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Why Does God Want Us To Fast

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WHY DOES GOD WANT US TO FAST?

 

Matthew 17:1-21 (NKJV)

One Sunday morning in a certain Church their Bulletin read:

“Pot Luck Supper today. Prayer and Medication Follow.


READ: Mark 2:18-20 (text: v20)
Mark 2:18-20 (NIV)

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.


Note Jesus’ words - “Then they will fast”.


JESUS KNEW THAT HIS TIME TO LEAVE THIS WORLD WAS GETTING CLOSE AND SO HE SAID THAT WHEN “THE BRIDGROOM” IS TAKEN AWAY, ON THAT DAY, HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD FAST.

THERE WERE GOING TO BE DAYS COMING WHEN HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD NEED THE SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH, THAT FASTING PROVIDED.

THIS MORNING WE’RE TALKING ABOUT FASTING. 

AND MORE SPECIFICALLY PRAYER AND FASTING.

MOST PEOPLE TODAY EITHER IGNORE FASTING

OR DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY WOULD NEED TO FAST.

LET’S GO TO MATTHEW 17:1-21 AND SEE WHAT WE CAN FIND OUT ABOUT PRAYER AND FASTING.

IN OUR READING WE’RE GOING TO BEGIN A LITTLE WAYS BEFORE THIS MORNINGS TEXT.

Matthew 17:1-21 (NKJV)
1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid."
8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."
10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
11 Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.
12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,
15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him."
17 Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"
20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

THE INNER CIRCLE:

PETER, JAMES AND JOHN WERE IN JESUS’ INNER CIRCLE.

I WONDER WHY IT WAS ONLY THESE THREE?

I DON’T KNOW UNLESS IT WAS ALWAYS THESE THREE THAT WERE STANDING NEXT TO JESUS WHEN HE NEEDED TO CHOOSE SOMEONE.

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THAT THESE THREE WANTED TO BE IN HIS INNER CIRCLE MORE THAN ANY OF THE OTHERS.

IT MAY HAVE BEEN BECAUSE PETER, JAMES AND JOHN WERE PARTNERS IN A FISHING BUSINESS WHEN JESUS CALLED THEM

AND SO WHERE ONE OF THEM WENT THERE WERE THE OTHER TWO ALSO.

I REALLY DON’T KNOW WHY THEY WERE HIS INNER CIRCLE

BUT THEY WERE THE ONES THAT ENDED UP BEING WITH JESUS WHEN HE WAS TRANSFIGURED.

AND THEY WERE THE ONES THAT WERE WITH HIM WHEN HE WAS IN THE GARDEN PRAYING, JUST BEFORE HE WAS ARRESTED.

 

YOU KNOW WHAT I THINK?  I THINK THAT FASTING CAN GET US INTO THAT PRIVILEGED INNER CIRCLE TOO.

 

WELL LET’S GET BACK TO THE SCRIPTURE,

AS THE FOUR OF THEM ARE COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN THEY FIND THAT THERE’S A PROBLEM WAITING FOR THEM DOWN IN THE VALLEY.

 

THERE WAS AN UNMET NEED.

 

YOU KNOW, // THAT’S HOW IT USUALLY HAPPENS.

WE COME HOME FROM A GREAT SPIRITUAL RENEWAL WEEKEND AND AS SOON AS WE GET HOME,

WE FIND THAT

THE PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN ACCUMULATING,

THEY’RE JUST WAITING TO DESTROY THE EUPHORIA OF OUR MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE.

THIS BOY’S FATHER COMES UP TO JESUS AND SAYS;
16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they couldn’t cure him."

THERE WAS A NEED AND JESUS’S DISCIPLES COULDN’T MEET IT.

IT WAS BEYOND THEIR RESOURCES TO ACCOMPLISH IT.

THEIR TOOLBOX WAS EMPTY.

IT’S INTERESTING THAT EARLIER,

JESUS HAD GIVEN ALL OF HIS DISCIPLES AUTHORITY TO HEAL THE SICK AND TO CAST OUT DEMONS IN HIS NAME.

BUT NOW SOMETHING IS WRONG.

WHAT WORKED BEFORE ISN’T WORKING NOW.

WHAT’S WRONG?

WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

I’M NOT CRITICIZING THE DISCIPLES.

I’VE FALLEN SHORT TOO MANY TIMES MYSELF.

IT’S LIKE TRYING TO USE A NEW COMPUTER PROGRAM.

