Spiritual benefits of fasting

Hey everybody, let’s talk for a few moments if we could about the spiritual benefits of

fasting, the spiritual benefits of the spiritual discipline of fasting or the spiritual practice

of fasting.

And this comes after my message from this last weekend.

I hope you had a chance to watch it or to listen to it.

Well, we looked at that section of scripture in the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on

the Mount, the series that we’re going through in Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus addresses

the spiritual practice of fasting.

You may remember that fasting comes after Jesus had talked about the spiritual practice

of giving to the poor and the spiritual practice of praying and how we’re to go about those


And fasting is such a unique spiritual practice and there are a number of people I know who

perhaps have never even been a part of a study that discusses fasting or perhaps heard a

sermon about fasting or have any experience with fasting.

So let’s sort of unpack this idea of the spiritual benefits of fasting.

We talked on Sunday in my message about the whys of fasting and how Jesus says that we

are not to go about fasting.

But Jesus did assume that we would fast, that his followers would fast.

Jesus fasted.

He presumed that we would because he says, when you fast, not if.

But are there any benefits, spiritually speaking, of fasting?

What can we draw some lessons from the message in terms of application in our own life?

Let’s remind ourselves that fasting, a good way of thinking about fasting, a definition

that I shared in my message, that fasting is when you abstain voluntarily from something

that you live on for the purpose of spiritual growth or spiritual benefit.

That that’s the primary focus.

Spiritual benefit, spiritual growth.

There may be some physical benefits to fasting, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about.

So we’re talking about abstaining from something that you live on.

Usually that’s food, but it could be just about anything.

And scripture has some examples of different ways of thinking about that.

But fasting is just a natural way that we respond to God’s work in our lives and we’re

seeking to hear more from God or to draw closer to him.

It’s a way of declaring our frailty as humans by saying, God, I am so dependent upon you

for everything, not just for food, but for life.

And I want to hear from you and I want to grow closer to how you want to work in my

life and I want to be sensitive to your movements in my life.

Fasting is a way of declaring our frailty and of sort of embodying that.

So what are some of the benefits?

Now I want to point out a couple of things that we see in scriptures as possibilities

of spiritual benefits.

Now the results of fasting are not necessarily the main goal in fasting.

There may be some results.

There may be some things that come out of it, but it’s really more about the journey

of fasting that seems to be the process that God uses to work in us.

But there are certain things we can see, especially in the New Testament, that are potential results

of fasting.

These are not guarantees, but they’re certainly possibilities.

So let’s look at, first of all, one spiritual benefit that we see in the New Testament is

in the course of fasting, there’s the possibility of a divine encounter with God, number one,

a divine encounter with God.

And I’m talking about an encounter with God that goes beyond what our normal experience

or encounters with God would be like.

And an example of that would be in Luke chapter 2 with the prophet Anna who is waiting in

the temple and the baby Jesus comes in and she’d been longing and waiting and praying

for the Messiah to come and when Jesus is presented she had been fasting, she had been

praying and she just had this supernatural encounter with God.

That’s one example of God moving in a really unique way as a result of somebody fasting.

Again, not a guarantee, but when a person fasts there just seems to be something that

heightens our spiritual sensitivities to God’s voice and leading in our life and God shows

up in a really, really powerful way.

Another potential, possible spiritual benefit of fasting is divine direction.

We see that in the book of Acts, especially when you have, for instance, the church at

Antioch in Acts chapter 13 where they’re praying for God’s leading in their life and what God

does is they fast and as they pray it says that God sets apart Paul and Barnabas to be

these missionaries that are going to go out and God directed the leaders of the church

there at Antioch in a really significant way.

And that too can be a potential benefit and possibility that comes about as a result of

fasting, God providing some supernatural guidance about a decision that needs to be made.

Another potential benefit that we see in the New Testament is supernatural answers to prayer.

Supernatural answers to prayer.

We see that again, especially in the book of Acts where God’s people are fasting and

they’re praying and God does some remarkable things in answer to their fasting and their


And one more spiritual benefit of fasting that I do want to point out is this idea of

spiritual empowerment, the supernatural empowerment that comes about.

You know, in Matthew chapter 4, the story of Jesus going into the wilderness, being

led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted and it says that he fasted for

40 days and for 40 nights.

Now we think about why was it that Jesus was fasting?

Was it in preparation for being tempted or was it in response to being tempted?

Well, we think about Jesus being all-knowing because he’s God, the Son of God.

So Jesus knew that he was going to be tempted.

Jesus didn’t fast after he was tempted.

He fasted in preparation for that season of temptation.

And that’s one of the things that we can do as we go into a difficult circumstance or

an encounter, we can fast and pray and cry out to God for the spiritual empowerment.

Jesus modeled that for us in Matthew chapter 4.

Think about the disciples coming off of the Mount of Transfiguration, this incredible


And Jesus talks about when they come off of the Mount of Transfiguration, how certain

miracles only come about from God’s people fasting and praying, only through fasting

and through prayer.

And you can imagine that some of Jesus’ followers would have said, well if we’d known Jesus

that we were going to experience this great challenge or this great need, we would have

fasted more, we would have prayed more.

But we don’t fast or pray as a result of some sort of challenge.

We do so in preparation, knowing we may not know what we’re going to encounter from day

to day.

So fasting is a way of drawing upon God’s supernatural empowerment in a special way.

So again, those are just four examples that we see in the New Testament.

It’s not necessarily a comprehensive list.

And the benefits, the results, as I, this is just my own personal opinion, I don’t think

that’s totally the point of fasting.

The point, again, is the journey.

But it is wonderful to know how great God is, that as a loving Father, He loves to give

good gifts to His children who call out to Him.

Friends, I just want to encourage you to make fasting a normal part of the rhythm of your

day and of the everyday parts of your life.

And just watch what God is going to do.