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Category Archives: Fasting

Do You Know the Two Kinds of Testing?

ClimberWe all go through challenging times in our lives. The Bible calls them trials or tests. None of us are exempt, so we need to be aware of how they function.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Notice that James is not saying that the trial is a blessing. Our blessing is the result of coming through the test victoriously. If you remember from the first post in this series; it’s our faith that’s tried. This trial then brings perseverance and results in our faith being approved as genuine.

But what exactly are these tests all about? James goes on to explain it to us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15

First, we must understand the words being used. In the English Bible, the words temptation, test, and trial all mean different things to us. In the original Greek they’re all the same word. The translators used these different English words depending upon the context.

In this verse, James is only referring to one kind of testing – testing by evil. In this post I want to talk about the two kinds that are spoken of in Scripture.

The first I want to share about is testing by evil. This is usually called temptation by the translators. This is when we are given the opportunity to do something against God’s law or human law. It could also be troublesome, injurious, or destructive to us or others.

In thinking about testing, it’s important that we don’t get our theology from cartoons. There isn’t any little demon or angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ears!

James makes it clear that usually the devil is not even involved. I think that we give him too much credit. It’s actually our own flesh that brings on the temptations that we face. We are tempted when our sin nature wants something that’s not God’s best for us. The only way to overcome consistantly is by a lifestyle of fasting and prayer in the spirit. (For more detail on these, click fasting or prayer)

The second kind is testing by God. James only says that God doesn’t use evil to test us, but there is a test that He sets up for us. This happened a lot with Jesus and His disciples.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:5-6

In this kind of testing, the Lord brings opportunities before us. Their purpose is to show forth the faith that has been produced in us as a result of hearing His Word. He wants us and others to see the growth that’s taking place in us. The result should bring glory to Christ working in us.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

Knowing these two types of trials will help us to be victorious no matter what challenges we face. As we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Question: How has the testing process worked maturity in your Christian walk?

©Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Let Yourself be Stretched

BandsI’ve been posting about the place of fasting in the believer’s life. In my last article we saw that there was a difference between fasting under the Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant fast is so that you put down your flesh to better hear from God.

We don’t seem to hear the voice of the Lord as well as they did in the early church. I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening. Fasting helps me drown out the noise of my flesh.

But Jesus gave another parable…

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

The Old Testament fast is likened to old wineskins; empty, used up, dry, and unyielding. They have nothing of value on the inside.

In that culture, new wine was unfermented grape juice. The fermentation process produces gasses that pressurize the skins. Old, dry and unyielding bags would burst. You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin was made of unstretched leather. Then it was oiled to make it soft and pliable. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit in us – to prepare us to receive God’s Word.

Then we get that new wine in us. It starts to ferment, the pressure builds up and the wineskin stretches.

That’s another reason why fasting is so important to us. Fasting increases the inner man. When you fast, there’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.

You’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you. The pressure is building. Now you have something to give.

You’re now able to pour out into someone else. Then the pressure is released – for a little while anyway.

By fasting you have something on the inside that stretches the outside. I don’t know what God wants to do this year, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

Just before Jesus started His public ministry He went on an extended fast. He knew that He was going to be tempted and tested. In order to prepare Himself, He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested this year? What are you going to do? How will you enter the test? Prepared? Or not? How will you answer the enemy?

The truth is that fasting prepares us for the battle ahead. I don’t know what’s coming. But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it. We have to rely upon what we hear from God. Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation? That’s what’s needed.

I want to be prepared to face 2016 and all it holds. The blessings, callings, testings – everything. So I fast to hear from God. Enter into the blessing that fasting brings.

Question: How will you incorporate fasting into the New Year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Fasting, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are Your Clothes Shrinking?

clothes2I’m posting about the place of fasting in the life of a believer. In my last post I looked at an incident in the life of the early church.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

We saw that it was fasting that prepared them to hear from God. They received the message to set apart Barnabas and Saul. So what did they do next? They continued to fast and pray in order to hear the specifics of this calling.

You need the whole Word from God. Too many people run off with only part of the message. Then they get into trouble and blame God.

What’s so special about fasting? In Jesus’ ministry He taught what to do “when you fast.” Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.

I believe that hearing from God is the great assumption in the New Testament. In the above verse, it doesn’t look like a special, radical, event took place in the church. A mature believer should be hearing from God regularly.

The problem we have today is that much of the church has lost this ability to hear from God. It’s hearing from God that gets us to the narrow gate I talked about in my last post. His Word to us helps us to stay on the narrow road. Fasting is the key.