YOU WANT TO MAKE IT DO SOMETHING BUT TRY AFTER TRY, YOU FAIL.

THERE’S USUALLY ONE LITTLE THING THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT ONE THING IS.

THE DISCIPLES WERE DOING THEIR BEST BUT THEY WERE STILL FAILING UNTIL JESUS CAME INTO THE PICTURE.

THERE WAS AN UNMET NEED UNTIL JESUS CAME ON THE SCEEN.

WHEN JESUS ARRIVED HE DID WHAT HIS DISCIPLES COULDN’T DO.

HE ACCOMPLISHED WHAT HIS DISCIPLES HAD TRIED AND FAILED TO DO.

 

MATTHEW 17:   VERSE 17-18 NKJV
17 Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

I DON’T BELIEVE THAT JESUS USED ANY POWER OR AUTHORITY THAT ISN’T ALSO AVAILABLE TO US TODAY.

YOU SEE, IF JESUS HAD SPECIAL ABILITIES AND

IF HE HAD ACCESS TO POWER THAT WE DON’T HAVE

THEN THAT WOULD INVALIDATE HIS HUMANITY.

IF HE CAME AND LIVED A SINLESS LIFE BY USING POWER THAT IS NOT AVAILABLE TO US THEN THAT WOULD BE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE.

NO, EVERYTHING JESUS DID WAS WITH THE SAME LIMITATIONS WE HAVE AND THE SAME POWER THAT IS AVAILABLE TO US TODAY.

 

JESUS KNEW WHAT WAS NEEDED, AND HE WAS ALREADY PREPARED FOR THIS VERY SITUATION.

JESUS CAST OUT THE STUBBORN DEMON.

 

 

 

NOW THE DISCIPLES HAD A QUESTION TO ASK JESUS.

  • \\ MATTHEW 17:     VERSE 19.*

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why couldn’t we cast it out?"

THEY’D HAD ANSWERS TO PRAYER BEFORE

THEY’D MINISTERED EFFECTIVELY BEFORE

THEY HAD HAD SOME SUCCESS BEFORE

SO WHAT WAS DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

THEY SAID, WHY COULDN’T WE CAST IT OUT?

WE TRIED EVERYTHING WE KNEW HOW TO TRY.

WE PRAYED JUST LIKE WE’D HEARD YOU PRAY.

THEN WE TRIED HARDER, WE PRAYED LOUDER

AND WE GOT NOWHERE.

WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?

WHAT IS THE ‘ONE THING’ WE’RE MISSING?

AND SO JESUS TOLD THEM.

MATTHEW 17:     VERSE 20-21 (NKJV)
20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

LET ME READ A PARAPHRASE OF THESE VERSES:

LADS, YOU ONLY NEED A LITTLE BIT OF THAT FAITH OF YOURS AND YOU CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS -- LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU.  DON’T DOUBT THE POWER OF FAITH IN GOD FOR A MOMENT.

          HOWEVER (I’M GOING TO LET YOU IN ON A LITTLE TIP), THIS KIND OF DEMONIC PROBLEM DOES NOT GO OUT EXCEPT BY PRAYER AND FASTING.

THERE ARE NEEDS IN OUR WORLD THAT ARE EXCEPTIONALLY GREAT

THERE ARE OBSTACLES THAT HAVE A WHOLE DIFFERENT DIMENSION OF DIFFICULTY.

SOME THINGS IN OUR WORLD REQUIRE A BREAKTHROUGH INTO THE HEAVENLY REALM.

THERE ARE SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS

THAT ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED

 

AND THEY REQUIRE SPIRITUAL POWER TO BREAK THEM.

*********************************

SO HOW DO WE OBTAIN THE SPIRITUAL POWER

NECESSARY TO BREAK THROUGH THESE SPIRITUAL WALLS.

LETS GO BACK TO WHEN JESUS WAS JUST BEGINNING HIS MINISTRY.

TO THE TIME WHEN JESUS WAS LED INTO THE WILDERNESS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THEN TO BE TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL.

HE BEGAN AN EXTENDED SEASON OF PRAYER AND FASTING.

IN FACT IT WAS 40 DAYS OF PRAYER AND FASTING.

AT THE END OF THE 40 DAYS JESUS FACED THE DEVIL AND EVERY TEMPTATION THAT THE DEVIL COULD THROW AT HIM.

BUT JESUS HAD FASTED AND PRAYED FOR 40 DAYS AND EVEN THE DEVIL HIMSELF WAS NO MATCH FOR HIM.

