Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? ~ Isaiah 58:6, KJ21
and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity and thy darkness be as the noonday. ~ Isaiah 58:10, KJ21
He that believeth on me…out of his [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. ~ John 7:38, KJ21 (bracketed words are this blogger’s emphasis)
Many of today’s believers fast to lose weight; or they fast to be seen of men and women, to have others check out how spiritual they look while wearing their “sackcloth and ashes”; or they fast simply because it is the “new spiritual” trend. In truth, their kind of fasting only creates religious hypocrites—people who fast just to receive God’s blessings, or just to appear righteous. Put differently, their fasting, ironically, is all about gain—gaining more money and material possessions that satisfy their personal wants; gaining more financial support or partnerships for “their” church or ministry; gaining more acceptance and attention, by becoming a celebrity of sorts; gaining more anointings; gaining more wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; gaining more power (political, economic, social, emotional, physical, and so on); gaining more spiritual gifts; et cetera.
Because our reasons for fasting are not God’s reasons for why we should fast, and because our desires usually aren’t God’s desires, consequently, we definitely need a deeper-experience fast, like the kind of fast God says we are to carry out, for the sake of others. Basically, the fast God has chosen for us is designed to keep us fasting until we develop a profound hatred for the unfair treatment of the poor and needy—until we are convicted (to be made aware of our responsibility) to defend the right of the oppressed to be emancipated, and to provide whatever basics of life the poor and needy lack; that is, we are to fast until we are influenced by the Holy Spirit to give out of our abundance to the poor and needy so that they might become whole!
Strangely enough, God’s fast does not require that we go without food and drink for any extended period of time. On the contrary, God’s fast allows us to enjoy both temporal and spiritual food and drink, which means God will provide everything we need to sustain us while we are giving away our own spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial provisions. God Himself says that He will “…satisfy [our] soul in drought, and make fat [our] bones; and [we] shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11, KJ21). In other words, unlike our kind of fast, which often is about gaining the fullness of God’s blessings JUST for ourselves, God’s fast is all about us pouring out of ourselves everything we have gained—letting everything we have received from God flow out of us, for others’ sake.
Therefore, we are not to fast so that we selfishly can use what we receive from God for our own current wants, or even our own present needs. Neither are we to fast so that we can hoard, for our own future benefit, what we have received. Instead, we fast so that we can overspend ourselves (pour out of ourselves) to such an extent that our helping others in need empties us, makes us become poor for their sake, just like our Lord “for [our] sakes…became poor, that [we] through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, KJ21). For these reasons, God’s fast is one in which we abstain from unjustly and cruelly oppressing and distressing the poor and needy, abstain from physically, sexually, mentally or emotionally abusing anyone, and participate in setting free everyone who already is oppressed, distressed, and abused.
To be obedient to this kind of fast, we first must understand and believe that, with God, it is never about what we gain from Him, but rather it is about what He pours through us that matters. For this reason, God’s kind of fast requires the spiritual discipline of self-sacrifice!
We begin God’s fast by first purposing in our hearts to treat people fairly and humanely, and then by proceeding to tackle, vigorously, every kind of inequality (especially the inequalities that we ourselves might have caused). We fulfill this fast once we FREELY and willingly are giving to the poor and needy from out of our own abundance, such as: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, housing the homeless, and so forth. These acts of kindness and love are the temporal and the eternal manifestations of the Living Water God has put inside us. This Living Water is God’s Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, supernatural power, kingdom authority, and God’s Grace, Mercy, Comfort, Righteousness, Holiness, et cetera.
In return for letting what God has put in us pour out of us for the good of others, especially those in need, God will bless the recipients of our deeper-experience fast, as well as bless us by answering our prayers. Here, it is important to note that we must understand that God’s answer to our prayers about our needs or wants is not always a repayment in kind for our obedience to and our deliberate following of His fast. To be sure, His answer to our prayers often will not be Him giving us back EXACTLY what we have poured out of ourselves for others. That is to say, our good measure that comes back pressed down, shaken together, overflowing, and poured into our laps (cf. Luke 6:38) very well could be the Light of His Face shining in our dark hours, or the dews of heaven refreshing our souls, or the rivers that never run dry; specifically, He just might bless us with a superabundance of that Living Water into which He first immersed us.
Indeed, we must realize that God only promises that we will be paid back for being a blessing to others. God never says that we will get back the same thing that we gave. Moreover, even though we are told that our measure (our motive and standard of giving . . . whether gladly or grudgingly; liberally or miserly) will be the same measure God will use when He repays us for our obedience, based on God’s economy, what we can count on, especially if we are of a giving spirit, is that He will give us His “amazing goodness.”
Put differently, God’s repayment to us for that which we gave to those who were in need more often than not is a larger amount than the amount we gave to others; therefore, God’s recompense will be of great advantage to us—either in worldly riches or heavenly treasures, or both. This truth is why our spiritual life cannot be measured by the world’s idea of success, because that which God has put inside of us (holiness, righteousness, peace, wholeness, et cetera) cannot be measured by the world’s standards. For this reason, God’s idea of success is defined by how gladly and liberally we allow Him to pour out of us what He has poured into us.
Therefore, let us fast to break every unjust CHAIN of oppression that shamefully binds the less fortunate people all over this world, realizing, first and foremost, that God’s purpose is to make us just like His beloved Son. God’s purpose is to make us people who, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, will overspend ourselves (empty ourselves of everything God has poured into us), by caring for the needs and interests of others—by putting others’ needs first. Since God and Jesus the Christ never hesitated to put our needs first, then we too must stop being people who are more concerned about promoting the New Age ideas of self-satisfaction, self-gratification, self-help, self-love, and self-interest, and become believers who are more concerned about living an altruistic lifestyle. Let us become children of God who promote the biblical ideas of self-discipline and self-sacrifice, which will be demonstrated by our pouring out of our lives for others, everything God has poured into us!