The fasting disciple
Episode 1: The Fasting Disciple
Nothing opens doors to a deeper and more intimate relationship with God as fasting. The body craves for food, while the spirit just doesn’t crave, but it needs the presence of God and His manifesting Word. Fasting disciplines the flesh and elevates the hunger of the spirit for the Spirit of God and His Word. In that moment of setting aside your physical satisfactions for God’s saturation through prayer, reading the word of God and worship, you fully demonstrate that you are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first… which is everything required most of every born-again Christian (Matthew 6:33)
But before we can go and unveil fasting in this series, it’s important we understand who is a disciple, why everyone has to be a disciple and why every disciple ought to fast. If we go back to our bibles, it’s interesting that Jesus really never told people to recite the sinner’s prayer and receive Him like we do nowadays; Rather, you’ll find out that He always made a proposition to follow Him, be at His feet, learn and grow in Him so we can be like Him. Getting to the basis of following Jesus is getting to that place of understanding His mission on earth, and that’s what these series are all about; helping you yield a life that will make you execute your life’s assignment to the fullest.
WHO’S A DISCIPLE, AND WHY SHOULD EVERYONE BE A DISCIPLE?
Well, we all enter the Kingdom of God by receiving Jesus Christ into our hearts through faith. It indeed matters to confess, because if you’re so convicted of Christ’s death, then out of the abundance of acknowledging the sin in your heart and His outstanding mercy, you withhold nothing but confess with your mouth and receive His forgiveness. From that moment on, nothing restricts you from entering the kingdom of God. However, it is still important to recognise that living in the same House with the owner of the House doesn’t qualify you to be an heir of the house or His representative. You can only manifest the authority and identity of the master if you become his son or trusted servant. And talking about being a son or trusted servant… is talking about a ‘relationship’ – between the father and son, or the master and servant.
You see, life is all about relationships. But, unlike other relationships in life, a relationship with Christ is built on the basis of followership (Matthew 9:9). There’s no one who can ever reveal the heart, mind and power of God like Jesus… and since we don’t know any better and we really are nothing without him, then it goes on well to say: “we are only His students and followers”. This is what being a disciple is all about - being in a relationship with Jesus; where you trust that He knows better and He is greater (Matthew 10:24-25) …and all you can do is intimately follow Him. In that moment He will teach you and show you how to think like God, feel like God, talk like God and walk like God. Whatever He is, is what you’ll become, whatever He does, is what you’ll do and what ever He has is what you’ll have. Understanding this, then you have understood Jesus’ mission and your commission (Matthew 28:19).
WHY SHOULD EVERY DISCIPLE FAST?
The best place to start off in understanding fasting as a discipline to be natured in every disciple is Matthew 6, during the sermon at Mount. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus gave instructions of three related duties: giving, praying and fasting. We can as well ascribe these duties as the 3-corded strand because together they make a disciple of Christ infallible and assertively forceful. He placed His main emphasis upon the motive and warned against religiosity as you perform these duties to be seen by men. With this qualification, He assumed that all His disciples would practice all three of these duties. This is indicated by the language that He used concerning each.
In the second verse, He said, "When you give..." In verse 6, He said, "When you pray…" and in verse 17, "When you fast". Reading these verses, you’ll find out that there’s no place Jesus said ‘if’, but always ‘when’. The inference is clear. Christ expected that all His disciples would regularly practice all three of these duties. In particular, the parallel between prayer and fasting is exact. If Christ expected His disciples to pray regularly, then we can as well say, he expected them to also fast regularly.
Fasting was even practiced amongst the Jews in Jesus’ time. They had practiced it continuously from the time of Moses till date. Both the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist fasted regularly. The people were surprised that they did not see the disciples of Jesus doing the same, and they asked Him the reason. Their question, and Christ's answer, are recorded in Mark:
“Once when John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, "Why don't your disciples fast like John's disciples and the Pharisees do?" Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can't fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” - Mark 2:18-20
This answer of Jesus is given in the form of a parable. Interpreting it; The "bridegroom," as always in the New Testament, is Christ Himself. The "children of the bridechamber" are the disciples of Christ (about whom the question had been asked). The period "while the bridegroom is with them" corresponded to the days of Christ's ministry on earth, while He was physically present with His disciples. The period "when the bridegroom shall be taken...from them" commenced when Christ ascended back to heaven, and will continue until He returns for His church. In the meanwhile, the church, as a bride, is awaiting the return of the Bridegroom. This is the period in which we are now living, and concerning which Jesus says very definitely, "And then shall they [the disciples] fast in those days." In the days in which we now live, therefore, fasting is a mark of true Christian discipleship, ordained by Jesus Himself.
Jesus also portrayed the significance of fasting by not just teaching it, but living it as well. The bible records that after being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was led to the mountain to fast by the Holy Spirit for forty days. What’s interesting is at the beginning, in Luke 4:1, we read: "And Jesus being full of the Holy [Spirit] returned from Jordan." At the end, in Luke 4:14, we read: "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee." When Jesus went into the wilderness, He was already "full of the Holy Spirit." But when He came out again after fasting, He "returned in the power of the Spirit." It would appear that the potential of the Holy Spirit's power, which Jesus received at the time of His baptism in Jordan, only came forth into full manifestation after He had completed His fast. Fasting was the final phase of preparation through which He had to pass, before entering into His public ministry. The same spiritual laws that applied in Christ's own ministry apply also in the ministry of His disciples as no disciple can be greater than his teacher (Matthew 10:24-25). Fortunately, God has allowed us to walk in the same power and even beyond (John 14:12), but as the fasting was a necessary part of Christ’s own preparation… so should it be a necessary part of all our preparations towards our lives’ assignments as disciples.
Having answered the questions that were asked at the beginning of the episode, we can now conclude that it matters to be a disciple, and to develop a discipline of fasting. I haven’t touched on fasting itself as a discipline (and trust me there’s more for you to learn from the Holy Spirit through this series, and you’ll love it), but until the next episode rolls out, it’s critical you dedicate your life to being someone who will follow Jesus at all cost even if it means presenting yourself as a sacrifice every day (1st Corinthians 15:31, Galatians 2:20). Deciding to fully yield to Christ as his disciple is deciding to allow Christ’s character and selfless leadership to possess your life’s walk. Taking time to make this decision will only make the right decision harder, and deciding not to make a decision… Well, Indecision is still a decision. But I trust you’ll make the right decision and follow.