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Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines: Chapter 9 Fasting


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Based on Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. These are teaching notes from LTCi, Siliguri

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Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines: Chapter 9 Fasting

  1. 1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald S. WhitneySaturday 19 May 2012
  2. 2. Fasting...for the purpose of godliness Chapter 9, Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifeSaturday 19 May 2012
  3. 3. "Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, & self-discipline usually its friend & generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a persons appetites are linked: full stomachs & jaded palates take the edge from our hunger & thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God." Cornelius Plantinga JrSaturday 19 May 2012
  4. 4. "Fasting is like a silent prayer: simply turning away from human sustenance, toward the Sustainer of all, is a quiet & real means of beseeching Him to take our need seriously. It signals to God our commitment to Him & our conviction that human means are totally inadequate. We are begging Him to send the presence of Christ." Douglas KellySaturday 19 May 2012
  5. 5. "Fasting tests where the heart is. & when it reveals that the heart is with God & not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan. For then Satan does not have the foothold he would if our heart were in love with earthly things like bread...Every time we fast we are saying with Jesus, "Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord. Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord.” John PiperSaturday 19 May 2012
  6. 6. Jesus taught and practiced fasting - yet,according to Whitney, it is the mostfeared and misunderstood of allspiritual disciplines. Many fear it willmake them “too fanatical”, that it willmake them suffer and give a -veexperience. For some Christians fastingis almost unthinkable.Think: How many people in yourchurch fast regularly?Who are your role models in fasting?When did you last hear a sermon onfasting? (it is mentioned 75x in theBible compared to 74x for baptism!)Saturday 19 May 2012
  7. 7. Fasting explained “A Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes” Whitney It is Christian in being God centred, voluntary and it is for spiritual purposes. Richard Forster, “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity” Here fasting is not only about food but could include people, media, telephone, talking, sleep etc.Saturday 19 May 2012
  8. 8. Fasting explained "Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting." Martyn Lloyd JonesSaturday 19 May 2012
  9. 9. Strictly speaking the Bible onlyrefers to fasting as abstainingfrom food - Whitney saves hiscomments for this area.A normal fast - all food but notwater - Matt 4:2 talks of Jesusbeing hungry but not thirsty, Lk4:2 that he ate nothing in thosedays but again no mention ofwater.Some Christians also drink fruitjuices during this type of fast.Saturday 19 May 2012
  10. 10. A partial fast - limiting your dietbut still eating some food -Daniel and his companions inDan 1:12 ate only vegetables -JTB ate locusts and wild honeyMatt 3:4 (maybe because he wasin the desert!)This could be done by eatingsmaller portions or only certainfoods.Saturday 19 May 2012
  11. 11. An absolute fast - avoiding all food and liquid (even water) - Ezra 10:6, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9 A supernatural fast - Moses on Mount Sinai ate no bread and drank no water, Dt 9:9 - Elijah 1 Kings 19:8 - such fasts require God’s supernatural intervention and cannot be repeated unless he specifically calls and miraculously provides An private fast - referred to by Jesus Matt 6:16-18Saturday 19 May 2012
  12. 12. Congregational Fasts involve the Church participating together. Joel 2:15-16; Acts 13:2 A National Fast is a call to the nation to fast. 2 Chron. 20:3; Neh.9:1; Jonah 3:5-8 • There was one Regular Fast under the Old Covenant, Lev. 16:29-21 - on the day of atonement (though in exile the Jewish leaders instituted four other annual fasts Zech 8:19 Pharisess twice a week Lk 18:12 - Wesley would not ordain a Methodist unless he fasted every Wed & FridaySaturday 19 May 2012
  13. 13. Occasional Fasts whichoccur on special occasionsas the need arises - shownin Esther andJehoshaphat’s cases, alsopossibly Mt. 9:15Saturday 19 May 2012
  14. 14. Why else is this a valuable weapon in our warfare? What are we saying to the World, flesh & Devil when we fast (this is the key)? We are saying, screaming out at the top of our lungs - "I want God, I want Christ more than I want to please myself! "The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God... Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God... Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away...when I say that the root of Christian fasting is the hunger of homesickness for God, I mean that we will do anything & go without anything is, by any means, we might protect ourselves from the deadening effects of innocent delights & preserve the sweet longings of our homesickness for God." John PiperSaturday 19 May 2012
