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The Powerful Practice of Fasting - Part 2

In Touch / Charles Stanley
The Truth Network Radio
May 3, 2024 12:00 am

The Powerful Practice of Fasting - Part 2

In Touch / Charles Stanley

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May 3, 2024 12:00 am

Learn the biblical reasons behind why we fast and how we are to fast.

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Charles Stanley
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Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Friday, May 3rd. Today's podcast picks up from yesterday with a look at Matthew chapter 6 to help you understand more about the powerful practice of fasting. I want to talk about a powerful practice that's often overlooked, and that is the practice of fasting.

And I want to clarify right up front what that is. But notice what Jesus says here. He says, when you give, when you pray, when you fast, do not do it publicly in order to be seen of others. Somebody says, well, doesn't the Bible say ask and it shall be given you seek and you shall find?

Yes, it does. But I want you to see that there are times when it takes more than just praying because God has something in mind. And God isn't just pleased with our simply deciding that we're not going to eat, we're going to fast this or fast that or the other. What we're talking about is a relationship with Him. God is up to something more than just the fact that I don't eat or whatever I lay aside, whatever I abstain from. Because fasting is all about a relationship with Him. Fasting is all about, listen, coming into relationship, coming into intimacy with Him, whereby the things that would normally grab my attention no longer grab my attention because right now in the whole issue of fasting, I am focused upon God.

I want Him more than I want anything else, no matter what it is. And I'm willing to lay these other things aside in order to find out what He's saying to me. Now, somebody says, well, does He tell us when to fast?

No. He doesn't say that, but here's what I want you to notice. Here's what He does tell us. He says, whenever you do, now why did He say whenever?

Because it was natural and normal. What He's saying is it's just common practice, that is, among His followers. He expected them to fast. Now, whenever you fast, He says, I want to give you some instruction. You don't dress like you're fasting. You don't look like you're fasting. You don't act like you're fasting.

You don't tell anybody about it. And so it was a natural, normal thing. So He says, whenever you do. Jesus fasted, if you remember, that's how He began His ministry. Baptized, went out into the wilderness and spent forty days fasting. Somebody says, oh my goodness, you're expecting us to fast forty days? That'd be a waste of my time. I wouldn't have that expectation of you. And besides, I would never tell anybody when to fast, how long to fast or what to fast.

In fact, I'm, this is one message I'm not going to give you any personal illustrations because He said, He said, don't talk about it. I may say, well, yes, that's been a part of my life, but I'm not going to say I fasted and here's what God did. Or you ought to fast and here's what God will do. Simply saying that He fasted.

He expected and anticipated Him to fast. The early church fasted. And so when you look at that, we have to ask ourselves the question, not is it some rare exception for the believer, but the truth is, the truth is that it should be at times a part of every believer's life. And so when I think about what Jesus said here, I have to ask myself the question, what is the primary purpose? What's the primary purpose of fasting? Not to impress God, not to impress other people because it ought to be done in private, between God and ourselves.

Then what is His purpose? Well, listen to what He said. He said in this passage, whenever you fast, don't put on a gloomy face, as hypocrites do. Don't neglect your appearance.

You do that to be seen. You have your full, full reward. He says, dress right, look right, do what you've been doing. And He says, your Father, He says, who sees in secret, He will reward you in public. So whatever this is, it is something just between you and God that's going on.

Now watch this carefully. The two words I want you to remember, and this is the heart of it. Two words. We said, first of all, we don't fast to persuade God to do anything.

We fast in order to prepare ourselves. So there are two words. One of them is persuasion.

No persuasion. There is preparation. That's what fasting's all about. It's the, listen, it is a time of the preparation of our heart to be able to discern, to hear God speak to us, to give us direction. It's preparation for God to do this cleansing in our life.

Now it's fasting is all about preparation. So there are two words and I want you to give them back to me. What's the first one? Persuasion.

What's the second one? Persuasion. So it's not persuasion.

We're not trying to persuade God. God is in the process of preparing us to hear from Him. And once in a while, I will say that, I have to stop and say, okay God, I need to know where I am. Where am I at this point in life? Best I know I'm in Your will, where am I God? Where am I in time? You know how much time I have. Where am I in this area of the ministry? Where am I in this area?

Most personal relationships. Where am I God? And you know what?

You're not going to get much of that. Running down the expressway and praying to God and saying, now God, I want you to show me where I am. And most of what you're thinking at that moment is, doing 70 miles an hour where I am is, I'm trying to survive this morning going to work. That's not the way God operates. Listen, He wants you all alone to Himself. To Himself.

And He doesn't want any distractions. And if you want to hear from God, I'm telling you, one of the first things that's going to happen is, He's going to bring some things to the surface that you're going to have to deal with. And listen, it can creep in, it can rush in, it can fall upon us, we can move in a direction.

Listen, you can move in a direction so long that you have excused it for so long. Explained it away so long, you don't even see it as sin anymore. Listen, holy God, who loves you devotionally, who loves you with His whole heart.

