It seems to me that every year more and more people are “fasting” to bring the new year in right – spiritually speaking, of course. People are becoming impressingly dedicated to seeking God’s will for the upcoming year and are trying to hear His voice, not only concerning His will for their personal lives, but for their church as well. It is a beautiful thing when God’s people come together in unity of purpose and set themselves to seeking Him in such a powerful way. It moves His heart and allows Him to speak freely into their lives. I have seen a lot of comments in the virtual world the past few weeks from many different people concerning their fast for 2011. It is truly a beautiful thing to see so many people from all over the United States coming together for the purpose of seeking God. Wow! I believe there are people all over the WORLD joining in this time of fasting and I can only imagine how much that blesses the heart of God.
As I pondered this year’s fast, I felt a nudging from the Holy Spirit to warn His people about the wrong kind of fast. It would be a shameless waste of time to buffet the body to the point of denying it life-sustaining nutrients through a total, or partial, fast that wasn’t accepted by God. And yes, like it or not, God rejects fasting if fasting is done the wrong way.
Before I go into the “right and wrong” of fasting let me remind you that the Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” – Hosea 4:6. Sadly, thousands of Christians have never heard there is a wrong way to fast (which cannot be blamed solely on a lack of teaching – personal Bible study would have brought such a revelation) so they have engaged in denying food to their bodies only to have their fast rejected, unknowing to them, by a Holy God who demands a proper fast from His people. It is my prayer that this writing will open your eyes to the ONLY fast God accepts and will help put you into a position to move the heart of God with your sacrifice.
To see what God requires from us in order for Him to accept the sacrifice of our fast, we need look no further than Isaiah 58:
“Cry aloud, spare not. Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins! Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways]. Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor. [The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high. Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? [Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house–when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood? Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking, And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday. And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. If you turn away your foot from [traveling unduly on] the Sabbath, from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a [spiritual] delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor Him and it, not going your own way or seeking or finding your own pleasure or speaking with your own [idle] words, Then will you delight yourself in the Lord, and I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage [promised for you] of Jacob your father; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”
The long and short of it? God is obviously not impressed by your ability to abstain from eating food. Even the unsaved do that for various reasons. Controlling your flesh by denying it food (or whatever you may be fasting) does NOT move the heart of God (see verse 5 above – “is true fasting merely mechanical?”) What moves His heart is the denial of the food coupled with sincere repentance and brokenness over sin. What moves His heart is the sincere desire to live by the ordinances of His Word. What moves His heart is our “heart” condition – not the emptiness of our stomach.
Friends, I strongly encourage you to take a good long evaluation of yourselves today, especially if you are in the middle of a fast. God does not receive the sacrifice of your denial of food – it will most certainly be in vain – if there is strife in your life, bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, envy, or selfishness. You cannot play games with God, hold on to things that are against His laws, then expect Him to be impressed with your “mechanical” denial of food. However, the good news is: if you are struggling with sin issues, if you are sincerely repentant and broken over your shortcomings, then the fast WILL bring deliverance. You don’t have to have a perfect life to fast – just a perfect HEART that is truly seeking God. And THAT, my friends, is good news.
So, don’t be afraid to fast because you have shortcomings in your life. We ALL do. Don’t let your weaknesses be an excuse to say, “well, if I have such-and-such in my life my fast isn’t acceptable anyway, so I just won’t fast.” NO! Instead, recognize your sin and allow brokenness, grief, and repentance to flood your soul. Then, even though you aren’t fully delivered yet, your fast will be acceptable by God and as mentioned in Isaiah 58, you WILL break forth like the morning sun and deliverance will be a reality for you.
The bottom line? If you are “fasting” (denying yourself all, or partial, food) and you are still willingly participating in sinful activities (any sin) then your fast is not doing you one bit of good, except for the natural health benefits that come from certain types of fasts. God is rejecting your sacrifice and turning His ear away from your prayers. But, if you are sincerely grieving over sin and working with the Holy Spirit to become more like Christ, your fast is most pleasing to God and breakthrough is coming to you!