By Samuel Clough
Though many in recent times neglect fasting as a discipline, it has been given to us as a gift and it will help develop strength in our inner man if we will simply us it. While there is a purpose and value for targeted seasons of fasting, there is great benefit from a life rhythm of regular fasting every week. Though the idea of fasting regularly every week is foreign to many western believers, throughout history the practice of regular fast days every week has been common.
The first and primary reason to fast is to tenderize the heart. Fasting should be rooted in love for Jesus and out of a longing for His return. Fasting that is rooted in this reality will also serve the purpose of deepening our longing for Him. Jesus set this context for fasting in the Scripture. If you are new to fasting or to this approach to fasting, there are many helpful resources on this topic located here on Mike Bickle’s website.
And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. – Matthew 9:15 NKJV
While our primary motivation for fasting should be out of longing for Jesus’ return, the Lord is also strategically using fasting to prepare a people in this hour for what is coming. God has given fasting to us as a gift in this hour to prepare us. He loves us whether we fast or not, but by embracing fasting we will be better prepared for the coming shaking.
The Preparatory Work of Fasting
The western world has experienced unprecedented prosperity in the last generation, but it is also now on the brink of massive crisis. Everywhere we look there are clear indicators of a coming crisis in every area including the religious, economic, and political components of our world. What has been normal in the last few generations will not be normal much longer. The seasons ahead will not be marked by the abundance that we have known for the last two generations.
While fasting is primarily a tool to strengthen our longing for Jesus, in His kindness God is also giving us fasting to prepare our hearts for the hardships that are coming. Believers who fast now are preparing themselves like wise virgins. They are storing up oil for the hour that is coming by voluntarily developing the muscle of denial before it will be required. The hour is coming when denial and lack will not be an option, but a reality.
The battle that most of us face right now when fasting is the desire to eat what we want, not the desire to eat because our health or survival depends on it. By fasting a day or two a week, most of us do not face actual hunger; we simply battle the desire to eat. It’s not true hunger that is warring against when we fast; it’s the desire to eat the things we want to eat.
For the most part, we are accustomed to the ability to have whatever we want to eat whenever we want it and fasting is uniquely designed to begin to dismantle this mindset.
By saying “no” to the desires of our body one or two days a week, we condition our body to live in subjection to the desire of the spirit. It must be understood that Paul did not believe his body was inherently bad, on the contrary he longed for the resurrection of the body. Fasting must never be the out working of an attitude that despises the body. We must have a healthy view of the body if we are to fast properly. A healthy view of the body begins with the understanding that God Himself, in the person of Jesus, took on a body like ours. Right now a human body sits at the right hand of God with all power and authority. Our body is to be cherished as a masterpiece of design by God, but it is not to dominate us.
Paul disciplined his body so that his appetites stayed within proper bounds and his body did not become a stumbling block to him. He did not despise the body, but he lived so that his body served the purposes of his spirit rather than his body dominating his life and potentially disqualifying him for the things he desired most. The body is healthy and good, but was not made
to dominate a human being.
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others I myself should become disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV
Tragically, the western world is far more dominated by the appetites of the body than most realize. Most westerners see western society as the most sophisticated and advanced society on earth but, in reality, the average western individual lives a life that is completely dominated by the pursuit of the physical desire for comfort, food, leisure, and sex. Fasting is a tool that helps break this addiction and awakens the heart to living for the great pleasure of loving God.
Perhaps the most valuable part of fasting is learning to love Jesus in the midst of self-denial or lack. While most of our lack now is through a voluntary choice when we fast, the day is coming when there will be real lack and, if we have not learned to love Jesus in the midst of voluntary denial, we will be offended with Jesus when we face imposed self-denial.
By choosing lack now, we prepare ourselves to face the reality of the lack that is coming and to be unoffended with Jesus when it comes. Tragically, many believers will be greatly offended with Jesus when they face real lack, because they have not prepared their hearts to love Him in the midst of pressure and lack.
Teachings that distort the nature of God’s blessing have unintentionally prepared believers to be offended with God because they only know how to love Him in the midst of abundance and have no theological point of reference for relating to God in the midst of pressure or lack. As Isaiah says, “They will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward.” (Isaiah 8:21 NKJV)
Loving Jesus under pressure and lack is a legitimate heart test that many in this generation will face, some in very extreme ways, because God will expose everyone’s heart through the pressures of the end of the age
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:6-9 NKJV
My brethren, count I all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be prefect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2-4 NKJV
Jesus connected weakness and love in the act of fasting. We embrace the weakness of fasting because of love. Fasting doesn’t earn anything with God nor does it get Him to notice us. It is an expression of love from our heart to His born out of the pain of the fact that He is not physically present with us. It tenderizes us to experience His love more.
But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. – Matthew 9:15 NKJV
Love is expressed most deeply in weakness. As fallen men we spend our lives groping for strength and yet love can blossom most deeply in our weakness. Love from a position of strength is different from love from a position of weakness. Love that flows from strength tends to be self-absorbed as the lover is confident in their own ability and their own person. Love from a posture of weakness is a completely different kind of love as the lover focuses on the one being loved and loses sight of self.
At the end of the age, God will use a combination of voluntary weakness and imposed weakness to both expose our hearts and to tenderize them that we might love Jesus more deeply and long for His return with greater desire. Fasting out of voluntary weakness prepares us to respond correctly to weakness that is imposed on us by forces beyond our control.
We cannot choose whether or not we live in periods of imposed weakness, but we can embrace the process and prepare for the possibility by embracing voluntary weakness through fasting.
