8 Benefits of Starting Your New Year with Fasting

Bible on a plate turned to Daniel

8 Benefits of Starting Your New Year with Fasting

As a teenager, my mom began fasting one lunch, once a week. Her small effort impacted the course of my life in a dramatic way. Through her example, I learned how “little is much” when God is involved (Proverbs 15:16).

A new year often causes us to feel pressure to make resolutions. Although new goals hold possibility, it can be challenging for some of us to carry them out. 

So if resolutions make us want to run the other way, why not consider starting off the New Year with fasting?

While the topic of fasting may cause some to panic at the thought of skipping meals for 3, 21, or even 40-days, why not instead, ask God to lead us in how to begin?

Fasting can be as simple as skipping one day of meals each week, or once a month. Or, just skipping a lunch one day a week, because no matter how insignificant our effort might feel at times, it has amazing potential. 

As a teenager, my mom began fasting one lunch, once a week. Her small effort impacted the course of my life in a dramatic way. Through her example, I learned how “little is much” when God is involved (Proverbs 15:16).

Below are eight benefits of starting our New Year off with fasting.

1. Fasting Fosters Health in Us

Jesus takes care to teach us about fasting (Matthew 6:16,17), and whenever God gives us instruction, we can be assured it will bring blessing to our lives.

Along with the spiritual benefits fasting brings, experts are discovering its physical benefits, too. John Hopkins Medicine reports how fasting may be beneficial to our health by boosting memory and cognitive skills, improving blood pressure and resting heart rates, and helping with tissue repair and recovery.

As well, healthline.com reports how studies indicate times of fasting may fight inflammation, delay aging, expand life expectancy, and possibly reduce the risk for diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Through fasting, God brings health to our body, soul, and spirit.

2. Fasting Brings Us Understanding

It’s easy to think with Bible heroes like Daniel that he always knew what God was trying to show him. But even he needed help in understanding a troubling vision from God. “I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding” (Daniel 8:27). 

In his distress, Daniel explains what he did next: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes prayed to the Lord my God and confessed” (Daniel 9:3).

In response, God sent the angel Gabriel with a message. “He instructed me and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision’” (Daniel 9:22,23).

Like Daniel, through fasting and prayer, we, too, can ask and receive understanding beyond our own comprehension. 

3. Fasting Helps Us Accomplish God’s Will 

Individuals in the Bible sought God in the same ways we do, like Moses. Although God moved through him in miraculous ways to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt, he also turned to fasting when he needed help in accomplishing God’s will.

Exodus 34:28 describes how during one of the most significant times in his life, Moses fasted. “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

4. Fasting Strengthens Us to Resist the Devil

Interestingly, food and temptation are often connected in biblical accounts concerning resisting the devil. Like Eve was tempted to sin by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6), Jesus was tempted to sin by turning stones into bread (Matthew 4:1-3).

Whereas Eve had plenty to eat and could have easily fasted from the taboo fruit, she didn’t resist temptation. Yet Jesus who was hungry and without food in the wilderness resisted temptation through fasting and obeying God’s word, and in turn, Jesus defeated the scheme of the evil one (Matthew 4:4).

As seen in both examples, fasting has the potential to help us resist temptation. As we learn to say no to eating during times of fasting, we build up our resistance to giving in to other human temptations.

Although it may not make sense to the natural body how not eating could be tied so tightly to resisting temptation, in the spiritual body, there is a connection, one tested over time from the beginning of humankind.

5. Fasting Brings Us Protection

Mark 1:13 describes how during Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness, He was kept safe amid the wild animals, along with angels watching over Him. “Well, He was Jesus!” we may think, but we, too, receive God’s protection during fasting. 

An Old Testament prophet, Ezra, found himself in an interesting and humbling situation. After God called him to relocate Jewish exiles in Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, he realized the journey back would be dangerous, lined with bandits and enemies eager to attack.

Because he had boldly declared to the king how, "the gracious hand of our God is over everyone who looks to Him," he realized he couldn't show a lack of faith in God by asking for the king’s horsemen’s and soldiers’ protection. 

So, instead, Ezra proclaimed a fast (Ezra 8:21,22), calling all exiles to humble themselves before God, asking for a safe journey. There he recorded: "So we fasted and petitioned our God concerning this matter, and He answered our prayer" (Ezra 8:23).

After safely arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra states, "The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way" (Ezra 8:31).

6. Fasting Helps Deliver Us from Evil

Biblical characters often turned to fasting when facing the evil occurring around them, like Moses did when confronting the Israelites’ sinfulness in the wilderness.

“Then once again I fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight and so arousing His anger” (Deuteronomy 9:18).

Likewise, once Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den by his scheming co-workers, idolatrous King Darius was deeply distressed telling Daniel, "Your God who you constantly serve will Himself deliver you" (Daniel 6:16). 

But Darius didn't stop with his pep talk to Daniel but spent the entire night fasting for his deliverance (Daniel 6:18). Rushing to the den the next morning, seeing Daniel alive and unharmed, transformed his entire kingdom.

As well, there is the story of Esther, a young Jewish woman who called a fast during a crucial time in history. Facing an evil political plot threatening to wipe out her people, she sought God's direction in addressing the situation. Through fasting and her obedience, all were saved (Esther 4:16).

Matthew 17:21 explains how there are some evils that are only conquered through prayer and fasting. When evil surrounds us and we don’t know what to do or where to turn, God invites us to seek Him for deliverance through fasting, which is more than just abstaining from food but also involves humbling one’s self before God. 

7. Fasting Brings Us God’s Mercy

Scripture reveals how even when the most wretched sinners turn away from evil and turn towards God with fasting, it moves His heart from judgment to mercy. 

Surprisingly, it happens with some of the most sinful characters in the Bible, such as King Ahab. (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) (1 Kings 21:25, 26)

Amazingly, when God’s Prophet Elijah warned Ahab of His anger and the calamity to come, instead of responding in rebellion and pride, Ahab tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted (1 Kings 21:27). 

By humbling himself before God, Ahab was spared disaster (1 Kings 21:28,29). 

As well, in Jonah 1, God sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh to preach against it because of its excessive wickedness before Him. In hearing of God’s coming judgment to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4), rather than lashing out in anger and disobedience, the whole city from the greatest to the least including the animals, fasted before God (Jonah 3:5-9).

In response, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). 

8. Fasting Empowers Us to Move Forward

As a physician, the Apostle Luke records some details not included in other Gospels, observing and making note of the difference in Jesus’ spiritual condition before and after His fast. 

He observes how Jesus entered the wilderness "full" of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) and left “in the power" of the Holy Spirit. “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14).

As Luke documented, fasting helps to empower us to move forward.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/eddiestock

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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