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Using the spiritual tool of fasting to draw close to God [Time Out]

Topic / Time Out

Time Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Jerry Schmoyer)

This will be a fast blog. That doesn’t mean it will be short, but that it is about fasting. I know this isn’t the most popular subject around today, but it is something God has put on my heart about which to blog so here goes.

Many years ago our family went camping at a gospel concert. I wanted to put up a tarp over the door of our VW pop-up camper. I had the tarp, poles, tent pegs and rope. What I didn’t have was a hammer to secure the pegs into the hard ground. I tried using my shoe but have very limited success. A kindly neighbor saw my predicament and gave me his hammer to use. How much different it is when we have the right tool to do a job!

Likewise God gives us spiritual tools to help us through our journey of life on this earth. They are only good for earth, but they are absolutely essential to obtain all God has for us in this life. If we don’t have a full tool box we won’t be able to be and do all He wants. Our tools include such things as prayer, praise, fellowship with others, Bible study and memory, confession of sin and fasting. Each tool has its own function and must be used just for that purpose.

One important reason to use the tool of fasting is to draw closer to God. Fasting enables the believer to feast on God. You “eat the Lord” – craving, desiring him, wanting him, receiving him, enjoying him. God is the most desirable being in the whole universe. He is good, merciful, compassionate, forgiving, saving, restoring, healing, providing, strengthening, rebuilding, renewing, reversing our fortune from horrible to the best, fun, creative, wonderful, incredibly amazing, awesome, great to be with, life, joy, peace. Every time your stomach growls, you are reminded how hungry you are for God. Every time food-thoughts attack your mind; you are reminded of God-thoughts. “I am hungry, but I am hungrier for you. I love the taste of food; but your love tastes better. I prefer you, Lord, over anything.” We sometimes settle for just a little bit of God.

If you desire to draw closer to God but have been having a hard time doing so, get out the tool of fasting and apply it to the situation. You’ll be amazed how well the right tool can get the job done!

In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place and out of step with the times. It doesn’t get much attention among Christians today, but it is an important tool in our tool-box of weapons which God provides to enable us to live a victorious and abundant Christian life. Because we don’t use this tool we miss many benefits which it can bring. Using the right tool for the right job is crucial. Fasting is a tool we must better learn to use.

Fasting doesn’t inspire or provoke God to love us more – He can’t possibly love us any more than He does (Malachi 3:17). Neither is it a get rich quick scheme to become instantly holy. Fasting doesn’t earn forgiveness or pay for our sins and failures. It isn’t to be used for self punishment for Jesus has taken care of all that (Romans 8:1).

We don’t fast to get God to set His heart towards us, but rather because God has already set His heart toward us and we want to experience His grace more deeply. Because He is so indescribably lovely, we want to give ourselves over to Him more fully.

So what benefits do come from fasting? For one thing, fasting increases our sense of humility and dependence on God. It accomplishes this by showing us just how little strength we actually possess and how much we need the Lord (See Philippians 4:13). It helps us be broken in His presence so He can fill and use us for His glory.

In a practical way, fasting increases the amount of time we spend in prayer. Instead of eating or being involved in whatever activity it is we are turning from we have extra time to devote to prayer and Bible study. Try combining prayer and Bible study by praying through Bible passages as you read them. Make a list of others you can pray for. God’s Spirit will put names in your mind and prompt you as to how to pray for them.

Another result of fasting is that it reminds us that we must put Christ first in everything. Additionally, it is a good exercise in self-discipline. It strengthens us to be able to refrain from other things such as sinful temptations as we learn to control our appetites and lusts. Food is our greatest legitimate need after breathing, so learning to deny that drive helps us have victory over other drives which are sinful. This is especially true of learning to gain victory over lust for food, immorality or things. Even as athletes train their bodies for physical contests, fasting trains our spirits for spiritual battles.

Such a fast is called for in situations where you or I face a sin that constantly ensnares us. If we are willing to pay the price of fasting and praying, we can know deliverance from that sin, and the joy that follows! A decision to fast in such a situation demonstrates to God that we are truly serious about our repentance, that we sincerely long for new life in that area, and that we are willing to pay any price to have victory over the sin.

If you desire to draw closer to God but have been having a hard time doing so, get out the tool of fasting and apply it to the situation. You’ll be amazed how well the right tool can get the job done!

Scripture
Matthew 6:16-18, “When [not ‘if’] you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Ezra 8:21-23, “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions… So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”

Reflect

  • When is the last time you fasted?
  • When could it benefit you?
  • When could it benefit those you minister to?
  • If you are struggling with a decision, an issue, a sin in your life or with your relationship with Jesus fasting might be in order. Ask Him if He wants you to fast and listen for His answer.

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Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 15 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

Posted on April 12, 2010

  • http://banpreachergreed.tripod.com Patricia

    Jesus DID go without food forty days and nights but He had power to live off the Word of God and only AFTER His abstinence ended did He feel hunger (Matt.4:2) But an example is not a command. There is no other example given of Jesus going a long time without eating. He didn't make His own disciples fast and drew criticism for it from John the Baptist's disciples (Mark 2:13-22). Jesus, far from "living a fasted life", was criticized for being a wine drinker and glutton (Matt.11:19). He contrasted Himself with John the Baptist's ascetic lifestyle (Luke 7:33-34). Had Jesus been a frequent faster the charge would have been ridiculous. In the church council of Acts 15, no mention is made of new Gentile Christians needing to fast. Most of them would have been unfamiliar with the practice and needed teaching on it if it were a requirement. The epistles (doctrinal letters to the churches) are silent on religious fasting. NT doctrine must be based on what the Spirit has to say to the church in scripture, not to ancient Israel under the Law. Jesus ALREADY paid for our forgiveness and answers to prayer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595734480 William Robert Billingsley

    No, I agree with the blog author. Jesus would not have said "when" you fast if He intended to say "if" you fast. Jesus didn't waste His breath by saying (or his time, by doing) anything.

    And Jesus, as the example for all Christians, was fasting for a reason we needed to read and understand. The easiest thought is that this was recorded so we could see his mastery over temptations and Satan. That is neat, clean, and requires us to make no sacrifices, does it?

    And surely Jesus did not have to be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit either, but He did so anyway.

    As examples for us to follow. That can't be canceled out. We must grow into our new life with Jesus as well, or risk losing it. There are warnings about that, price paid or not.

    Fasting may not be directly mentioned in the NT, but who would say no to anything that draws the reward of the Father? Perhaps we are not to go as many days as Jesus fasted, but then again, if the Lord leads you to go that long, then you should.

    And I don't believe God would ever lead you to fast longer than 40 days…none of the greats, not even Jesus, did that, but I could be wrong. We are, after all, talking about the Lord who can do anything. ;)

    God bless you all. :)

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