Should Christians Fast?
Text: Isaiah 58:1-12
I. Once in a while someone will ask if they ought to fast.
A. Is it something acceptable in the New Testament, or was it only a part of the Old?
B. Do you fast just to be doing, or does it serve some purpose?
II. Purpose of Fasting
A. Fasting was done at times of deep grief
1. When people realized they had angered God
a. I Samuel 7:3-6 - The people were made to realize they had angered God with their idol worship
b. David fasted while pleading with God for the life of his infant - II Samuel 12:16-23
(1) Once the child had died, David ended his fast.
(2) Knowing his child was with God in heaven, he knew it was no longer appropriate to fast
c. The people fasted while confessing their sins to God - Nehemiah 9:1-3
d. Even the heathen demonstrated their sorrow by fasting - Jonah 3:5-9
2. When people were grieved
a. Israel fought against the tribe of Benjamin because of the sin Benjamin was harboring, yet despite God’s acceptance they lost many men in the battles - Judges 20:18-28
b. Mourning at the death of Saul - I Samuel 31:11-13; II Samuel 1:11-12
c. When the Israelites learned that a death sentence was passed against them - Esther 4:1-3
d. Nehemiah mourned when he heard his people were in trouble - Nehemiah 1:1-4
e. The people were to fast, weep, and mourn as they turned to God from their sins - Joel 2:12-13
B. It demonstrated humility
1. Even the wicked fasted at times of grief - I Kings 21:23-29
2. While requesting aid from God - Ezra 8:21-23
3. David used fasting to humble himself while praying for his enemies - Psalm 35:12-14
4. Just as a person would wear scratchy sackcloth, fasting was sackcloth for the soul - Psalm 69:10-12
5. Extended fast made people look down of the one fasting - Psalm 109:23-25
C. It was done when people wanted to completely focus on God
1. An army was gathering to attack Judah, so the king in fear, declared everyone to fast while they sought God’s aid - II Chronicles 20:1-4
2. Before Esther sought aid from the king, she first asked for a 3-day fast from the people - Esther 4:16
a. A tradition was established to fast to remember the deliverance of the Jews - Esther 9:29-32
3. Daniel wanted to focus his attention on God, so he fasted - Daniel 9:3
4. It should be a time filled with righteous deeds - Isaiah 58:6-11
III. Fasting doesn’t make God listen or make a person more righteous
A. Israel saw themselves as a righteous nation, so they were confused as to why God did not pay attention to their fasts. - Isaiah 58:2-4
1. God answered that it was because they got what they wanted by their fasts
2. Supposedly their minds were on God and holy things, but they overworked their employees, there were contentions, strife, and fighting.
3. They were not fasting to have God hear them
B. Just because a person fasts does not mean God will hear their prayers - Jeremiah 14:12
C. Even during the exile, God rejected the people’s fasts because they were done for themselves and not for God - Zechariah 7:5-6
1. People should not fast to be seen of others. It should be something between the individual and God - Matthew 6:16-18
D. Some used fasting as a show of piety - Luke 18:11-12
IV. Zechariah prophesied that there would be a time when the need for fasting would end, at least for a while - Zechariah 8:19
A. While Jesus was on earth, it was a time of joy, not sorrow - Matthew 9:14-15
V. Fasting continued to be used in the New Testaments
A. The disciples fasted while serving God and before major events - Acts 13:2-3
B. When selecting elders, it was accompanied by prayers and fasting - Acts 14:23
1. There is a reason why prayers are mentioned with fasting because the purpose of fasting is to focus the mind on God.
2. You don’t want to be distracted by minor things, such as eating.
C. This is why some demons could only be removed by prayer and fasting - Matthew 17:19-21
D. Is it appropriate today? Certainly!
1. During times of deep grief, such as the realization that you have sinned and your soul is in jeopardy
2. At times when you need God foremost in mind as you make major decisions.