Luke 4:13-14 (NIV)
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

JESUS RETURNED IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT

THE 40 DAY PERIOD OF FASTING AND PRAYER.

HAD RELEASED SOMETHING IN JESUS

HE WAS OPERATING ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

JESUS WAS NOW READY FOR EVERYTHING THAT LIFE AND MINISTRY COULD SEND HIS WAY.

THE IMPLICATION FROM  MATTHEW 17:21  IS THAT JESUS CONTINUED TO PRAY AND FAST THROUGHOUT HIS MINISTRY.

HE DEVELOPED A LIFESTYLE OF PRAYER AND FASTING AND THEREFORE GREAT POWER WAS RELEASED THROUGH HIM.

DO I UNDERSTAND ALL THAT THERE IS ABOUT FASTING?

DO I UNDERSTAND ALL THERE IS ABOUT PRAYER?

NO I DON’T.

BUT AS I PREPARED FOR THIS SERMON I CONTEMPLATED THESE THREE THINGS ABOUT FASTING.

THE FIRST THING ABOUT FASTING IS:

I.                  WHAT DOES FASTING DO FOR US?

 

A.  WHEN WE FAST THERE IS A CLOSENESS TO GOD.  THAT WE DON’T HAVE WHEN WE DON’T FAST.

 

1.    I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT I WANT TO KNOW GOD.  I WANT TO REALLY KNOW HIM.

 

 

B.  WHEN WE FAST WE CAN GET INTO GOD’S PRESENCE FASTER AND

FIND HIS DIRECTION FOR OUR LIFE MORE EASILY.

 

a.     DO YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHICH ROAD TO TAKE?

b.    ARE YOU ALWAYS SURE YOU ARE MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION?

c.     I BELIEVE THAT FASTING HELPS US TO HEAR GOD’S VOICE CLEARER AND UNDERSTAND HIS LEADING BETTER.

 

C.  FASTING INCREASES GOD’S SPIRITUAL POWER IN OUR LIFE.

a.     I READ SOMEWHERE THAT GODLY PRAYER, WITH FASTING, RELEASES BREAKTHROUGH SPIRITUAL POWER IN OUR LIFE.

 

THE SECOND THING ABOUT FASTING IS WHY?

II.               WHY SHOULD WE FAST?

 

          A. JESUS TELLS US TO FAST,  IN Matthew 6:1 HE SAYS

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do,

 

1. WHEN WE DENY OURSELVES.  IT PROVES TO GOD THAT WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT OUR REQUEST.

 

A.  FASTING PUTS THE FOCUS ON GOD AND NOT ON ME.

 

B.  FASTING REMINDS US OF OUR HUMANITY

a.     WE REALLY AREN’T MUCH.

b.    WE GET OUR STRENGTH FROM GOD ALONE.

 

C.  FASTING HUMBLES US

a.     WE ADMIT TO GOD THAT WE CAN’T HANDLE IT.

b.    WE ADMIT WE’RE WEAK AND POWERLESS.

 

2. J. G. MORRISON SAYS AT THE BEGINNING OF HIS BOOK "THE MINISTRY OF FASTING"

          IT IS OUR CONTENTION THAT GOD HAS BESTOWED UPON US THE ABILITY, THE OPPORTUNITY, THE PRIVILEGE AND THE DUTY OF FASTING. 

          THAT THIS IS AN OBLIGATION FOR WHICH WE ARE RESPONSIBLE, AND FOR WHICH SOME DAY WE MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT. 

          THAT WHEN GOD'S PEOPLE SINCERELY FAST, IT ENABLES GOD TO DO WHAT OTHERWISE HE CANNOT DO. 

          THAT IT PLACES SOMETHING IN HIS HANDS THAT ENABLES HIM TO RELEASE POWER THAT OTHERWISE HE CANNOT RELEASE.

 


 

III.           HOW DO YOU DO A FAST?

BILL BRIGHT HAS WRITTEN A BOOK CALLED

7 STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL FASTING AND PRAYER.

(FOR ENTERING INTO AN EXTENDED FAST)

1. FAST FOR A REASON

DETERMINE WHY YOU ARE GOING TO FAST.

