In the middle of the famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches about three foundational truths for the believer; giving, praying, and fasting. Many churches preach about the first two, but neglect the third truth. Twice in the sermon, Jesus told the disciples, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16; 17). Jesus assumed all his disciples should fast.
Jesus did not say to His disciples, “If you fast…,” instead He said, “When you fast…” So, obviously he expected us to fast. If Jesus appeared in your bedroom and gave you an instruction, would you obey him? “Of course I would,” I can hear you saying. Well, Jesus specifically said His followers would fast after He returned to heaven, why do so few believers follow His command? Thousands in the church casually wear WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets, but when it comes to fasting not many follow His example.
Jesus fasted at the beginning of his ministry for forty days. It is probable that He continued to fast regularly during his stay on earth because He casts out demons which He says only come out through fasting and prayer (Matthew 17:21). Jesus also promised to continue a partial fast by not drinking the fruit of the vine until His return (Luke 22:18).
Since Jesus fasted, we should fast. Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). If Jesus used fasting to prepare for ministry, we should use fasting to prepare for ministry.
When Jesus was on earth, the disciples did not fast like the religious people did. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast” (Mark 2:18‑20). In this story, Jesus clearly indicates to his disciples and their critics that after His ascension to heaven, fasting would be part of the normative experience of every Christian. We should continue to fast until our bridegroom returns in bodily form. After the marriage supper of the lamb, we will never need to fast again because we will be physically present with our bridegroom for all of eternity.
Right after I graduated from college, I decided to fast for forty days as a way to launch my ministry. My main motivation for doing this was because I wanted to be like Jesus. I figured if fasting was a good idea for Him, it was a good idea for me. It was my way of showing myself I was serious about going into the ministry. Those forty days were extremely difficult. I felt like giving up hundreds of times. I expected the days to be full of glory, instead, I was weak and hungry. But, I successfully completed the fast. Since then, as is common for every minister, problems and difficulties have tempted me frequently to quit the ministry. But, every time I am tempted to give in, I remember the lessons I learned during my first forty day fast. I will not give up, the world needs me too much.