gracetidings:with dr doug mamvura
As a follow-up to the last article on fasting, we now want to focus on fasting in the New Covenant. Some people may have felt that I was discouraging them from fasting in the last article and yet nothing could be further from the truth.
My focus was on fasting with knowledge and understanding, not fasting as a religious activity. Why do we fast when Jesus was God’s chosen fast like we observed in the last article?
The following scriptures show that fasting is still very relevant in this New Covenant and it is important for believers to fast.
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’. Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2 -3).
We see the same thing in Acts 14:23 — “So when they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed”.
Apostle Paul also refers to fasting in 1 Corinthians 7: 5, when he talks about marriage that “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer”
The above scriptures and many others in the New Testament confirm that fasting was not nailed on the cross like sin or sickness. If anything, fasting is integral in the ministry of a believer. Consequently, we can confidently look at Jesus’ teachings on fasting with the understanding that He was also talking to the church.
We fast because fasting is a spiritual discipline that changes us, not God. No one can change God. Fasting is a deliberate decision not to take any food or engage in things that in themselves are ordinarily lawful and legitimate for a period of time, to focus on God and also discipline the flesh so it subordinates itself to the spirit. This process of fasting should include reading the Bible and also prayer. It is not just about not eating food.
Today our fasting is about disciplining our flesh, especially the mind and weakening the emotions and senses so they don’t get in the way of our faith through fear, doubt, unbelief or pride. The objective is also to deal with natural unbelief or sense knowledge. In addition, fasting increases our spiritual sensitivity to the Holy Spirit leading and also frees and enlarges our “mental capacity” to receive God’s blessings in the mind.
Fasting also helps to remove destructive interferences and mental confusion and allow faith to work wonders in our lives. It also helps in disciplining the soul, which is will, mind, emotions, desires and imaginations.
King David, although he was an Old Covenant man, had a unique revelation of grace — “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered, Blessed, is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4: 5-8).
Matthew 17: 19-21, brings out probably one of the main reasons for fasting. We see Jesus’ disciples coming to Him after having failed to cast out a demon. “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said “Why could we not cast it (demon out?” 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. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting”.
These disciples failed to cast out the demon and yet Jesus clearly stated that faith that was as little as a mustard seed was good enough to move mountains. This shows that “little faith” here was not the issue. The problem was unbelief. From the discussion we see that unbelief goes by prayer and fasting and this is very important for you and me to take note of. It is the presence of unbelief that blocks miracles and breakthroughs in our lives. This is so important that even Jesus’ ministry was affected by this as we see in Matthew 13:58: “Now, He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief”.
Natural unbelief is a negative response to or an immediate rejection of anything that the five senses (what we see, hear, smell, feel and taste), have not experienced before. The disciples had never witnessed such behaviour from the demon possessed boy hence their unbelief quickly came in.
Natural unbelief is not sinful as such because it is based on the five senses that God blessed us with. However, after the fall in Genesis 3, these five senses became the man’s default safeguard to filter out danger and protect the body. Anything that has not been tried and tested before cannot be trusted and is therefore treated as a threat and is blocked.
Unfortunately, this continues to happen after a person is born again. Instructions that come from a new “sense” which is supposed to be the dominant sense, faith, are also blocked by these five senses. This is why we have to train our physical senses by the renewal of mind (Romans 12: 1-2). Without the renewal of mind or discipling of the flesh through fasting, the unbelief will be a permanent feature in a believer’s life and they will never experience any breakthroughs.
The training of the senses to agree with the Word comes by fasting. Fasting is faith-based instruction to the body which violates the body’s need for food to survive. When you tell your body by faith that today we are not going to eat, it will immediately violently complain because of fear of death. However, when you survive, the day, the body system will slowly start to believe this new commandment and centre called faith. With time your senses will get used to any faith instructions and thus allow the power of God to flow.
Fasting is one of the ways to exercise the senses and together with the Word, one is able to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Discernment is a deeper level of knowledge which is beyond words. Spiritual maturity can be defined as the ability to switch from using common sense to exercising faith back and forth without allowing unbelief to creep in.
Similarly, when we pray, we talk to someone we have never physically seen, whom we will only see when we die but believe He is there and can hear us. Through prayer, our physical ears hear to open the way for us to hear the voice of God and respond to it.
In closing I believe below are the wrong views about fasting:
Seeking acceptance or love from God. God loved you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8) so there is nothing more you can do for God to love you more. It is not about works. We are saved by grace through faith not works lest someone boasts.
Secondly, begging or to pressure God to move. God is not stuck so your fasting will never move Him.
Thirdly, thinking that when you fast, you impress God and only then will He respond to “your works of fasting”. God has already given you everything you desire in life (2 Peter 1:3). Your faith is positive response to what He has already done for you. There is nothing new He is going to do because you have fasted.
Fasting is not only good for our health, it also helps to sharpen our spiritual focus.
l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: email@example.com or Twitter @dougmamvura