And if you want to know how much, just look at the cross. Do you think He's just going to patch over this sin? He's going to blink here, turn His face over here, close His eyes over here, shut His ears over here, look the other way over here.

No, He's not going to. He's going to deal with the very thing that keeps us from becoming the persons He wants us to be in order to achieve the things in life He wants us to achieve. He's going to deal with sin, S-I-N. And we can call it mistakes and we can call it habits.

We can call it lots of things. Holy God is going to deal with sin because holy God wants us to be holy and therefore He wants the best for us. He knows we're the most effective when we're the purest of heart, so He's going to deal with sin.

If you don't want God dealing with sin in your life, then don't fast. But suffer the awesome consequences of living your whole life and never knowing what awesome blessings God had in preparation for you. But you wouldn't listen to Him and you wouldn't take the right turn and you wouldn't make the right decision. You just wouldn't listen.

And you know what happens? We're the losers. Because we're too busy with our activities and our relationships and His holy God in heaven created us for His purpose, to accomplish His will, and we're just too busy for God. Amen? It's the truth.

You know it's the truth. Too busy for God. More interested in what I'm going to have to eat than the spiritual food that has eternal value to it. Now, let's look at a few reasons here from the Scriptures. And let's start out with Nehemiah chapter one.

Let's talk about the reasons and the results that God gives here. Nehemiah, who is the cupbearer of a king, he's in a foreign country. He's a slave to some degree, but he has a good job.

He's a king's cupbearer. And he just got news from some of his friends who came from Jerusalem. The city's been destroyed, of course. The walls are still torn down. The gates are burned and their enemies are coming in and pilfering and things are really bad. In fact, Jerusalem is in horrible shape. And so when Nehemiah hears this, turn to that first chapter and look, if you will, beginning in verse three. They said to me, the remnant there is in the providence, all who survive the captivity are in great distress and reproach.

The walls of Jerusalem are broken down and the gates are burned with fire. When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days. And I was fasting for those days and praying before the God of heaven. And listen to what happens.

Watch this carefully. I said, I beseech you, O Lord God of heaven, who preserves the covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. Let your ear now be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant, which I'm praying before you now, day and night on behalf of the sons of Israel, your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel, which we've sinned against you. I and my Father's house of sin, we have acted very corruptly against you, have not kept the commandments nor the statutes on the ordinances which you commanded your servant, Moses, and goes on through the rest of that chapter confessing sin.

When he started fasting, what's the first thing that God did was to convict him and to look back at the nation of Israel while they're in the mess they're in is because they sinned against God and violated His commandments. But here's what happened. He passed for days and then one day, look at chapter two. And it came about in the month of Nisan, the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him. And I took up the wine, gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.

You know, watch that. He hadn't even heard Jesus say that. He said, I wasn't sad in the king's presence.

Nobody knew he was fasting. So the king said to me, why is your face sad though you're not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart. Then I was very much afraid. Then here's what happened.

Been fasting and praying. He felt absolutely helpless. Here he was captive to some degree because he was a cup bearer. And here they know, he finds out what's happening to his loved ones, his nation. And he can't do anything about it because he's locked in as a slave to some degree. But he'd been fasting and praying and asking God to do something about it.

You know what happens? He tells the king what the situation is. The king gives him the time to be away, gives him all the materials he needs, and gives him protection all the way to Jerusalem to get the job done.

It started with his fasting and praying. Move over, if you will, to Daniel. Look in Daniel chapter nine. Here again, what's happening is Daniel is also in captivity. He has been reading and he's been trying to find out, now what's exactly going on because he, remember the prophet Jeremiah said that the nation of Israel would be in captivity for seventy years.

So he's thinking, that's got to be getting close. So notice what happens here. In chapter nine of Daniel, verse one, In the first year of Darius the son of Osiris of Midian descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans. In the first year of his reign, I Daniel observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolation of Jerusalem, namely seventy years they had been captivity and governed in freedom. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer, supplications, that's strong prayer, continuous prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. What do you find these two men doing?

The same thing. When they began to fast and pray, the first thing that came to heart was God began to look at them, to look at themselves. And so here are two examples of how God, of course, answers prayer.

And as a result of fasting, He knew and sure enough in the, at this particular time, these seventy years, they were freed and they were able to go back to their own homeland. There's an awesome power in fasting and praying. Listen, when you get the mind of God about what He wants you to do, what decision He wants you to make in life, listen, when you have a big decision, oftentimes people will go to somebody else and they'll say, What do you think I ought to do? Do you realize that God, listen, God is the first person you and I ought to go to? He knows what we ought to do. I'm not saying He should never seek counsel. God knows what we ought to do.

And when you and I get ourselves in a position that we can hear Him most of the time, I'm not going to say every single time, most of the time by far, He's going to give you very clear direction. Now we could go on through, for example, and talk about the New Testament church fasting and praying because they did. And it's interesting, in the very first missionary journey in this thirteenth chapter of Acts, you remember what happens here. They were praying and fasting. And verse two says, While they were ministering to the Lord in fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I've called them, first missionary journey.

