When I was young, I always wondered why Jesus was able to fast for forty days. Most people gave me an easy answer, something like, “Because he was God,” but I called it a lazy answer. I had a lot of questions about Jesus’ forty days of fasting that no one was able to give me a satisfactory intellectual, biblical, scientific, or spiritual answer.
Why did he fast? Why was it so important for him to go through that? Is it important for us to fast? How did he fast? Did he drink only water? When did he fast? Did he fast only during the day? However, the Bible said,
“He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” (Mat 4:2).
That means he fasted for entire days. It also says he was famished by the end of forty days. That eliminates the divinity argument. If Jesus’s forty-day fasting was to prove his divinity, why would he be famished? Like any human being, he felt hungry.
Later I found out that even most pastors cannot answer these questions, partly because they don’t fast and partly because they don’t know how to. It has become a lost art.
In Judaism, this month (February) is part of Shovavim Tat, a Jewish Lent for six to eight weeks of fasting—six for regular years and eight for the leap years. That is 42-56 days of fasting. I’ve found out that less than one percent of Jews fast for this season. Many of them don’t even know about this tradition.
That’s why I said fasting is a lost art. Most Jews or Christians, Rabbis or Pastors, don’t know why, how, when, and what about fasting. That’s why they are not able to teach people to fast. So my quest began some years ago to learn about fasting.
After many years of research and personal experiments, I can tell you that fasting is a fantastic experience. Today, we have a great deal of scientific data to back it up. I am so sorry that many people today have misunderstood the great value of fasting.
You have missed out on a great spiritual adventure if you have never fasted. So, I want to introduce the lost art of raising your IQ, EQ, and SQ. Your Intelligent Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Spiritual Quotient (SQ) will soar, and you will never be the same again. You will see fasting as enjoyment rather than torture. Let’s begin.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. The Scripture lesson is from Matthew 4:1-11. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (Mat 4:1-11).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
Now, let’s begin with the first common question,
Why was Jesus able to fast for forty days?
Normally, your body uses glucose as energy. When you stop eating, your glucose runs out in about twelve to twenty-four hours. Then your body switches to burning your body fast as the energy source. Most Americans have a lot of body fat to burn.
However, if you are fasting for the first time, your body will have a hard time converting from glucose-burning mode to fat-burning mode. It’s like drug addiction. You will feel hungry, angry, and irritated. We often call it “hangry,” the combination of being hungry and angry.
It’s like a drug addict going through a withdrawal phase. So if you have never fasted before, don’t try long-term fasting at once. Talk with your doctor first, and then take baby steps.
According to biological experiments, a man of an average stature has enough fat to burn for about forty days. We can assume that Jesus had an average height and weight as a Jewish man, which is why he could fast for forty days.
Today, an average American has more fat to burn than a first-century Jew who walked instead of driving. Most modern men and women have enough fat to burn for more than a hundred days or more.
After your body converts from a carb-burning machine to a fat-burning body, you stop feeling hunger until you run out of body fat to burn. When you run out of body fat, the only energy source is your body protein—your muscle. Then you become hungry again.
You will become extremely hungry at this point because burning muscle is the last line of survival since you will lose strength for hunting for food. So your brain would send a strong signal for you to eat, “Mayday, Mayday! You run out of fuel! You must eat or die.”
That’s why the Bible says after forty days of fasting, Jesus became famished. You can see that the devil came at the most crucial moment to tempt Jesus. What you do at your weakest moment determines your character.
Now, let’s look at the big question,
Why Should I Fast?
As mentioned before, fasting will raise your IQ, EQ, and SQ. If you are taking on a critical project or accomplishing an important mission, you need to maintain an optimal state of your IQ, EQ, and SQ, especially when failure is not an option.
Jesus was kicking off his mission to save the world by giving his life. That’s his Father’s assignment—heaven or hell is in the balance. Failure was not an option.
Most people think Jesus was able to do what he did because he was the Son of God. That is a copout answer. We are making excuses for not giving our utmost by saying, “Well, we are just human, but he is the Son of God. That’s why he could do what he did.”
We often fail to recognize the human side of Jesus. He was fully human, just as he was fully God. Since he is fully human, nothing was easier for him. He had to concentrate his energy and optimize his IQ, EQ, and SQ so that he could give his best.
Depending on the size of your mission, you may need to fast for a day, a few days, or a few weeks. The purpose is to concentrate your energy like a laser beam to accomplish your mission. A scattered mind cannot accomplish a significant task.
