Daniel chapter ten is about Daniel seeking further understanding about the vision God had revealed to him about the children of Israel in chapter eight. The vision was given to Daniel sometime around the time he was thrown into the Lion’s den which would mean He was about 85 years of age. Daniel was shown a great war or conflict that had been shown to Daniel and so he naturally wanted to know the future of his people. Daniel separated himself from the city of Babylon by walking at least twenty miles away from the city and he also gave up some food and some of his daily routine in order to focus more on the things of God.
Do you desire to know more about God and His will? What sacrifices in time and habits are you willing to forfeit for a time in order to hear from Him?
Most people have a fast food prayer life. What we want to do is to go to God and shout out a number and have the order ready as quick as possible. As we will later see there is a spiritual battel taking place in our world and so our prayers need to be more like a chef preparing a meal rather than ordering a meal at Burger King. When seeking answers from God we need to slow down and step out of our normal routine so that we can cut the distractions out of our lives. Daniel began to do what many would call a semi-fast where he gave up certain meal luxuries (remember he was in the kings Court) in order to focus more on the things of God. For three weeks he gave up certain foods waiting on an answer from God and so he kept praying, kept seeking and kept remembering God’s word.
“Quick. What do people who fast look like? What kinds of people come to your mind? Do they appear a bit strange? Are they John the Baptist types? Legalist? Health nuts?” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, Donald S. Whitney, pg. 159)
Donald Whitney goes on to say that we are scared to fast because it might turn us into something that we do not want to become. Many people want to be called Christians or Christ followers but we do not want God to so transform our lives that people do not recognize us. This is why I asked if you desire to know God more.
We do not talk about fasting in churches because some people believe them to be legalistic practices that we no longer have to do since Christ destroyed the old law, while some have made them a command that we should all follow. The only command in the Bible about fasting was when once a year the children of God were to deny themselves by fasting and mourning over their sins during the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31). So there is not place in the Bible that commands us to fast since the old law does not apply to us today but that does not mean that fasting does not have its benefits and should not be practiced.
“Fasting is a personal matter between the individual and God. It is voluntary. However, if giants of the faith like Moses, David, Esther, Daniel, Paul and Jesus Himself felt the need to fast, it would seem reasonable that modern saints should be willing to deny themselves in order to pray more earnestly for the furtherance of the kingdom of God in a world that lies in deep spiritual darkness.” (The New American Commentary on Daniel, by Stephen R. Miller, pg. 279)
My Definition of Fasting: The voluntary denial of everyday things in order for you to focus more intensely on the things of God as well as God Himself.
We will look at a few things about fasting and see what we can learn about it and see how it applies to Christians today.
1) Fasting was encouraged by Jesus
Matthew 16: 16-18 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Notice Jesus did not say “If you fast” but “When you fast”. There was an expectation from Jesus that His followers would fast.
2)Fasting reveals things about us
If you want to know what controls you then try giving it up. Daniel gave up certain foods but he also gave up putting ointment on his body which was either to soothe the skin from the conditions or was a type of body product that he enjoyed. We all have our things that we have and do every day that are simple pleasures that help our day be a little more enjoyable. If you want to know what those enjoyable things are just ask yourself this question. Have you ever become angry when you did not get something you are used to having? Coffee? Chocolate? Glass of Wine? Video Games? Music? Phone? Food? Television? All of these things are not bad in and of themselves but they are things that can control us or at least our attitudes when we do not get them. Daniel gave up certain things so that his focus would be on the things of God and not of the things of the world.
1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
The reason that these things are bad is not because they are bad in and of themselves it is because we turn to them instead of turning to God. You may need a glass of wine because you are stressed out or you put on music to escape the problems of the day but in reality what you are doing is turning to the things of this world to help you instead of God.
“When we fast, we turn from the things that daily grab our attention and focus deeply on Him. During that time, we come to realize how much food and other things of this world are occupying our thoughts, time, activities and finances.” (The Transforming Power of Prayer and Fasting, Bill Bright, Pg 27)
Fasting reveals the areas of our lives that we still have not surrendered to Him, areas in our lives that are acceptable in our churches because they are not major sins that we tend to focus on. The reality is that anything you turn to instead of turning to God is a sin because you rob God of the focus and praise He deserves.
When most people fast they do not seem to get a benefit out of it that they are hoping to achieve and it seems to be more about disciplining their body instead of growing closer to God. Discipline in and of itself is not a bad thing and if the only thing you get out of fasting is to not be ruled by your fleshly desires than that will lead you toward more intimacy with God. Discipline brings freedom and when we kill these small gods in our lives then there is actually more freedom for us to turn our attention back to God. We all have heard stories of Christians who allowed what was considered a little sin or not a sin at all to begin to dominate their life and destroy them. Many Christians have died an early age because the sin of gluttony had dominated their life and ultimately led to the untimely death. (Proverbs 23:2)
1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Fasting will help reveal what we call “acceptable sins” in our lives and it will lead us to repent of the behaviors that control us.
