seem to stop thinking lustful thoughts or acting in a lustful manner. It comes so naturally to me, or I know I shouldn’t lie but my mouth just says the lie without even thinking.”
Fasting gives us a chance to introspect and be aware of those urges to eat and learn how to overcome those in a desire to please God and express our deep desire to deny self to choose Him. As you do that successfully with the urge to eat in response to the natural desire to feel hunger, you realise with God’s Spirit, you can have the power to deny other fleshly urges and victory is possible.
You can walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. It isn’t easy but it is possible for a person who has truly given their life to Christ to deliberately and daily choose in both thought and action to choose obedience to godly desires over natural fleshly desires.
Scripture is very clear over and over that fasting is SOO much more than just not eating. In fact, there is a time when David has had an affair with Bathsheba and even had her husband killed. He is talking about how he feels so guilty and really wants to come back to a right relationship with God. In Psalms 51:16 and 17, he says I wish it were just as easy as some type of external sacrifice. He could easily do some external ritual – offer a sacrifice, fast, attend church a little more often. But ultimately he says in verse 16 that God doesn’t desire that.
What God is really seeking is a broken heart that says, “God! I am a sinner! I have messed up! Create in me a pure
It is not simply a lack of eating if you keep doing and thinking whatever you want. In fact, Isaiah 58 and 59 have a lot to say about people who fast but do not actually listen to God’s Spirit leading them to deny themselves. I highly suggest you go read these chapters if you are seriously seeking to experience intimacy with God in your life through a fast. I will sum up a few below.
Isaiah 58:3-‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves… Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. Isaiah 59:1-4
You might be able to fool men. You might even fool yourself into thinking you are holy because you are denying yourself food, but I can guarantee you if you are still speaking lies, walking in corruption, acting unjustly, and not living in love towards your neighbor, God isn’t the least bit impressed with your hunger strike.
And sadly, though you may lose weight and feel weak, you are not going to get the answers, blessings, and intimacy with God you seek until you actually humble yourself before God and offer your whole life as a living sacrifice, not just your appetite. (Read Romans 12:1-2.) According to James 2:17, faith without works is dead. According to 1 Corinthians 13, you can do a lot of holy things but if you don’t have love, it is useless. My prayer is that you don’t read this with the voice of condemnation but rather encouragement that if you are not experiencing intimacy with God and the blessings you hoped to get out of your fast, hope is not lost. Victory is surely yours for the one who will “Lose his life in order to save it.” (Luke 17:33)
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*Ashley Thaba is a popular motivational speaker and life coach. She is the author of the well-known books, Dive In and Conquering the Giants. She also facilitates corporate team building and wellness activities. You can view some of her work on her YouTube channel: Ashley Thaba.