These are trying times. Make no mistake about it; we need God’s help and His direct intervention now. For times such as these, the Apostle Paul instructs us to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10–12).
That is exactly what we are fighting. A higher power—Satan and his cohorts. It is time we all recognize that. “Therefore take up the whole armour of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v. 13). We need that armour of God. We need spiritual help in resisting ourselves, in overcoming the world (which strikes us from many different directions) and in resisting and overcoming Satan the devil, who is also striking at us in remarkable and unusual ways he has never used against us before.
Scripture tells us what our Saviour did to acquire spiritual strength, in connection with the devil’s attack on Him: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [or tried] by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1–2). Notice He fasted! Moses, who was a “type” of Jesus, took neither bread or water when he fasted (Deuteronomy 9:9, 18). In like manner, the Son of God fasted to humble Himself, to be close to God spiritually, lest He forget how weak He was in the flesh.
“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:3). Imagine how hungry Jesus was after 40 days and nights of total fasting! The very cells of His body were crying out in a type of hunger that you and I have never experienced. But still He kept His wits, fasting for the right reason and in the right way, through prayer and meditation. In doing so, He was close in spirit to the invisible God. Responding to the devil, He answered and said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (v. 4).
The devil had to leave Christ alone because of the spiritual strength He expressed even in His physical weakness. We, too, can live by the same strength Jesus had. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples to give generously from the heart, and to pray to God continually. Notice that He said, “Moreover, when you fast…” (Matthew 6:16). He did not say “if” you fast; He took it for granted and for certainty that His disciples would fast. Christ said, “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
In other words, their reward is whatever praise they receive from other people for showing off their fasting. He continued: “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (vv. 17–18). Truly, God Almighty will do that for those of us who come before Him in fasting, as Jesus Christ said we should. Indeed, brethren, we do need to fast. We do need to grow closer to God. But we can only do this by restraining our flesh–not only from food and drink, but also from all the works of the flesh.
Later, the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14). Jesus explained that as long as He was with them, it was like a wedding – time to rejoice. “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast” (v. 15). Although it was not yet fitting for His disciples to fast, as He explained in the next couple of verses, they would fast when their time came, yet they would do it for different reasons and in a whole new situation, with a whole new attitude and a whole new approach to God.