  15. 15. Fasting is expected Jesus, Matt 6:16-17 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Note the commands about how to fast - and the promise This is just after Jesus spoke about when you give, pray etc. - fasting is expected! Matt 6:2ffSaturday 19 May 2012
  16. 16. The first Christians also fasted Acts 9:9, 13:2, 14:23 Jesus, again(!), Matt 9:14-15 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. It is worth noting there is no command from Jesus about how often, how long etc. we should fast - it is not legalistic - it is your privilege and opportunity to seek God’s graceSaturday 19 May 2012
  17. 17. Fasting is to be done for a purposeWithout spiritual intention fastingis just like a weight loss fast - a diet!It is not meant to be a man centredexperience. Whitney lists tenpurposes of fasting - and starts bytelling us not one of them is to earnGod’s favour, it does not impresshim, or gain his favour - it has nobenefit before you come to Godthrough faith and repentance.Saturday 19 May 2012
  18. 18. To strengthen prayerJohn Calvin, “whenever men are topray to God concerning any greatmatter, it would be expedient toappoint fasting along with prayer.”Fasting sharpens our prayer and makesus more passionate, it creates greaterurgency within us.Ezra 8:23 - he fasted along with thegroup of returning exiles asking for safejourney.Saturday 19 May 2012
  19. 19. Arthur Wallis remarks, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly earnest. Not only so, but he is expressing his earnestness in a divinely-appointed way. He is using a means that God has chosen to make His voice to be heard on high”. Neh 1:4, Dan 9:3, Joel 2:12, Acts 13:3 Fasting has a great effect on prayer - it is one of the greatest weapons we can bring to our prayer lifeSaturday 19 May 2012
  20. 20. Arthur Wallis, “In giving us the privilege of fasting as well as praying, God has added a powerful weapon into our spiritual armory. In her pride and folly the church has largely looked on it as obsolete. She has thrown it down in some dark corner to rust, and there it has lain forgotten for many centuries. An hour of impending crisis for the church and the world demands its recovery.”Saturday 19 May 2012
  21. 21. To seek God’s guidance Judges 20 - the 11 tribes prepare for war against Benjamin - twice the large group lost to Benjamin, only when they fasted did they win. Acts 14:23 - Paul and Barnabas installed elders only after fasting “Fasting does not ensure we will receive clear guidance from God. Rightly does make us more open to the one who loves to guide us”Saturday 19 May 2012
  22. 22. To express grief Three of the first four refs to fasting in the Bible express this: Jdg 20:26 1 Sam 31:13 - mourning Saul’s death 2 Sam 1:11-12 - David mourning for Saul There are many records of people fasting because of sin in their life - note this is not for forgiveness or to pay the price 1 Pet 3:18, 1 Jn 1:9Saturday 19 May 2012
  23. 23. To express grief This is about voluntary heartfelt confession and feeling guilt for what has happened - it is not beating yourself up but grieving over your sin Also for the sins of others - Jonathan over the sin of Saul in trying to kill David - 1 Sam 20:34 You might choose to fast and pray for a person who has backslidden, or for the lack of spiritual passion in your church etc.Saturday 19 May 2012
  24. 24. To seek deliverance or protectionJehoshaphat when he heardan army was coming againsthim - 2 Chron 20:3-4Ezra asking for the Lord’sprotection - 8:21-23Esther 4:16 - appeal to Godagainst the possibility of thekings wrathSaturday 19 May 2012
  25. 25. To express repentance and a return to GodThis is similar to expressing grief forsin - however here fasting is not onlyabout repentance but a commitment toobedience and a new direction in God.1 Sam 7:6, Joel 2:12Jonah 3:5-8 sows the response of theNinevites - and God gave a greatspiritual awakening.Notably fasting can be in vain if donewithout repentance, especially if we arehardened in our hearts to God’s voiceabout sin.Saturday 19 May 2012
  26. 26. To express repentance and a return to GodIn vain will ye fast, and pretend to behumbled for our sins, and make confessionof them if our love of sin be not turned intohatred; our liking of it into loathing; andour cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid ofit; with full purpose to resist the motions ofit in our heart, and the outbreakings thereofin our life; and if we turn not unto God asour rightful Lord and Master, and return toour duty again.Thomas BostonSaturday 19 May 2012
