Resistance Training: Fasting
One of the least talked about, but yet most powerful, spiritual disciplines is fasting.
Morning. David Sorn. Pastor here at Renovation Church.
You know, we hate “resistance.”
I mean, it just doesn’t sound like a good word even. Resistance. Doesn’t make you smile.
But yet…it makes us stronger.
Now, people throw that stuff out all the time. There are an endless amount of daily calendar quotes that involve this sort of thinking:
“Whatever doesn’t break me, makes me stronger.”
I mean, half the songs in pop music revolve around this principle.
The first one that came to mind for me was back when I was in high school, Britney Spears…back when…well I was gonna say when she was good…but who I am kidding…back when she was legitimately popular… she released a song called “Stronger”
I think that was right after “Email my heart”
There’s just so much cheesy stuff out there around this principle, it’s ridiculous
Yet, just like they say sarcasm carries a hint of true, we could say, that cheesy quotes and pop songs, at minimum, at least carry a hint of truth.
Because resistance, in a way, does make us stronger.
And I want to talk about a form of resistance training as we close out our God’s Gym series this morning.
All series long, we’ve been looking at different disciplines, practices, or methods we can do to get closer to God.
It’s all based on this passage in 1 Timothy
(1 Timothy 4:7-8) – NIV
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
So we’re learning ways we can train ourselves to be Godly.
WHAT IS FASTING?
And this week, I want to look at a discipline in God’s Gym that is super powerful, but perhaps the most untapped spiritual discipline of all: FASTING.
What is fasting? And specifically what is fasting in the Bible?
It’s just simply abstaining from food (but not water), just food, for the purpose of intensely devoting yourself to prayer.
It is in a sense, Resistance Training in God’s Gym
And it’s kind of a pun really.
See because in fasting, not only do we have to face a lot of resistance head on (it’s hard…our flesh temptations become more obvious), but we then also develop the ability to resist more sin
SO, we face resistance, but develop resistance
It’s resistance training.
And really, that’s what working out in a real gym is all about.
You face resistance. That’s what weight training is.
But by doing so, you develop muscles that work better and thus better resist adversity at a later time.
But fasting is something that is almost non-existent in our American Christian culture of the 21st century.
Which has not been the case for much of Christian history.
If you read the biographies of some of the great Christians, almost all them fasted…many of them regularly.
People like John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement…back when it was evangelical, fasted twice a week.
Every Wednesday and Friday!
If you were go overseas, you would also find fasting much more common for Christians.
But in America…in 2011…not so much.
I do hear this once in a while: Fasting doesn’t have to be abstaining from food.
You can fast from people, media, your phone, …if you’re in your twenties and trying to be hip and counter-cultural you can look really spiritual by declaring a facebook fast, you fast from talking, video games,
Plenty of things you can fast from in order to more spiritually dedicate yourself to God
And usually when we talk about fasting in America…those are the things we talk about.
And I think about 50% of that is good.
If you fasted from some of those things, I think you could definitely let go of some idolatry and draw closer to God.
However, if I may be blunt, I would say the other 50% is just Americans trying to weasel their way out of fasting.
Every time the Bible mentions fasting, it is referring to food. Every time.
That doesn’t mean that those other things aren’t good.
They’re a great spiritual thing…just never what the Bible has in mind when it refers to fasting.
Now, before I get any further into this, let me make a SUPER important preface!
If you have any sort of eating disorder, or if you even THINK you might have a eating disorder. This isn’t for you. It just isn’t.
Take the time to get that under control. Seek help first.
And if you want to try fasting…start with one of those other items I just mentioned first.
OK, I wanted to make sure we were clear on that before we moved on.
So why fast? I mean, it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal, no one’s even doing it anyway.
First of all, “I would say that our general ignorance on this topic is an unfortunate byproduct of the current culture we live in.”
Let me show you a few places in the Bible that talk about fasting:
We learn in Exodus that Moses fasts
In Judges, the sons of Israel fasted before battle
In 1 Samuel, they fasted while mourning the death of Samuel
David also fasts in 2 Samuel for his unborn son
Elijah fasts in 1 Kings
Jehoshaphat fasts in 2 Chronicles due to an enemy threat
Daniel fasts often while in captivity
The people of Nineveh fasted after they heard the Word of God from Jonah
Paul fasted when praying for which elders to appoint
And the list goes ON!!
Did you KNOW…that fasting is mentioned more times in the Bible than baptism?
How crazy is that? Seriously. How crazy is that?
Fasting is mentioned 77 times, Baptism 75.
So why do we fast? One, because the Bible talks about it. A LOT.
Secondly, Jesus himself fasted.
(Matthew 4:1-2) – NIV
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
So Jesus sets the example, but he not only sets the example, he expects his followers to fast.
(Matthew 6:16-18) – NIV
16 “When you fast (TIMEOUT!), 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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,18 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.
This is in the same section in the sermon on the mount where he says... Now…when you pray…when you give…when you fast.
(Matthew 9:14-15) – NLT
4 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” 15 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
See fasting is a powerful form of prayer.