2. ASK GOD WHAT KIND OF FAST YOU SHOULD START.

          A. HOW LONG WILL YOU FAST?

          B. WHAT FOODS WILL YOU NOT EAT OR DRINK AND WHICH ONES WILL YOU STILL CONSUME?

          (SOME DO A JUICE FAST)

          C. WHAT PHYSICAL OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES WILL YOU        RESTRICT.

          D. HOW MUCH TIME EACH DAY WILL YOU DEVOTE TO       PRAYER, AND WHEN WILL YOU DO IT.

3. ENTER INTO THIS TIME OF PRAYER AND FASTING WITH A PURE AND SINLESS HEART.

          A. ASK GOD FOR HIS HELP IN REMEMBERING AND      CONFESSING YOUR SINS TO HIM.

          B. ASK FORGIVENESS AND MAKE RESTITUTION WHEN       THE HOLY SPIRIT DIRECTS YOU TO.

          C. BE CERTAIN THAT YOU HAVE SURRENDERED YOUR       LIFE COMPLETELY TO GOD.  (THAT YOU ARE       COMPLETELY SANCTIFIED)

          D. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE SPIRITUAL OPPOSITION.  SATAN  WILL INTENSIFY HIS ATTACKS WHEN YOU BEGIN TO FAST.

4. DON'T BEGIN A FAST IF YOUR DOCTOR DOESN'T TELL YOU IT'S OK.  ESPECIALLY IF YOU ALREADY HAVE SOME MEDICAL PROBLEM.

          A. BEGIN TO EAT SMALLER PORTIONS OF FOOD A FEW       DAYS BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR FAST.

          B. ESPECIALLY AVOID FATTY AND SUGARY FOODS.

          C. EAT RAW FRUIT AND VEGETABLES FOR TWO DAYS        BEFORE STARTING YOUR FAST.

DURING YOUR FAST:

          A. AVOID DRUGS UNLESS THEY ARE REQUIRED BY     YOUR DOCTOR.  IF YOU CAN'T TAKE PRESCRIPTION       DRUGS WITHOUT EATING SOMETHING, THEN MAYBE   YOU SHOULD FAST SOMETHING OTHER THAN  FOOD.

          B. LIMIT YOUR ACTIVITY

          C. REST AS MUCH AS YOUR SCHEDULE WILL ALLOW.

          D. EXPECT PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT, ESPECIALLY ON           THE SECOND DAY. YOU MAY HAVE HUNGER PAINS, DIZZINESS OR THE BLAHS.

          E. YOU MAY EXPERIENCE WEAKNESS, TIREDNESS OR           SLEEPLESSNESS.

          F. THE FIRST TWO OR THREE DAYS ARE USUALLY THE       HARDEST.

5. PUT YOURSELF ON A SCHEDULE.

          A. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH PRAISE AND WORSHIP.

          B. READ AND MEDITATE ON GOD'S WORD.

          C. PRAY FOR GOD'S VISION FOR YOUR LIFE AND HIS EMPOWERMENT TO DO HIS WILL.

          D. NOON

          TAKE A PRAYER WALK IF YOU CAN AND READ SOME         MORE OF GOD'S WORD IF YOU CAN.

          E. EVENING:

          AVOID TV AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS.

          GET ALONE FOR AN UNHURRIED TIME

          OF SEEKING HIS FACE.

6. END YOUR FAST GRADUALLY.

          A. BEGIN BY EATING SMALL LIGHT MEALS.

7. EXPECT RESULTS.


 

          WHEN WE SINCERELY FAST IT ENABLES GOD TO DO FOR US, PERSONALLY, SOMETHING THAT HE OTHERWISE CANNOT DO. 

          THAT IT ENABLES GOD TO DO FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH  OF WHICH WE ARE MEMBERS WHAT OTHERWISE HE CANNOT DO.

          THAT IT ENABLES GOD TO DO FOR THE COMMUNITY OF WHICH WE ARE PART, WHAT OTHERWISE HE CANNOT DO.

          THAT WHEN WE FAST IT ENABLES GOD TO DO FOR THE NATION AND FOR THE AGE WHAT OTHERWISE HE CANNOT DO.

          THAT CONSEQUENTLY WE OWE IT TO GOD TO FAST, AND TO DO IT SINCERELY, FAITHFULLY, AND REGULARLY.

          THAT GOD'S PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE DIVINE POWER THAT HE IS ABLE TO RELEASE BECAUSE WE FAST.

          THAT FOR THIS RESPONSIBILITY AND IT'S DYNAMIC POSSIBILITIES WE MUST SOMEDAY GIVE AN ACCOUNT PERSONALLY TO JESUS, OUR LORD.

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