Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)
Every approaching year as we ponder over our lives, in retrospect, we compile a list; whether mental or a physical list, of things we may have failed at, things we would like to do better, or perhaps accomplishments we would like to achieve. Off we go–full steam ahead–making plans, buying “self-help” books, joining gyms, taking classes and the like. The new year always brings anticipation and encouragement! It gets the ball rolling under our feet and gives us a sense of accomplishment to plot our course. Looking back over our shoulders, we may find ourselves not having accomplished nearly all that we had set out to. I have found myself at this place many a times. The problem is we set out to tackle goals–head on–with self-regulation. The Bible talks a great deal about the flesh. It emphasizes that the flesh is weak and fickle.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:18 ESV)
No wonder we can’t get anything done! That is until I learned a valuable spiritual secret: fasting!
One day while at a drug store, while miserably on a fast might I add, I ran across a book, “Fasting Journal: Your personal 21-day guide to a successful fast,” by Jentezen Franklin.
God really does have perfect timing and a sense of humor! In the book, Franklin talks about how his church goes on a 21-day Daniel Fast at the beginning of each year. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Daniel Fast, it is taken from the book of Daniel in the Bible, when the prophet Daniel was exiled from Judah by order of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to reside in the king’s palace. The king ordered what food was to be eaten by the exiles, but Daniel refused to defile himself by eating the King’s royal food, instead petitioning the steward in charge of him that he and three fellow servants would be as strong as the other youths eating only vegetables. (Daniel 1:1-16, 10:2,3)
The principle of the Daniel Fast of course is to eat mostly vegetables, however different churches have different variations of the fast. For those of you that may be wondering what you can and cannot eat on the Daniel Fast, a quick Google search should give you tons of information.
Moreover, as I read along in the book, I began to get more and more encouraged reading the testimonies of the pastor’s congregation after having completed the fast. One anecdote being that of an older gentleman who had lost his dentures one night while sleeping. The man awoke that morning and his teeth were gone, disappeared, no where to be found! This greatly puzzled the man as he had the dentures in when he went to bed. Fast forward years later after the completion of a Daniel Fast. The man developed a nagging cough. So much so, he did finally find his dentures–IN HIS STOMACH! (If I remember the story correctly, I think he coughed them up!) He had swallowed them while sleeping! I kid you not! This book is an excellent read for those that would like to know how to start fasting or may need encouragement while on a long fast.
I started incorporating the yearly Daniel Fast in my life! Beloved, it is one of the hardest, but most spiritually rewarding things I could have ever done! Through fasting I have broken several strong holds over my life, experienced deep levels of peace, and have a closer, more intimate relationship with God. Below I have outlined some of the many blessings that accompany fasting.
1. Spiritual attacks.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6 ESV)
If you feel you are under a heavy burden, or experiencing high levels of stress in your life, consider a fast! Sometimes our spirit can feel so heavy and our mind greatly perplexed, that we can’t even pray! Fasting helps quiet the soul and allows you to hear God’s voice more clearly. While on a fast, you will know when you get a breakthrough because you will experience an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. Most times it happens during a fast, but there have been times when I did not feel that peace until after the fast was over. Your problem and worry will just fall off. The thing that bothered you will no longer have such great impact!
If you are greatly tempted in an area of your life, along with prayer, fast! You will not only be feeding your spiritual body, but starving your physical body of its cravings, habits, and desires. Many people who attempt to challenge temptation on their own effort fail miserably. Sadly, they think it is willpower. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” is the mantra so many proclaim. Yet, sadly many young men and women are battling, and some succumb, to debilitating addictions. Beloved, can I tell you it’s a battle of the spirit and not of the flesh! Unless you began to attack the addiction from a spiritual standpoint, you will never win!
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24, 25 ESV)
We crucify the flesh with fasting. Therefore, choosing to walk by the spirit, which helps us not to give in to what the flesh wants, we allow the Holy Spirit to fight the battle of temptation on our behalf.
3. Decision making.
Whenever you have a big decision to make i.e buying a house, car, or contemplating a business venture, considering marriage, moving, a job, or whatever may be of importance to you, it is imperative that you fast before a commitment is made! Oftentimes, you may feel you are certain about a decision until the next day your mind has changed, you then go back and forth in your thoughts until you have worked up a headache! There are three voices speaking to us at any given time: ours, satan’s, and God’s. Fasting is the eliminator! It allows you to hear God’s voice more clearly or better heed His will and direction for your life. Many times through fasting, God has told me not to go or move in a certain direction that I thought I wanted to move in, and later allowed me to see the traps that were set before me.
4. Weight loss issues.
Albeit spiritual fasting is not for weight loss, but as servants of Christ we must address issues of the body of Christ. Many women struggle with their weight, and some have become greatly despondent and depressed because maybe they had children, have full-time jobs, an illness etc., and have put on weight over the years. Countless women and men fail at their weight loss goals because they are trying to achieve success in their own strength. Year after year, many join gyms, try fad diets, and put their hope and faith in a fat burner pill, only to find the few pounds they may have lost is regained plus more! Firstly, pray and ask God to help you with your weight loss goals. Then try diligently to incorporate fasting into your lifestyle. When you first start fasting, it will begin to train the body to eat less. If you can start disciplining the body to fast on a regular basis, you will find that it becomes easier as time goes by. The more you fast, the more pounds you will shed. Fasting is the quickest, healthiest form of weight loss if done properly. Moreover, fasting shrinks the stomach! Overtime, you will find that you are not able to eat as much food as you used to after a fast, which can greatly enhance your weight-loss efforts. So before you resolute to lose weight this year, how about considering a fast and asking God for His guidance? You’ll not only strengthen your body, but also your soul.