I mean, maybe you are even struggling with something right now…or you have something come up in your life that you know IS GOING to be a struggle…and if prayer is calling out to God, Fasting is yelling OUT to God.
And there are a lot of purposes for fasting in the Bible…all of them focused around prayer.
But we see people fast in the Bible to:
Seek deliverance or protection
To express grief
To humble oneself
To pray for a specific event or tragedy
To seek guidance
It’s important that we don’t think there’s something super magical about fasting. It’s not a vending machine. It’s just like the other spiritual disciplines
I read this from Donald Whitney and I thought it was really good. He says, “Life is like being a boat on in the ocean, but the spiritual disciplines are like putting up your sail. They are the things that help you catch wind of God’s Spirit.”
And fasting is a form of resistance training that helps you build resistance against sin and RELIANCE on God.
One of the things I love about fasting is it turns our world right-side up
Unfortunately, our normal mode of operation is often: Flesh first, Spirit second.
Meaning, we’re just constantly giving in to our flesh (our bodies…what we crave) first, and then when we have time…we try and squeeze God in.
But FASTING, deliberately flips that right-side up. It teaches you to say no to the needs of your flesh, and YES first to your spirit.
It’s one of the best resistance training methods out there to teach yourself to say NO to temptation and rely on God…
Cuz you’re gonna do that all day long…”I NEED to eat to feel “good.” No you don’t.”
And when you actually do this…you actually fast…you can start to see that…yes…God can deliver me from this.
I CAN do all things THROUGH Christ!
And that’s why it’s such a POWERFUL discipline
WHAT DOES FASTING DO??
But it’s even more than that.
Fasting teaches us to depend on God alone. It teaches us to draw our strength from Him…our joy from Him…
Not from food. Not from mindless entertainment.
On that same note…fasting also reveals to us the things that control us.
Silence and solitude do this as well.
The last time I fasted, I literally had to put a note on the dark chocolate peanut m&m’s that said, “DON’T EAT THESE!” because I knew I would just subconsciously eat them…multiple times…in the same day.
But what is that??
I’m probably just gorging myself all day and not even realizing it.
It’s kind of funny. Kind of. But where else are we doing that? And in more serious ways…maybe it’s by what we watch or what we do or whatever…
But fasting has a way of sort of heightening the senses and revealing the things you didn’t even notice were happening.
And I gotta tell you, if you’ve never fasted before, there’s one thing I can guarantee about it: You will think about God more in that one day (or 24 hours) than you probably have before in a 24 period.
And it starts with just hunger…your stomach growling…and every time it happens, what do you think of? Him.
They serve as a reminder to pray.
But eventually it moves even beyond that. Eventually it just results in increased spiritual sensitivity.
But like I said before, fasting is not magic.
None of these disciplines are. You can’t do one long day or prayer…or a week of silence…or fast for a day and expect magic. They are disciplines. Disciplines take time.
We’re doing these to expose you to different and important disciplines. However, I will say though, the rewards often come even quicker than athletic discipline.
God wants to work in your life. He really does.
But it takes time.
I was reminded of this just last week. We were finishing up tearing-down in here, and I got out a basketball and start playing around when I probably should have been putting stuff away.
And right away, when I started dribbling, I was reminded of how I never could dribble very well with my left…even though I played basketball in high school even.
When I was younger, I would go in my basement and practice my dribbling on the tile floor in the winter…and I would try and do drills with my left hand…but I eventually I just got bored.
Or it was too hard. Mostly too boring, so I just gave up…after maybe 2 days.
So I would just give up…and revert back to life as normal. Dribbling mostly with my right hand.
But the disciplines, and the disciplines in God’s gym, not only expose us to new things, they really make us more rounded at navigating this game of life anyway. Just like I would have been a better basketball player if I would have put in the work.
And it’s not just about “putting in the hard work,” it’s about experiencing Him.
And taking a leap to really do so.
Now, on the one hand, you need to set realistic goals for yourself, but on the other hand, sometimes you need to just take a leap of faith.
I hear too many people say…the Bible just do anything for me. Prayer? Meh. “Well how do you do it?” “I don’t know, once in a while I read for 2 minutes once a week? Or once a week I pray in my car for a few minutes? It just never does anything for me?”
Well, that’s like saying, once a week I dip my toe in the water…so I hate swimming…it’s boring.
Sometimes you need to just stop dabbling and jump in the water…and see what swimming’s all about.
And fasting can be a way to do that
HOW DO I FAST??
Ok, so maybe you’re tracking along and thinking… I should fast. It would be a good thing to do. But often what happens when we think things like that, is we say, “Yeah, I should do that…someday…”
Well, let me pitch something to you that’s much closer than someday.
I want to challenge you to fast with me for 24 hours this week.
I rented the party room at Davanni’s in Coon Rapids, half because it’s the only party room I could find, and half because their deep dish pizza reminds me of heaven, and I rented it for 6:00pm this Wednesday.
I’m going to start a 24 hour fast after supper on Tuesday…and then to break the fast, I’m going to show up at Davanni’s at 6:00.
I’d like you to join me.