  27. 27. To humble oneself before GodA physical expression of ourhumility before God - just likebowing or prostrating yourself.King Ahab, one of the worst kingsin Jewish history, showed this and itcaused God to act - 1 Kings 21:27-29King David did it too - Psalm 35:13Fasting is expressing your humilityhere cf Pahrisee Lk 18:12Saturday 19 May 2012
  28. 28. To Express Concern for the Work of GodJust as a parent might pray and fast outof concern for the work of God in the lifeof their child, so Christians may prayand fast because they feel a burden forthe work of God in a broader scope. Thiswas the purpose of Nehemiah’s fast,Nehemiah 1:3-4, because the city ofJerusalem had no wall around it toprotect its exiles. Daniel 9:3 expressesthe same type of concern in prayer andfasting. Today you might pray forChristians facing persecution, forworkers etc.Saturday 19 May 2012
  29. 29. To Minister to the Needs of OthersIsaiah 58 is the most extensivepassage in Scripture dealingexclusively with fasting. v. 6-7,emphasize fasting for the purposeof meeting the needs of others - inearlier verses (3-4) they complainedto God that their prayers combinedwith fasting had not been heard(their lives were in hypocriticalcontrast to their fasting). God willnot bless the discipline of fastingwhen we reject His Word regardingrelationships with others.Saturday 19 May 2012
  30. 30. To Minister to the Needs of OthersIsaiah 58 is the most extensivepassage in Scripture dealingAre we feeding fasting. v. 6-7,exclusively withthe hungry? Givingshelter to the homeless? Undoingemphasize fasting for the purposethe bands the needs of others - inof meetingof oppression?Could verses (3-4) they movie, aearlier you fast a meal, acomplainedbook...and their prayers combinedto God thatgive the money to thepoor instead?with fasting had not been heard(their lives were in hypocriticalWhat is God calling you to do tocontrastthe their fasting). God willlighten to burden of your fellownot bless the discipline of fastingman?when we reject His Word regardingrelationships with others.Saturday 19 May 2012
  31. 31. To Overcome Temptation and Dedicate Yourself to GodJesus fasted 40 days and nights prior toHis temptation in the wilderness. “Oneprinciple we can learn from this example isthat fasting is a way of overcomingtemptation and of freshly dedicating ourselvesto the Father.” There are times we strugglewith temptation, or we know we aregoing to find ourselves in a temptingsituation, when we need extra spiritualstrength to overcome. Such times ofexceptional temptation means exceptionalmeasures are required, namely fasting.Saturday 19 May 2012
  32. 32. To Express Love and Worship of GodThe Bible says that fasting may bean act of sheer devotion to God.Luke 2:37 summarizes the life ofAnna the prophetess, who devotedover 50 years of her life to prayerand fasting to worship God.Fasting can be an expression offinding your greatest pleasure andenjoyment in life from God. Forexample when discipliningyourself to fast means that youlove God more than food.Saturday 19 May 2012
  33. 33. Christians throughout history havefasted for this purpose in preparationfor the Lord’s Supper - this showsrepentance and humility before God andhelps in worshipping Him.You might choose to spend the timewhen you fast in Bible reading, prayeror meditation - in all cases fasting musthave a spiritual purpose, a God centeredpurpose, not a self centered one.Be careful not to become mechanical infasting, making it a regular routine, infasting you seek God and his grace,hoping he will bless you.Saturday 19 May 2012
  34. 34. In Zechariah 7 we see that theIsraelites had annually celebratedtwo fasts which had been performedsince the destruction of the templeand now they were asking God ifthey should stop them. Godquestions the Israelites over theirfasting - had they been really fastingto him? Such questions issue achallenge for us in our fasting.Remember to be aware that whenour fast is rightly motivated, we canbe sure that God will bless us, butperhaps not in the way we wanted.Saturday 19 May 2012
  35. 35. More applicationWill you confess and repent of anyfear of fasting? Some people wouldwillingly give money rather than fast -are you afraid of fasting, (especially ifyou do it in your own strength)?Will you fast as the Holy Spiritdirects you? Jesus expected hisdisciples to fast - you can expect HSpto tell you to at times!Will you fast to show dedicationand express your love to God?Saturday 19 May 2012
  36. 36. Some quotes on fasting Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down. John WesleySaturday 19 May 2012
  37. 37. In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are-dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon." Hudson TaylorSaturday 19 May 2012
  38. 38. If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long, and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him. Matthew HenrySaturday 19 May 2012
  39. 39. Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. John PiperSaturday 19 May 2012