There was a point when the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting. They noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not. They questioned Jesus about it.

He said that fasting would change in the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. The Lord wanted the disciples to wait until after the resurrection to begin fasting. Jesus gives a description of these differences in parable form.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”
Matthew 9:16

First, the Lord talks about the outside – a garment. The old way was to take an old cloth and patch an old garment. Fasting in the Old Testament was only a patch. At that time, fasting was all about getting God to listen to me. I needed to patch things up between God and me.

If I try to patch the garment in the New Testament it only makes things worse. Then how do I get God to hear me? I DON’T!!!

In Christ we now have access to God 24/7. There’s now no condemnation and we can enter boldly into His presence. Now we are a new garment and we don’t need a patch.

But a new garment (back then) would shrink with usage. Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment. That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease. We want the voice of the flesh to get quieter.

Fasting forcefully puts down the flesh. This is because now it’s about me hearing from God. God hears me in Christ. But I need to hear Him when He speaks. And that’s where fasting comes in.

Question: How often, and for how, long do you fast?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Fasting, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Start By Seeking the Lord

FinishThe beginning of the year is a good time to seek direction from the Lord. Because of that, I’m setting aside this week for personal fasting and prayer. Fasting should be a normal part of your Christian experience.

Scripture tells about some people who were working in a church in Antioch. They were involved in teaching and helping out for years. They also understood the truth about fasting and prayer. I’m going to be talking about it for a few posts.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Acts 13:1

Because he’s listed first, we see that Barnabas was the one in charge of this ministry. Last on the list was a guy named Saul. He had his 5 minutes of fame while he was persecuting the church. Now he’s pretty much forgotten.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

In the middle of their meeting they heard from God. That made all the difference. According to Scripture, they were performing public service to God and fasting.

Throughout the day a few different people heard the same thing from God. Separate Barnabas and Saul to the work I have called them.

We have to come to grips with the fact that fasting prepares you to hear from God. The truth is that God always desires to bring you from glory to glory. He wants to cause growth in your life and ministry.

The more you hear from the Lord, the more specific your calling becomes. The path you’re walking becomes more and more narrow.

During His time on earth, Jesus talked about asking, seeking and knocking. He said that if you knock, the door will be opened for you. What door was He talking about? He went on to say…

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

I don’t believe that He’s talking about salvation here. This verse is about asking the Father for direction and wisdom.

There’s an easy way that leads to loss and ruin. Many people – Christians included – are running after the temporary. But there is another way that’s easier to miss. You have to seek and ask just to find the gate.

Then you have to knock, keep on knocking, and push through. Very few even find it. That’s because they don’t want to seek and ask. But Barnabas and Saul were seeking. They were prepared to hear.

This is the gate of fasting and prayer. I invite you to come on in and see what the Lord has for you this year.

Question: How important to your Christian walk is fasting and prayer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Fasting, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Practical Side of Fasting #spiritualfast

FlyingI want to wrap up my posts on fasting with some practical advice for those who are just starting out.

Fasting has a cumulative effect over time.  Don’t just try fasting once and expect to become “Faith Man.”  Step by step it decreases the pull your flesh has over your life.  It allows the faith that you have to exert a greater influence.

You need to know your body’s limitations.  There are some people who need to take a cautious approach.  These are people who are on certain medications or have medical conditions (such as diabetes) that require you to have food at regular intervals.  If you are one such person, then you need to consult with your doctor before starting a fast.  Tell them that you desire to fast for spiritual reasons and ask if there is a way to do so safely.

Remember that fasting is not a religious exercise, but a spiritual encounter.  God, who knows your heart, will release His power in you.  If you have to eat something with your medication, then look at the food as a part of your medicine.  It will not detract from your fast because your faith is in Christ.

There are side effects from caffeine.  If you are addicted to caffeine (which means that you regularly drink coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine in it) it’s possible that you will get moderate to severe headaches during your fast.  These headaches are the symptom of withdrawal from caffeine.  This can be avoided if you continue to drink something with caffeine in it on your fasting day.

There are side effects from sugar.  If sugar is a regular part of your diet, then you will experience hunger pains.  That’s your body’s normal reaction to a withdrawal from sugar.  Just be aware of that and let it run its course.

Drink large amounts of water while you’re fasting.  In this way you will get some health benefits as well as the spiritual.

Just make the decision and start fasting.  I believe that every Christian should be fasting at least one day a week with some kind of extended fast once a year.  You might ask, “Can’t I just use more self-control over the flesh to keep it down?”  Sure you can; it is possible.  It’s also possible to build a house without the use of any power tools, but there are not many people who would want to do it that way.