Today, we all have a mountain to move. The pandemic may be over, but the recovery and restoration from the damage will take years. As God’s people, we have a calling to restore peoples’ mental and spiritual health—their faith, hope, and love.
You are not here on earth to take up space. If you can’t think of any mountain to move, fasting can also give you the discernment to discover your calling and receive direction to make a difference in your life.
Most importantly, fasting optimizes your SQ—Spiritual Quotient. What is SQ? We talk about it all the time at our church. It’s bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The Bible says,
“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23a).
These nine elements are the measurement of your SQ, and it gives you the ultimate happiness within and fruitfulness without. When you fast, you will become one with the Holy Spirit, flourishing with the fruit of the Spirit.
The scientists observed that people enter a state of “euphoria” after about five days of fasting—no more depression, anxiety, or stress. You achieve a state of euphoria naturally without the help of drugs, magic mushrooms, or LSD, which are harmful to your body.
In this fallen world, everybody is anxious to some degree. It seems our ancestors have already found the best way to maintain mental health through fasting. That alone is worth the effort of fasting. It’s the cheapest way to cure anxiety.
Anxiety is the source of many other mental and physical diseases. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body. That’s just the most basic benefit of fasting.
Today, we have a wealth of scientific research data available on the benefit of fasting. The most significant discovery is known as Autophagy. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi from Japan won the Nobel Prize in 2016 for his breakthrough discovery.
In plain language, your cells go through a recycling process during long-term fasting. Your body parts renew. For example, you get a new set of liver cells. That means you get a clean liver after long-term fasting. You get new and young skin. Ladies love it. Most surprisingly, you get new genes.
Although today’s scientific discovery is helpful, we are after the spiritual benefits of fasting proven for thousands of years. You will enjoy the bliss of heaven in long-term fasting. This bliss, euphoria, or the “fruitful state” is your power to overcome temptations that usually destroy your divine dreams.
You cannot accomplish a higher calling if you are vulnerable to temptations. The three temptations Jesus went through indicate that we must overcome these three obstacles if we want to realize our God-given dream.
1. Overcome the Temptation of the Flesh
Here’s Jesus’ first temptation:
The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Mat 4:3-4).
Most people worry about what to eat, what to wear, and how to satisfy the desires of the flesh. They don’t have time to think about their higher calling or self-actualization. From morning to night, all they focus on is to put a nice meal on the table. That makes us not different from animals.
They might argue that we must make money to make ends meet. They are living in “survival mode.” When your mind is in survival mode, you cannot accomplish great things because it will be distracted. You are vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.
A Chinese idiom says, “Birds die for food” (鳥爲食亡). Hunters use food to lure their prey to catch or kill them. Food is a significant obstacle to enlightenment. With the surplus of food today, our society has become dumber than ever before.
Interestingly, Jesus said,
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Mat 4:4).
When you stop digesting physical food, you begin to process spiritual nourishment from God. When you fast from physical food, you feast on spiritual food. That makes you stronger spiritually and happier mentally.
Don’t get me wrong; food is not the problem. The problem is the lack of balance between feasting and fasting. Most animals have a season of fasting. Just observe the birds around your neighborhood, and they live healthily and happily to the end of their lives.
Only modern human beings have lost the healthy habit of fasting because of the plenty of food in this century. The result is all kinds of diseases. Humans are not created to handle constant feasting. Lent is the time for you to make up your balance.
2. Overcome the Temptation of Fame
Another major temptation is the human desire for fame and attention. The Bible says,
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Mat 4:5-6).
We have seen famous people destroyed by their fame. I am sure you have seen many depending on your age. The desire for fame and attention can destroy our focus on fulfilling our divine calling. It is hard to stay humble when you become famous.
Long-term fasting can give you emotional peace and satisfaction that you don’t desire fame and attention, not even the hidden temptations. Many sources of wisdom literature have confirmed this truth.
3. Overcome the Temptation of Wealth
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” (Mat 4:8-10).
Many people have bowed down to worship anything that can make them rich. What is worship? When you put something at the top of your priority is equivalent to worship. There is nothing wrong with wealth as long as it is not your top priority.
With long-term fasting, you feel rich inside, and the devil cannot deter you from your mission with wealth.
We can summarize these three temptations as the ego test. It is our ego that makes us vulnerable to these temptations. The outcome of long-term fasting is the dissolution of the ego. It is our ego that prevents us from achieving our divine dreams.
So, I hope you will take advantage of this Lenten season to rediscover the lost art of fasting and raise your spiritual quotient. Let us all renew this ancient discipline that Jesus himself exemplified to enlighten this gloomy world.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.