The full, physical fast [completely replacing natural fare with spiritual fare for a God-ordained period of time] is the only means by which we may live out the truth of Matthew 4:4, as imitators of Christ (1 Peter 1:13-16):
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
–-Matthew 4:4 [Jesus]
This physical dependence upon the word of truth [Holy Scripture] is a natural illustration of our spiritual dependence upon God–-and an example of the supernatural power and provision of the Holy Spirit as revealed through the word of God–-a truth made evident in the life of the prophet Elijah:
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
–1 Kings 19:5-8
Whenever we submit the very act that sustains life to the Lord’s leading [allowing Him to guide us in when to forgo, partially partake of, or fully enjoy His abundance], our bodies are supernaturally strengthened: and we receive a grace beyond natural understanding that pervades every aspect of our walk with Christ. Why is this?
The wisdom of God is that fasting translates to increased self-control and improved, spiritual decision-making in every area of life.Fasting requires faith; and faith leads to a transformed, obedient lifestyle [an increase in spiritual fruit and works]–for it builds temperance [self-control, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites]–which builds patience, godliness, kindness, and Christian charity, as the following verses attest:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
–2 Peter 1:2-9
God has not granted us fasting as a means of obtaining natural and spiritual blessings: as the passage above declares, we already possess all things pertaining to life and godliness. Rather, fasting opens our spiritual eyes to the vision of the Lord, enabling us to see by faith that the verses above are actually true. There is no need or want in the believer’s life; there is only the Father’s will at work within us. This is why Paul [who also possessed all things] wrote as follows:
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Those who are obedient to Christ do not suffer needlessly: rather, they suffer according to the will of God, as sufferings are the means by which God reveals the infirmities in our characters and the strengths in His own, so that we may be conformed to the image and likeness of His Son.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
–1 Peter 4:16-19
Rather than rejecting God-ordained sufferings, we must embrace them, asking the following question: “What portion of Christ’s character is the Holy Spirit revealing and wanting to form within us in this circumstance?”
Fasting is humbling ourselves before God, starving the flesh and strengthening the spirit, so that we may “do the will of God simply from the heart,” (Ephesians 6:10). This dependence upon the Holy Spirit to provide every natural need is evident throughout Elijah’s life: when the Lord commands a drought upon the land, He directs Elijah to a brook in Cherith where he feeds him morning and evening with ravens [now, that’s a fast]; later, when the stream dries up, he directs him to the home of a widow and multiplies her bread (1 Kings 17).
It is this same [fasted] dependence upon God that grants Elijah the grace to shut and open the heavens by prayer and to run ahead of Ahab’s chariot for 14 miles to Jezreel:
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
–1 Kings 18:41-46
Fasting holds no special power, in and of itself. However, fasting according to the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit grants menaccessto all those things that they already possess in Christ–so that they may endure trials and afflictions faithfully–and so fulfill the will of God for their lives. This same truth is evident in the fifth chapter of Romans:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
When we are born again, we have peacewithGod.
However, we can only possess the peaceofGod [peace in the midst of tribulation] by faith. Faith grants us access to a peaceable spirit and measured words and allows us to have a calming influence upon those around us.
This is what fasting does: it strengthens us to obey [resist temptation] and grants us access by faith to all things pertaining to life and godliness. Not that we need ask God for anything, but that, by humbling ourselves before God, all things [whatsoever we have need of in the natural or spiritual realm] are freely made available to us according to our need.