Fasting: 4 Dangerous Pitfalls (And how to avoid them)

By prayer and fasting, believers may seek God in a deeper way and win spiritual victories otherwise impossible (Matthew 17:21, Isaiah 58:6). While fasting, there are dangerous pitfalls every believer must beware of...

Fasting - dangers to beware of As with any good gift from God, Satan will counterfeit that gift and try to use it against us. This is true with prayer and fasting.

If you fall to these dangerous fasting pitfalls, you may end up worse off and further from God after fasting than you were before fasting. I hope this article will help you avoid these pitfalls in fasting...

1. The Pitfall of Wrong Motivation in Fasting

Why we fast is more important than the fasting itself.

Jesus warned us that hypocrites fast to be seen of men (Matthew 6:16).

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." - Matthew 6:16

Here's a good motivation check:

  1. Are you fasting to try to get God to do what you want him to, even if it's not His timing?
  2. Are you fasting to make up for gross inconsistencies in Christian walk (i.e. occasional fasting as a substitute for daily prayer and a walk with God, or to counter-balance some harbored besetting sin)?
  3. Are you fasting to be seen of men?
  4. Are you fasting so people will think you are spiritual?

If the answer to any of these is "yes" then it's time to check your motivation. The right motivation for fasting is fasting so we can draw near to God and intercede for others.

2. The Pitfall of Pride in Fasting

Biblical fasting should humble you, not puff you up with pride. If you are focusing on self, your focus is wrong.

Our focus should be fixed on drawing nearer to God and interceding for others.

After his forty day fast, Moses was oblivious that his face was glowing (Exodus 34:29). He was so caught up in the glory of God, he wasn't very conscious of himself.

Here's a good pride check:

  1. Do I look down on others who are not fasting?
  2. Do I think I'm better than a believer who isn't fasting?
  3. Do I get a thrill from people knowing that I'm fasting?
  4. Do I become unapproachable and condescending toward believers who aren't fasting?

How to avoid the pitfall of pride in fasting:

  1. Focus on God, and pride will die a natural death. When you're focused on God, you will see how wicked your heart really is, how weak you are, and badly you need God's help.
  2. Keep short accounts and checks - If you feel what you think to be a sudden "righteous anger" it's most likely fleshly or satanic in origin, and not of God. The Lord Jesus manifest a righteous anger but few times during his earthly ministry.

I had a friend who was fasting. Someone told him, "You think you're more spiritual than me because you fast." My friend replied,

"No, if anything I am less spiritual than you, and that's why I need to fast."

That is the right attitude to have.

3. The Pitfall of Asceticism in Fasting

If you think you're earning something from God or that you're more spiritual because you've fasted, you're falling to asceticism.

Asceticism is a dangerous false teaching that basically says "All matter is evil, therefore men can become more spiritual by punishing the physical body."

Extreme asceticism can be seen in monks who practiced painful self-punishment, thinking they were becoming more spiritual because of it. There's not room in this article to expound on asceticism, but it is antichrist and anti-gospel to the core.

Believers cannot become more spiritual by punishing the body. However, believers can become more spiritual by knowing Christ, who was punished on the cross for their sins! Fasting is an excellent way for a believer to get his focus off this world and back on Christ who "...was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." - Romans 4:25

Here are some simple tests against the pitfall of asceticism:

  1. Does your satisfaction come from fasting or from God? Our satisfaction should come from knowing more of God in His glory and in helping others know Him.
  2. Do you feel as though you have accomplished something spiritual when you fast, even if you're not really seeking God?

Remember, there is not one command in the New Testament for Christians to fast. Ascetics think their fasting earns them points with God. Maybe that is one reason God didn't command fasting in the New Testament. Jesus expected his disciples to fast, but He never commanded them to fast. (Matthew 9:15, Matthew 6:16)

4. The Pitfall of Guilt in Fasting

If your fasting is driven by guilt, you're on the wrong path.

A believer's fasting should be motivated by a spiritual hunger to better know God and to make Him known; not by guilt.

If you start an extended fast and can't finish it, then break the fast, guilt free. Ask God to help you go further next time.

Yes. Long for a deeper experience with God next time you fast, but don't wallow in guilt because you didn't finish your last fast. You haven't disobeyed God, because as a New Testament believer, He has not commanded you to fast anyway. Give thanks to God that He's given you a deeper desire for Him, or you wouldn't be fasting in the first place!

If you've never fasted the wrong way, you've probably never fasted

If you've fallen into some or all of these pitfalls, it shows that you're trying. Anyone who has done much fasting has fallen into at least one, or maybe all of these pitfalls.

"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." - Micah 7:8

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