God has given us some supernatural “power tools” to strengthen us spiritually.  We’re being foolish if we ignore them.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

Here is a good example of fasting at work.  The church leaders were in the midst of a time of fasting and prayer.  They were able to hear the voice of the Lord and obey quickly.  I believe that this is one of the secrets to the power that the early church possessed, and that we need in our generation.

Questions: If you fast regularly, how often do you fast?  If not, has this series encouraged you to try it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Fasting and Victory over the Flesh #spiritualfast

TrophyI’m posting about how fasting will revolutionize your spiritual walk.  The disciples had tried, and failed, to cast a demon out of a young man.  After Jesus was able to do it, the disciples asked Him privately why they were unable to.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV

The disciples’ problem was unbelief.  Jesus explains to them that faith as small as a mustard seed, working all by itself, can move a mountain.  Nothing would be impossible for us if faith was the only issue.

If it were only about faith, then America should have the most miracles of any country on earth.  We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  In America we have access to more of the Word than in any other country.

The problem is that we have unbelief alongside of that faith.  The U.S. is also one of the most flesh-driven countries on earth.  Just driving down the street I can see a billboard that feeds my flesh.  Standing in a checkout counter, listening to the news on the radio, almost everything I do causes me to access food for my flesh.  Even though I try to filter it by “taking every thought captive,” some of this trash still gets through.

So the stronger my spirit is built up on the Word of God, the more my flesh is built up just by living in this society.  It’s the presence of these two powerful forces in my life, faith and unbelief, side-by-side, that’s watering down my spiritual strength.  What can I do about it?

Again, the key is the statement made by the boy’s father.  We have plenty of faith, but how do we overcome our unbelief?  There is a solution.  Jesus tells the disciples, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.”

The question is, this kind of what?  Most people say He was talking about the demon.  I don’t believe it.  A demon couldn’t care less whether you’ve fasted or not.  Look at the emphasis of the verse.  It’s the disciples who were talking about the demon.

Jesus never once mentioned the demon.  He spent the whole time talking about the problem – unbelief.  What Jesus wants you to get rid of is unbelief.  It’s this kind of unbelief that blocks the working of your faith to the point where nothing happens, even though you believe the Word of God.

Where does fasting come into the picture?  Fasting is a way to forcefully and supernaturally put down your flesh.  You’re telling it, “I don’t care what you say – I’m not listening to you today.”

When you fast, it’s as if you’re turning down the volume control to the voice of your flesh.  This allows the faith that you have to effectively become stronger.  Without the voice of your flesh talking so loud, you will be better able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to your spirit.

Question: How well do you hear from God presently?  Would you like to increase your spiritual sensitivity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Our Problem – The Flesh #spiritualfast

Give UpI’ve been posting about the New Testament fast.  There’s an event in Jesus’ ministry that sheds some light on it.

As Jesus was returning to the city form the mount of transfiguration, He was met by a crowd of people.  While He was away, the disciples tried to cast a demon out of a young man, but were unable to.  This is important, because they had been personally trained by the Lord and should have had an easy time with it.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.   “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.  “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Knowing the three parts of our being helps us to understand the man’s statement in Mark 9:21-24.  He didn’t understand how he could both believe and not believe at the same time.  It’s important for us to see that both faith and unbelief or “unfaith” can exist at the same time in the same person.

My spirit is always full of faith.  My flesh is always full of doubt and unbelief.  It was this realization that caused the man to cry out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  This is the key issue involved in our desire for the miraculous to be evident in our ministries.

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Matthew 17:18-19

Everyone who wants a walk of excellence needs to know the answer to this.  We all read the Word of God.  We know that it’s God’s will to heal and deliver.  Why is it so hard, sometimes, to see the manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord?  Listen very intently to Jesus’ answer.  It will help us to move up into the excellence of ministry that He has for us.

Obviously, the disciples didn’t ask in public in case the answer was in the form of a rebuke.  They would rather take it in private.  But their question was valid.  Why couldn’t they do what Jesus did, even though they had the faith to try it?

They had been trained by Jesus Himself to go out two by two.  They had prayed for the sick and saw them healed.  They had rebuked demons and saw them bow to the Name of Jesus.  Why, all of a sudden, did it seem to stop working?

We need to open our heart to what Jesus says.  This could explain our lack of results.  We have faith.  We step out.  But many times we experience nothing.  Why?

In my next post we’ll see how the Lord answered this question.

Question: How has your flesh hindered your walk with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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