Message: “FASTING FOR SPIRITUAL BREAKTHROUGH ” Isaiah 58:1-14; Ezra 8:21-23)
By Bishop Jacob Afolabi
“Fasting is not an empty ritual. It must change your life and alter the course of your attitudes.”
From the beginning, people have pursued God. They wrongly built the Tower of Babel to reach Him.(Gen.11:19). They rebelliously carved images to please God. (Ez.6:1-4). They arrogantly lived by legalistic laws to impress God. (Mt.15:19 They built monasteries and isolated themselves to please God. They even fasted wrongly in an attempt to divert His attention from other things they were neglecting to do. (Is.58:3-5).
It is important to note that religious practices such as fasting are less important than doing God’s will. “He hath showed you, 0 man, what is good: and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Fasting is not an end in itself; it is one of the greatest acts of dedication to God, a means by which we can worship the Lord, and submit ourselves in humility to Him.
Even if we wanted to, we could not manipulate God through fasting. We fast and pray for results, but the results are in the Hands of God.. One of the greatest spiritual blessings of fasting is becoming more attentive to God, listening to what He wants us to do, and to be.
The demands of our flesh are so great and compelling; unless and until we subject the flesh to some measure of control, we would always be drawn to please it and no one else. Therefore we need to get acquainted with God’s desire for us to become “laborers together with Him..”
(1 Cor.3:9; 2 Cor.6:1).
We then need to know the fasts God can use.
- THE DISCIPLE’S FAST. “To loose the bands of wickedness.” (Is.58:6). Freeing ourselves and others from addiction to sin.
- THE EZRA FAST. “To undo the heavy burdens.” (Is.58:6; Ezra 8:23). To solve spiritual, moral, ethical, or psychological problems, by inviting the Holy Spirit of God to lift the loads and overcome the barriers. (Is.45:2,3).
- THE SAMUEL FAST. “To let the oppressed (physically and spiritually) go free.” (Is.58:6). This is for revival and soul winning; to identify with people enslaved by sin and to bring them out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s marvelous Light. (1 Sam.7:1-12). By this Israel was delivered from the sin that allowed the Ark of the Covenant of God to be captured in the first place.
- THE ELIJAH FAST. “To break every yoke.” (Is.58:6; 1 Kings.19:4,8). Conquering the mental and emotional problems that would control our lives, and returning the control to God. Elijah went without food when he fled from Queen Jezebel’s threat to kill him. After this, God sent an angel to minister to him in the wilderness.
- THE WIDOW’S FAST. “To deal thy bread to the hungry” (Is.58:7). To care for the poor, to meet the humanitarian needs of others. God sent the Prophet Elijah to a poor, starving widow -ironically, so the widow could provide food for Elijah. But Elijah’s presence, and the widow’s spirit of compassion, resulted in abundance of food for her household. (1 Kg.17:8-16).
- THE DANIEL FAST. “So thine health shall spring forth speedily” To gain healthier life, or for healing. (Dan.1:8). Daniel demonstrated in Babylonian captivity that keeping themselves from pagan foods God had guided them not to eat made them more healthful than others in the king’s court.
- THE SAINT PAUL FAST. To allow “God’s Light to Break forth like the morning” (Is.58:8), bringing clearer perspective and insight as we make crucial decisions. (Acts 9:9). When Saul of Tarsus was struck by the Light of the Lord, he was without literal sight for days, but he was also without a clue as to what direction his life would now take.
When Paul was visited by the Christian, Ananias, both his eyesight and his vision of the future were restored.
- THE JOHN THE BAPTIST FAST. “That your righteousness shall go before you..” (Is.58:8). That our testimonies and influence for Jesus shall be attractive before others.
Because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, he took the “Nazirite” vow that required him to fast from or avoid strong wine or strong drink of any form. This was a purposeful lifestyle that set him apart for a special mission.
- THE ESTHER FAST. “That the glory of the Lord shall be thy protection.” .(Is.58:8).
Esther, the Queen, fasted to find favor in the King’s sight. (Es.4:16; Es.5:2). She was a Believer in a pagan environment. She needed Divine influence on the King to save her and her people from destruction. She fasted to God for protection, before going before the king.
About the writer
Nigerian-born Bishop Jacob Afolabi is Senior Pastor at the Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ottawa. he is the recipient of many community awards, including the 2017 Black History Ottawa Community Builder award, for his many years of community work. He is the founder of the Ottawa Pastors’ forum and has contributed inspiring articles in community newspapers and commentary on community radio stations, as well training a new generation of pastors. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.