THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING
=========================
But when you fast, put oil on your head
and wash your face, so that it will
not be obvious to others 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.
Matthew 6:17-18

Jesus assumes
in this passage that His followers practice fasting. He says
“when” you
fast—not “if” you fast and then goes on to give these instructions.
Fasting
is a significant spiritual activity that goes along with intensive
prayer
times. To fast means to put God first. Fasting is an attitude of the
heart in
which we interrupt our normal life to pray for a specific matter or
cause. It
means to abstain from food—and for some, even drink—so that we can
focus on
God and be more sensitive to spiritual matters. Fasting is also
perseverance
in prayer until you have received an answer—be it yes, no, wait
or something
different. In essence, fasting means that we rend our hearts
before God,
confess our sins and turn to the Lord anew (Joel 2:12-13).

Fasting is
biblical. Consider the following: Moses fasted twice for forty days
(Exodus
34:28); Daniel fasted (partially) for twenty-one days (Daniel 10:3);
Joel
called for a day of fasting (Joel 1:14; 2:12); Ezra withdrew for a period
of
fasting and mourning (Ezra 10:6); Elijah fasted for forty days (1
Kings
19:8); Leaders of the church in Antioch fasted (Acts 13:2-3); Jesus
fasted for
forty days (Luke 4:2); Paul and Barnabas fasted (Acts 14:23;
27:33).

Captain Bill Tinsley was arrested on false charges under
President Marcos in
the Philippines following the completion of Project Pearl
in 1981. As the days
of his confinement passed, Bill fasted from eating.
After a few days of
fasting, his blood pressure rose very higher. A doctor
visited him daily.
Everything possible was done to get him to eat. He was
accused of staging a
hunger strike. Bill carefully explained to his captors
many times, “My fasting
is a spiritual exercise. If I want my God to take my
part, I must become weak
that He may become strong. President Marcos is a
very powerful man. I cannot
fight him. I must let God take my part.” His
explanation brought only a
certain resignation by his jailers. They did not
understand.

Each day during his captivity Bill went for a walk. A soldier
always went
along to guard against possible escape. On that tenth morning,
after reading
of Elijah’s running a great distance while fasting, Bill
jogged. The soldier
that went along couldn’t keep up and was forced to take
shortcuts across the
fields to stay with him.

“How can you be so
strong without eating?” a colonel asked referring to the
jogging incident
that morning.

“It’s the power of God,” Bill told him sincerely. “And if
you keep me here,
you’re going to see me grow stronger and stronger!” The
eyes of all the men
present grew large. They believed him and that prospect
was not to their
liking. It was with some reluctance Bill later walked out of
his cell for the
last time. He had experienced God’s presence there. His
captors, the same ones
that had falsely arrested him, gave him a send-off as
they would a dear
friend.

RESPONSE: Today I resolve to practice all
the spiritual disciplines…including
fasting.

PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to
practice fasting as a spiritual discipline without
making it obvious.

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