“He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31
Fasting is a gateway to the supernatural, whether good or evil. That is why every religion has one form of fasting or another. Biblical and contemporary history have shown that fasting releases spiritual power and strength. Strength is needed for us to go the long haul. One of the outcomes we should look forward to when we fast is spiritual strength.
We often use the word power and strength interchangeably. However, power is the ability to act or produce effect while strength is the state or quality of being strong. Power connotes speed of action whereas strength means staying power. It is possible to possess power but lack strength. Strength makes us resilient. For instance, when you compare these two boxers: Mike Tyson and Mohammed Ali, you observe a difference. Mike Tyson is known to knock out his opponents within the first few rounds in a contest. However, Tyson seems to lack staying power. That’s why any opponent who survived the first few rounds went ahead to defeat him. That’s exactly what caused the upset by James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo in 1990. Evander Holyfield repeated the same feat against Tyson. However, Mohammed Ali was different. He not only possessed power but also had strength. He knew how to wear out his opponents.
There is physical strength and there is also spiritual strength. Both require training or exercise to develop. Paul meant this when he said, “For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.” (1 Tim 4:8 AMP). Fasting is one of the spiritual exercises we undertake for our spiritual build up. After the fast, we come out spiritually stronger.
The Psalmist encourages us to “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!” (Psalm 105:4). One way to seek the Lord for strength is by ‘waiting upon Him.’ (Isaiah 40:29-31). To wait in the Scriptures often means “to look eagerly for, to hope, and to expect.” Fasting is one of the ways we can wait upon the Lord.
Fasting is a means of grace. While it is true that during a fast the body actually feels weak, it is also true that the spirit becomes stronger. As Paul would testify, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). Paul then concluded: “… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). God is attracted to weakness. Our weakness makes room for His strength.
WHY DO WE NEED SPIRITUAL STRENGTH?
It was Paul’s constant prayer for the church. He prayed for the Ephesian church “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” (Ephesians 3:16). He also prayed the same prayer for the Believers at Colosse: “We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul––not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory–strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy,” (Colossians 1:11 MSG). He didn’t fail to remind Timothy, his spiritual son to “… be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)
Strength is a form of spiritual energy. One common characteristic of energy is that it depletes. It is therefore necessary to replenish it. We lose spiritual energy in the course of daily life. Our interactions with people sap our strength, so we need times of renewing and replenishing of our energy stock. It is unfortunate that sometimes, we don’t even notice when we are losing spiritual strength. God reproved Israel that “Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it…” (Hosea 7:9). Samson was a typical example. He did not realise that every step away from his consecration depleted his strength (Judges 16:4-20).
We need spiritual strength for spiritual warfare. Before a wrestler goes into a contest he spends time in training to build up his strength. It is therefore not a coincidence that when Paul wanted to talk about our “wrestle” against the hordes of hell he began by saying “Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 TEV). It was a matter that involved a demonised child that Jesus reminded the disciples that “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21).
Our spiritual strength determines our ability to resist temptation and withstand trials. “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10 NLT). In the battle between the flesh and the spirit, the only way for the spirit to gain ascendancy over the flesh is by denying the flesh its source of energy and feeding the spirit (Galatians 5:17 NLT). Many Christians are succumbing to temptations because they lack inner resilience.
We need strength to do exploits for the kingdom. We cannot be effective servants of God without spiritual strength. “…but the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and shall stand firm and do exploits [for God].” (Daniel 11:32b AMP). When Paul was instructing Timothy concerning the transmission of the Gospel he first spoke about strength (2 Timothy 2:1-3). Paul knew that Timothy couldn’t be an effective witness if he lacked spiritual strength.
HOW FASTING CAN RENEW OUR STRENGTH
It is what we do during a fast that determines its impact upon our lives. As we saw earlier, when a body builder wants to develop his muscles he goes through physical training or exercise. Now, exercise will be meaningless if he does not combine it with adequate nutrition. In the same way, during a fast we must feed our “inner man.”
It is instructive that it was under the condition of a fast that Jesus said “… Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). The word of God is spiritual food. The period of fasting can actually be turned to a time of feasting on the word of God (Job 23:12; Jeremiah 15:16; John 4:32).
The time of fasting is not a time for spiritual passivity. It should be used to study and meditate upon the word of God. As we take in the word each day, our spiritual muscles will be developed. It is also a time to cultivate the presence of God through worship and prayer. We also build up ourselves as we pray in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:4; Jude 20).
There is an exchange that happens when we wait upon the Lord in a fast. We exchange our weakness for His strength. Then we can ‘mount up with wings like eagles’, ‘run and not be weary,’ and ‘walk and not faint.’ Could Paul’s constant fasting explain his enormous strength in the service of the Lord? (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27).
Before Jesus began His fast, we were told that He was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ as He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. However, after the fast, ‘He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit’ and immediately, there was something different about Him. No doubt, the period of fasting converted what was there as a potential to mighty manifestations. Whenever we fast, let’s also expect the release of all that is yet to be manifested in our lives.