Notes from Sunday 30 June 2013..
Speaker: Pastor Ikechukwu Awa
Title: Why Do We Fast?
Key Scriptures: Isaiah 58
Our annual fast commences tomorrow, July 1. We have heard a lot about the fast. Fasting is the abstention from food for several hours a day, till July 31. We will discipline ourselves, keep away from food and drink for some hours throughout July. Some may fast sparingly- Daniel fasted that way, while some may abstain from certain foods.
The July Fast of He’s Alive Chapel is the implementation of a directive from God some years ago. We want everyone to participate. Those who cannot fast from 6am-6pm may shorten the length of their daily fast.
Why Fast? Will God not hear us if we pray without Fasting?
- We can Fast to Honour God: Think about Moses, who went up the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments. He was in the presence of God for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). D you not think God could have given him the tablets in a shorter time? Moses was with God, honouring God. It is an honour to be in the presence of God. Moses was with God, and did not eat for 40 days and 40 nights. He fellowshipped with God, enjoyed his presence. God wants us to honour him and enjoy his presence. Fasting should flow from your spirit. Fasting should come from within you, with emotion and zeal. You should forget to eat.
- We can Fast to repent before God:1 Samuel 7:6. The children of Israel had rejected God, and clung to the idols of other nations. There was sin in the land. During that time, their enemy, the Philistines oppressed them. After some time, they decided to return to God, by fasting clothed in sackcloth and ashes. They said: we have sinned against the Lord, and Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah. They were so sorry that they forgot food. There was something more necessary than food at that point in time. There is an adage from the eastern part of Nigeria-when you see something which surpasses your farm, you will sell your farm to get it. God appreciates it when we come to his presence, denying our flesh, focusing on him as creator and healer, acknowledging him as our only source of help, humbling ourselves, and forgetting food. When the Israelites did this, something happened: the Philistines chose to strike while the Israelites prostrated themselves before God. 1 Samuel 7: 10– the Lord thundered with a loud thunder that day and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. The Israelites had repented and reconciled before God, as a result their enemies could not harm them- 1 Samuel 7:11 . Brethren, this fast is a time to repent before God.
- We can Fast to serve God through the work of Ministry: In 1 Kings 19:8 we see how Elijah fasted 40 days and 40 nights. Elijah had just challenged the prophets of Baal to a display of power to determine the true God. He destroyed 700 prophets of Baal, and was running away from Jezebel, wife of King Ahab. During Elijah’s fast, the Lord came to him in a still small voice, and told him to anoint Elisha as the next prophet and his helper. The Lord will give us direction during this fast. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, while he was on earth honoured God by fasting. Jesus did this to execute the assignment God gave him. John 4:34– my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Jesus esteemed the work of God above food. He determined that the work of his father should not suffer, and would not eat until after the work was done. When we honour God this way, we will see our ministries blossom. Live a fasted life for God’s service. Souls are perishing and hurting. People need prayers. By honouring God through fasting, we will be able to fulfill our ministries. Sometimes we need to fast to be able to meet the needs of people.
- We Fast to subdue the flesh, so the Spirit can gain Pre-eminence: Galatians 5:17– For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. There is a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit, each seeking to dominate. Whichever you allow will dominate. When you mortify or discipline the flesh, the spirit of God will dominate you, as your spirit is set loose. When your flesh is subdued, you hear God easily, discern in the spirit easily. Ephesians 6: 12 says For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The flesh cannot operate in the spirit. You need to liberate your spirit to climb to the heavenlies. Humbling and abasing ourselves by fasting makes it easy for us to repent, and for our spirits to communicate with God.
- We should not Fast in Hypocrisy like the Pharisees: In Luke 18:9-14 we see that the prayer of the Publican’s was answered because he came in humility. You should not wear a long face or announce your fasting. During a fast, you should constantly meditate and stay in tune with God. Concentrate on ministering to God, and praise God in your spirit.
- Fasting unlocks the answers to Prayers: Daniel 7. Daniel stayed in God’s presence for 3 weeks, after which God sent the greatest of the angels, Michael, to help Daniel.
Is Fasting old fashioned? Fasting is for all. In Matthew 4: 2 Jesus our Lord fasted, for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus said we should also fast, thereby instituting the practice of fasting (Matthew 17:21) This is reason enough to fast. Throughout the scriptures, we see people who fasted: the Apostle Paul who was struck with blindness during his conversion, fasted for 3 days afterwards . 2 Corinthians 7: 11– Paul fasted ceaselessly. If you want to be effective spiritually, you must fast. Unbelievers who want something from the devil fast- how much more we, who should know the depth of the things of the spirit. Spiritual beings must be confronted in the spirit. Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Cornelius, even before he was converted constantly fasted before God, giving alms. In Acts 10: 30-31, we see how God visited him during a fast, to acknowledge his efforts to honour God. God will always give directions and revelations during a fast. We should not toy with fasting. Similarly, it was during a period of prayer and fasting that the Lord spoke to Paul and Barnabas our their ministries (Acts 13: 2). Similarly, it was during a period of praying and fasting that Elders were appointed and commissioned for the early church (Acts 14:23).
For our Fast to be effective let us avoid the sin of Cain: God did not answer Cain after he presented his offering. Cain grew angry and killed his brother Abel, whose offering was accepted (Genesis 4: 1-10). Do not consider past fasting exercises which you may think were futile and did not yield results. You do not know whether God is testing you, neither do you know the timing of God. Let us also avoid the distraction of work. We must work, but remember that we must honour God by praying and worshipping him. Let our minds focus on God, whatever we do during this fast. This is especially for those of us who can determine how much we work. We can avoid absolutely unnecessary appointments. This is not to say we should not work, absolutely not. Rather, we should do whatever we can do to honour God.
How to Work during a Fast– Isaiah 58:3. The month of fasting is the time to respect and honour those who work with us. Isaiah 58 is God’s defence of the poor: God speaks about the poor, and our attitude to the poor. We must give our workers and colleagues what is due to them. We must look after the poor. Our church will be focused on helping those who have been displaced by Boko Haram in the northern part of Nigeria during this month of fasting. We pray the Lord to answer us as we do this. We must avoid oppression. Those who abuse or are violent towards their families should desist from this. We should not be contentious, quarrelsome, bear grudges, or be malicious. Let us learn to forgive- Matthew 7:6– if we do not forgive men their trespasses, God will not forgive us our trespasses. God, who is liberal with mercy, and is kind, will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. We should consider and fear this scripture: when we do not forgive others, we do not allow God forgive us. This is a time to mend fences, to forgive and forget. Do not cheat, in any guise. Do not speak vainly. Carefully consider the things you say when you jest. Wherever you are, you are in the presence of the Lord. Also, do not place hard rules or regulations on your employees.
Do not neglect prayer. When you fast without prayer, you achieve little as you do not engage the spirit man that has been released. You simply deny yourself food. Nothing happens. When you engage your spirit man, when the flesh is subdued, you begin to pray, and results will come. It is the spirit man that works. Fasting is incomplete without prayers. In fact, fasting and prayer are inseparable. Cornelius fasted and prayed. In Matthew 17: 21, Jesus said this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting’. When we combine fasting with prayer, especially praying in the spirit, we achieve tremendous results. When you release the spirit man, and pray in the Holy Ghost, that is praying in tongues, that is the highest level of prayer. Paul prayed and fasted in the spirit constantly, and his ministry experienced great results.
God calls Fasts a time of upliftment, of promotion, of victory, of deliverance, and we can claim all these. Let us learn to honour God through our Fasts. God will certainly appear to us as we diligently wait on him. The Lord will surprise us with the return of mercy after affliction.