“We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface…. Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear- if within us they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we know that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.) Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster, PG 48)
- See also Psalms 35:13
3)Fasting helps us focus on God
What has your attention? When you begin to fast your mind will want to wander and think about the things that you are giving up. In order to make the fast what it is meant to become then you have to focus your attention away from the things you are not having and onto God. I have listed a few areas that you can focus on will help your fast not just be a miserable experience but will be a time of deepening your relationship with God. Daniel began his fast because he was studying the word of God through the prophet Jeremiah (Daniel 9:1-3) When fasting it is always important to be in God’s word (the Bible) so that your focus is on the right things
A) Focus your attention on the greatness of your salvation.
Psalm 70:4 May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
B) Remember that Christ has come, died, and risen so that all your sins would be forgiven. (Matthew 9:2;Ephesians 2:8-10)
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
C) Remember that the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness.
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
D) Remember that you will one day see Him face-to-face.
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
E) Remember that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Fasting can be self-centered such as dieting or even, like the Pharisees who wore it like a spiritual badge of honor. The reason for your fasting is important. For some people giving up food may not be the best thing to fast from because they will use it as a diet plan and focus on their weight instead of on God. Technology is something that many Americans are caught up on and if they would simply get rid of those things for a time they could spend their time more wisely focusing on the things of God. But whether it is food or something else like a body lotion like Daniel did, the main thing is to focus on God.
“In the beginning you will be fascinated with the physical aspects, but the most important thing to monitor is the inner attitude of worship. Outwardly you will be performing the regular duties of your day, but inwardly you will be in prayer and adoration, song and worship. In a new way, cause every task of the day to be a sacred ministry to the Lord. (Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster, PG. 49)
3) Fasting helps us determine God’s Will
Fasting is humbling yourself before God and saying “You are God and I am not” and therefore acknowledging that He knows all things. This is not easy because many times we only go to God when we are really desperate instead of going to Him all the time. Many times we only want Gods will when we are at our human limits. If you want to know about someone then you spend time with them and the more time you spend with them the more you will know what they would do. Fasting is a way for you to spend more time with God so that you know exactly the course of action you should take in this life.
Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Daniel prayed for 3 weeks before he got an answer because there was a spiritual battle raging that Daniel did not know about. Sometimes the answers do not always come quickly but your responsibility is to seek God and allow Him to guide you through the power of His Holy Spirit through His word.
“Fasting does not ensure the certainty of receiving clear guidance from God. Rightly practiced, however, it does make us more receptive to the One who loves to guide us. (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, Donald S. Whitney, 168)
- See also Judges 20 :18-28: Acts 14:23
4) Warnings about Fasting
- A) Fasting is not a formula to get God to do what you want.
Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
My problem with much of the preaching today in the American church is that it is about getting God to do what you want. These things are supposedly achieved by you giving your money or through sacrifice.
You are fully accepted and loved by God because of Jesus Christ not because you do or do not do certain things. Part of trusting God is to trust Him even when things do not make sense.
Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Our prayer should always be “Thy will be done”. This is why fasting and seeking God is humbling because you are putting God and His will first above your wants, desires and dreams.
- B) Fasting does not always produce visible results or answers
God has used the fast in some people’s lives to reveal things but in others they did not have the revelations that some have had but this must not discourage you in wanting to seek God.
“Yet you should know that others who undergo a forty-day fast in true humility and repentance deeply seeking God’s face do not have a “mountaintop experience.” Some report no particular results at all. For others, their fast was physically, emotionally, and spiritually grueling, but they knew they had been called by God to fast, and they completed it unto Him as an act of worship.” (The Transforming Power of Fasting and Prayer, Bill Bright, PG.31)
- C) Fasting is not a substitute for obedience
Zechariah 7:5-10 Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’”
8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
God has given us His word and although denial of some things will give us more time to focus on God we should obey the things that His revealed word has already given to us.
Daniel had things revealed to him by God that were amazing and troubling and he was not satisfied with what he already received. Daniel wanted to know more about the things of God and so he gave up some of his creature comforts to focus more on God. Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks until he received his answer from God and did not give up praying until he received his answer. Daniel stepped away from Babylon and went at least 20 miles to the river to get away as he fasted and prayed.
Do you desire to know more about God and His will? This is the question we need to ask ourselves as we seek things in our lives we need to give up in order to focus more on God.