Understanding the Process of Preparation
We must understand the crisis that is coming. It is foolish to ignore the signs of what is coming. It is also unbiblical to assume that God will protect us from every form of suffering. All over the earth, believers are suffering some very intensely. We are not immune to the same sorts of things. Many believers do not have a theology of suffering. Because of this they are being setup for a great falling away because their view of God does not include the possibility of suffering. This distorted view of God is ignored both of the Scripture and the experience of millions of believers worldwide. It is a western god that God Himself will dismantle.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 NKJV
We must embrace preparation for the crisis. We are not to look at a looming crisis and be paralyzed by fear. We are to have understanding of what is coming and prepare our hearts before God. He will be faithful to give us what is needed. Some feel that a crisis is coming but they fail to prepare. The key to preparation is to value the small things. Faithfulness in “little things” is the preparation to be faithful under great pressure.
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. – Luke 16:10 NKJV
And he said to him, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” – Luke 19:17 NKJV
Many are aware that trials are coming, but fail to prepare. Some fail to prepare because of a spirit of denial that looks at coming pressure and prefers to ignore it and turn away rather than prepare. This is because the human spirit tends to turn away from suffering rather than embrace it. Others fail to prepare because they are presumptuous. They are either presumptuous that they can already stand, or they are always waiting for a “big event” that will suddenly prepare them to stand.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:12
When we are not faithful in little things when we have little pressure we will not be prepared for strong pressure. By the same virtue, faithfulness in little things is what equips us. We must value the small things. Many people never make progress or build a strong life in God because they don’t value small things.
We must understand that preparation for big crisis comes in small, daily decisions. Fasting a day each week, giving small amounts of money, and obeying in small things all really matters.
While the vast majority of people do not fast because it can be difficult, it also must always be understood that fasting is simply a tool one can use rather than the end goal. The end goal is loving Jesus more tenderly and more devoutly. For this reason, those with medical situations, children, pregnant women, and those who have struggled with eating disorders should not fast food in the way that other individuals can. While most individuals can fast with no injury if they take care of their body properly, others should be careful and take the proper precautions. For those who cannot fast food, other type of fasts can be entered into in order to work the muscle of fasting.
By Samuel Clough
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)
My heart is trembling at the desperate need of preparation in this hour. While I am sure the Lord has His prophets hidden in caves, I am also convinced we are completely unprepared for what is coming. Not only are we not prepared, I feel it is going to come much faster than we think and be upon us in a moment. In fact, it is already upon us.
Just last week I sat in a briefing for a prayer meeting with an Egyptian believer. She spoke of how unprepared the church was in the moment of pressure and crisis. She said when the revolution started the force and the pressure on the church to speak on humanitarian issues rather than Jesus was so much stronger than they had ever expected. In her opinion, under the immense pressure, the church was closer to humanism than a bold, clear witness for Jesus. My entire being was shaken to hear this saint who was in Egypt during the entire crisis repeat over and over, “The church is preaching humanism; it’s all humanism; we must preach Jesus, He alone is justice.”
I am still reeling from her words. They hit me like a hammer from the Lord. If Egypt’s church, who is familiar with a measure of pressure, was pressured towards a humanistic gospel in the hour of crisis what does that foretell for us who know almost no suffering let alone persecution? We have not even been tested by small shakings. How will be endure these kinds of pressures? Is there any hope that our gospel will be pure and that we will give a witness to Jesus when there is a palatable, humanistic option available and rejecting that option to preach Jesus only risks our own lives?
We are not as strong as we think. Most of our strength is humanistic and self-centered and will crumble in the hour of crisis. We desperately need a strength that is found in weakness. We need the strength of the Holy Spirit only, not just a bit of the Holy Spirit added to our own self-confidence.
The wisdom of God is that the church will be purified and that the gospel will go to all nations amidst great pressures and shakings. I am trembling that, amidst all our rightful zeal to get the gospel to every people group, we have not read Matthew 24 in sequence. The gospel will go to every nation, but it is in the midst of birth pains and terrible shakings. These shakings will set the hope of the church fully on Jesus and open hearts to receive the gospel.
Saints, not one of us would lead the way Jesus does. We would choose much less traumatic means, but Jesus’ zeal for a people with whole hearted love is so intense that He will use pressure to form a glorious companion. The process will be difficult and one none of us would choose, but the result will be worth it.
Let me be very clear that I do not want to disparage the church in Egypt in any way. Believers there have stood firm as a minority amidst persecution for years. There is a vibrant prayer movement being born in Egypt and I hear that they estimate nearly 2 million conversions to Jesus over the last few years. No doubt that church in Egypt is dear to Jesus and will be a bright and shining light in years ahead.
That said, I believe the Lord wants us to learn from the shaking in Egypt that pressures that we cannot imagine will seize us in a moment. In many places, pressure will probably ebb and flow, but the game has changed this year. Pressure and shaking is upon us. There is no going back. Even now, as the news has turned to Japan, believers are under much more persecution and violence than before or during the revolution.
It is being revealed that what looked like demonstrations for human rights and freedom were actually an open door for an increase or evil. The demonstrations looked noble, but any “justice” movement that does not embrace Jesus as the primary issue of justice is humanism at best and will lead to an increase in wickedness. That is beginning to be seen in Egypt as the world barely notices the believers killed there in Garbage City just last week. The result of “humanitarian protests” last week was that women are without husbands, children are without fathers, and other believers lie in hospitals. The world has “moved on” but the evil of seeking justice without Jesus is being demonstrated clearly in Egypt for those who will look.
Let Egypt be a lesson to us and give us strength to stand up and raise an alarm when the voices of men look noble and just but are devoid of Jesus. It is the time for us to get oil for our lives. It is time for us to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we can be a faithful witness, a burning and shining light in the hour of testing.