God is the one who instituted it. Going back, if you will, to Isaiah, fifty-eighth chapter, he says in verse six, Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? That is cleansing, freeing, liberating. And you see there are lots of people whose spirit is so bound up in all kinds of things. For example, there are people whose spirits are bound up in false doctrine.

They're in legalism or they are bound up in doubt and fear. They cannot obey God for the simple reason they're just afraid of what may happen. You know what happens? When you start fasting and praying, your fears disappear, mark it down. When you begin to fast, what happens is God cleanses your life. You begin to see things from God's perspective. Then when there is confidence and assurance and boldness, fearlessness, listen, peace and joy and contentment and happiness, I guarantee you, you will not walk the same way you've been walking. You won't feel the things you've been feeling. Your attitude will change. And you know what's going to happen? Your whole countenance is going to be different.

Why? Because now you know that you're walking in God's very clear path. You have His energy, His strength, His anointing in your life. You know that God wants to do something. He's willing to do it. He's waiting for you. He's waiting for you to do what? Get prepared to let Him do it. And a big part of that preparation is abstaining, laying aside everything so you can hear what He has to say. Now there are lots and lots of benefits.

And I've probably named most of them, but I'll just rehearse them again just for a moment. And that's this. It's a spiritual bath.

That's what happens. One of the primary benefits, spiritual bath. You're going to get cleaned up, cleaned out.

I mean, God's going to do some house cleaning that you didn't even have any idea was necessary. That's the first benefit. The second thing is this. Your mind's going to get sharp. You're going to be able to think like you've never thought before. You're going to be able to, listen, your mind's going to be so clear. You're going to understand as you've not understood. When you come to the Word of God, you know what, there's going to be a deeper understanding. And there are times when you come to the Scripture and say, God, what are you? Listen, now watch this. It isn't just, Lord, what did you say to Paul?

I get that. But what are you saying to me in that verse? In other words, I know that you're trying to say something to me. You're going to be able to hear God much clearer because your heart, mind, soul and spirit is committed to Him. Likewise, you're going to have a spiritual discernment.

You're going to be able to discern things that you overlooked before. Likewise, you're going to have and can't have victory over strongholds and habits in your life, whatever they may be, because what? Your heart's pure.

The power of God's released in your life and He can break any stronghold, whatever it might be. A greater intimacy with the Lord, you're going to feel closer to Him. Why? Here's the reason.

The clutter is out and you have a straight line. And the things that have been important, while they have their place of importance, now you keep them where they are. And now that channel between you and Him, that intimacy, that oneness, your prayers, everything is going to begin to change.

Why? Because now you're getting in a position, you're in a position for God to pour out His fullness of joy in your life as we start a greater sense of confidence and courage. And listen, there's going to be a greater hunger and thirst for the Word of God. I don't know of anybody who fasts, genuinely fasts, who doesn't have a hunger for the Word.

You know what's going to happen? While you're fasting, you're going to begin to search the Word of God and saying, Now, Lord, exactly what are you saying to me? And oftentimes His answer's going to come through verses that you've read. You've read them over and over and over again. They never said a thing to you.

All of a sudden, there it is in black and white. Then of course, listen, all of us at times have had prayers that have just stalled. They just don't move.

There's just no answer. They go, What's going on? And what happens? You begin to fast and pray and God cleans your heart out. And God says, Now you're ready for it.

And God begins to answer prayer. And the last benefit, and there are many others, the last benefit I would say is simply this. Physically, you're going to feel better. Physically, you're going to be better. There's something about fasting, especially food for example, that gives your body a break.

And most people are going to live their whole life and never give their body a twenty-four hour break. But of all the things I've mentioned, that's the least important. Because the most important thing is this. You're going to position yourself with the Lord God Almighty. He's going to be able to do things in you, through you, and for you, you never even dreamed that God cared that much about you.

It's not for anybody to tell you when to fast or what to fast. I'm simply saying this. Here's a principle of Scripture, powerful principle of Scripture often overlooked, that can absolutely transform your life, set you free. And listen, set you on a course in your relationship with Jesus Christ, more intimate than you have ever known, with the blessings that, Father, you never dreamed of in your whole life. And that's my prayer for you. And Father, how grateful we are that something so simple and yet so profound, so available to every single person, but so overlooked, so ignored, and oftentimes just out of ignorance, I pray the Holy Spirit will take this message, drive it home to every single heart.

And when I think about how many, what a large portion, the vast percentage of people struggling over difficulties, don't have a solution, don't have an answer, don't have any idea which way to turn when it's offered and can be experienced if they're just willing. In Jesus' name, amen. Thank you for listening to part two of The Powerful Practice of Fasting. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or InTouch Ministries, stop by This podcast is a presentation of InTouch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-03 02:16:28 / 2024-05-03 02:25:52 / 9

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