Now, you obviously don’t have to, maybe it’ll be just Lindsey and I, and I’ll have another date… but I want to give you a practical option to try it out.
And if you’re in the Tuesday night House Group and you want to fast, and you have your party this week, just do a 22 hour fast or something…enjoy some food at your party and then start. J
But I want to challenge you to step out in your faith with God this week. Start getting passionate about Him.
Lots of times in the Bible, fasts are a private thing. But there are indeed situations where groups of people fast together…like I suggested.
In the book of Esther, the queen has all of her people fast for her before she goes in to talk to the King.
There’s a group fast in Joel 2…and again in Acts 13. Nehemiah declares a national fast as well.
In fact, and here again, is another example of how fasting has just oddly disappeared off our radar, did you know that Three Presidents have even declared national fasts?
John Adams, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln all asked the entire country to fast at one point.
OK, so maybe you’re thinking…okay…I’m going to try this. A couple of things to remember:
If you’ve never done this before, you’re gonna find that it’s exceptionally hard to not tell anyone about it.
And Jesus warns about this in the Bible: We read that passage earlier…he said, WHEN you fast, don’t look somber like the hypocrites who disfigure their faces to show everyone they’re fasting.
Fasting isn’t meant for a public show. You’re not trying to show the world how spiritual you are, you’re trying to better connect with your God!
In Zechariah Chapter 7, God says to the people, “When you fasted, was it really for ME you fasted?”
God knows that when we really step out spiritually… one of the first things we’ll be tempted with…is pride!
And realize you WILL BE tempted if you fast. Mostly to food, but maybe even to other things.
I was talking with my small group at House Groups this week, and we were saying how taking a leap in your faith like this: Like fasting or going on a prayer retreat…it’s like becoming a bigger blip on the devil’s radar…it’s like saying: This girl means business for Jesus.
And often along with fasting comes temptation to make you fail at it:
I remember I was fasting in college one time….right when Krispy Kreme came out…and it was all the rage..
I was doing a dinner to dinner fast, and I was walking to class at 8am and some group was handing out free Krispy Kremes to promote themselves. Guy handed it to me, just started eating it…and as I was licking my fingers, I was like, “OH no…I was fasting.”
Had a friend who fasting one time, and it was someone’s birthday at work, and he was at his desk, and someone walked right over and set the cake and ice cream down right in front of him…”Here you go!”
It’s gonna be hard. But worth it.
And when you fast…don’t just fast to fast…spend time with God on that day.
Lots of times, people misinterpret fasting and say…”Meh, nothing really happened.” “Well, what did you do?” “I didn’t eat for a day” “Did you talk to God” “No, but I didn’t eat for a day.”
“Well, then what’s the point?” Again, this isn’t witchcraft magic here…this is about passionately seeking your God!
So seek him like crazy when you fast. Pray. A lot. On the times you would have eaten, take those times to get by yourself and pray and read the Bible.
I think it’s really helpful to even have a more specific purpose in mind. And usually that’s what we see in the Bible. They are fasting for a reason…
So if you want to fast with us on Tuesday/Wednesday…pick even a specific thing to fast for. Maybe it’s for a friend to know Christ. Or for God to free you from something. Or for God to become real to you again.
“But remember…fasting is not a spiritual hunger strike that forces God to do our bidding. Rather…it is something that spiritually heightens your senses, and thus allows YOU to better see God’s will in the first place!”
You cannot manipulate God. Everything He does for us is an act of grace…not something we deserved. And God doesn’t want us to feel like we deserve the credit anyway.
But…fasting is still a powerful form of prayer… for multiple reasons. If prayer is warfare, which it kind of is, fasting is like upgrading from a gun to a bazooka.
And listen…if you’re like…I don’t know…I just don’t think I could do it. It’s just the whole skipping meals and stuff…
Listen, we miss meals for other stuff all the time. Right? Some of you get out shopping, and you get so into it, you realized you haven’t even eaten…sometimes that happens at work for people…get so busy
Or, people miss meals because they’re at their kids’ sports tournaments, so they didn’t get time…sometimes guys get so into video games that they don’t take time to eat.
And if there was ever anything LEGITIMATELY worth missing a meal over because it was so important…it’s getting your relationship with God on track…meeting with Him…it’s worth it.
It’s resistance training.
In the Gospels, when Jesus feeds the four thousand, we often skip right over this part…look at this:
(Matthew 15:29-32) – NIV
29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
These people were so desperate to just be close to Jesus…to just hear Him speak into their lives…and work in their lives…that it did not matter that they hadn’t eaten.
They didn’t say…Well, I’m hungry…And I gotta put my hunger first and make sure I get my nutrients, so I better head back to Capernaum, and maybe I’ll catch Jesus next time he’s in town.
NO, they said…this comes FIRST right now. Feeding my Spirit comes before feeding my flesh. And this is what I need. And if it means going hungry…so be it. So be it.
And you know what? Jesus fed them anyway. But with the food they really needed.
And you gotta love that.
And that’s what the power of fasting is all about. It’s resistance training. It’s a powerful form of prayer. And it’s a way of saying, God I’m desperate about you moving in my life
Are you desperate for Him?
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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