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THEN SHALL THEY FAST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, August 19, 2012

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:20).


I am going to speak on fasting and prayer tonight, but I am not going to ask you to fast and pray for America. I believe it is too late for that to do any good. In my heart I am convinced that there is no longer any use to fast and pray for our country. I now feel as Jeremiah did,

“Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry...I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12).

Fifty-five million American babies have been slaughtered, while the churches did nothing practical to stop the Abortion Holocaust. And now I am convinced it is too late to fast and pray for America. I believe that one judgment after another will fall on us, until we are broken, weakened, and destroyed as a world power.

“The Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath [who] burn their sons and their daughters in the fire...”
       (Jeremiah 7:29, 31).

The tiny bodies of fifty-five million babies have been burned in the incinerators of the abortionists. The churches did nothing. Now I believe God is saying,

“Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry...” (Jeremiah 14:11, 12).

I am convinced that America is judged and finished as a great power. In the next few years I believe that our way of life will become a thing of the past. Although I have loved America with all my heart and soul, God seems to say to me, “Pray not for this people...When they fast, I will not hear” (Jeremiah 14:11, 12). Too late! Too late! Forever too late! Too late to fast! Too late to pray! The nation is gone! That is what I feel in my heart.

But the churches are not gone! Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). No matter what famines, earthquakes, floods, disasters, false leaders and terrorists do to America, Hell itself will not prevail or overcome the church. Christ said so! It shall exist forever! The churches will be here, no matter what happens to our nation! “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I do not think the churches will go on as they are today. In the terrible days of judgment that lie ahead, I believe that hundreds of thousands of nominal Christians will desert the churches. Dr. Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today and author of The Battle for the Bible, said,

      The churches...are faltering. Most of them have moved steadily away from the faith of the apostles. Evangelism and missionary outreach have slackened...and church memberships have declined...We can expect the situation to worsen in the future...The end times will be characterized by great persecution of believers (Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., The Holy Spirit in the Latter Days, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, pp. 179, 180).

We don’t need to guess what will happen to the churches as judgment falls. All we have to do is read what happened to the churches in China when the Communists took over. Tens of thousands of Chinese church members turned away from Christianity as the persecution began. Only a small group of true Christians went through the fires of persecution between 1950 and 1980. The same thing will happen when judgment falls here in the West. Sunday-morning-only members will flee from their churches like rats leaving a sinking ship! Only the real Christians will remain, as they did in China.

But those who are real Christians can and should fast and pray for conversions even in these evil days. And it is for our local church that I call you to fast and pray tonight. Jesus said,

“The days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:20).

The Pharisees asked Jesus why His Disciples did not fast. Jesus called Himself “the bridegroom.” He said that His Disciples would not fast until He, the bridegroom, was taken back to Heaven, “and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:20).

“And then shall they fast in those days.” What days? The days following Jesus’ ascension back to Heaven. We are still living “in those days” right now! “Then shall they fast in those days.” Therefore Christians today should fast. By “fast” we mean to abstain from eating food, but continue drinking water. That is the usual way people fasted in Bible times.

Moses fasted. King David fasted. Elijah fasted, and so did Daniel. Christ fasted. After Christ ascended back to Heaven, the Apostles fasted. Hannah fasted in the Old Testament, and Anna fasted in the New Testament. Many great men in Christian history fasted, including Polycarp, who in A.D. 110 urged Christians to fast. Tertullian defended fasting in A.D. 210. The Great Reformers Luther and Calvin fasted regularly. So did John Knox. John Wesley fasted two days each week throughout his ministry. Wesley said to one of his followers,

Have you appointed any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace, and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.

Wesley was so convinced that fasting was necessary that he told all his preachers that they would have to fast every Wednesday and Friday if they wanted to work with him. Jonathan Edwards fasted for three days before he preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” When he preached that sermon, at the end of a three-day fast, the lost people in his church felt they were falling into Hell, and a revival broke out that swept throughout the American colonies. The great English preacher C. H. Spurgeon strongly urged his people to fast. All of the great evangelists were men who fasted and prayed. Dr. John R. Rice said,

The greatest saints of God throughout the Bible often fasted. Fasting is often connected with wholehearted prayer, with mourning, with repentance, with seeking deliverance from enemies or wisdom from above. Moses fasted forty days on Mount Sinai, and our Saviour fasted forty days in the wilderness. Joshua, David, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, the disciples of John the Baptist, Anna, the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, and others fasted and prayed. Saints of God got their prayers answered when they waited on God in fastings and prayer. Since Bible times, the greatest men of prayer have oftentimes fasted as well as prayed. A Christian is in good company when he fasts and prays...The Saviour not only fasted [Himself], but He taught His disciples to fast (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer – Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970 edition, p. 215).

Jesus said, “Then shall they fast.”

The Bible gives two reasons for fasting that are connected to soul winning. The first is to be heard by God. The second is to free those that are captives.

I. First, fasting makes our prayers more likely to be answered by God.

The prophet Isaiah said that correct fasting makes our prayers more powerful. After describing how to fast the prophet said, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer” (Isaiah 58:9). Fasting, as presented in Isaiah 58, is connected with drawing near to God and getting our prayers answered. Fasting focuses our minds and hearts on God, and He is ready to listen and answer the Christian who adds fasting to his prayers. God said through the prophet Joel,

“Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).

Andrew Murray said,

Fasting helps us to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, to sacrifice ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God (With Christ in the School of Prayer).

When Paul was fasting and praying, Jesus said to Ananias, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11). When God sees us fasting and praying like Paul, He will pay attention and say, “Behold, he prayeth.” Then we can expect to see far more answers to our prayers.

We are moving into the Fall. It is only a few weeks away. Literally hundreds of young people will come into our church in the next few weeks, during our Fall harvest. But how many of them will stay? How many of them will still be here at Christmas? If things go by as they usually do, only a small handful of them will remain and become part of our church.

But I believe that God wants to give us far more of them. Yet He is waiting for us to get serious enough in our prayers to also fast for the salvation of those we bring in. As God sees us fast when we pray for them, He will pay special attention to our prayers. He will say of those who fast when they pray, “Behold, he prayeth.”

The price of revival, the cost of soul winning,
   The long hours of praying, the burden, the tears;
The pleading with sinners though lonely, a stranger,
   Is repaid at the reaping up there.
Reaping, heavenly reaping!
   For souls won down here.
[The price of revival, the cost of soul winning
   Is repaid at the reaping up there!]
(“The Price of Revival” by John R. Rice, D.D., 1895-1980).

Someone has said, “We live in a culture that is so resistant to God that I believe today’s Christians need the weapons of fasting and prayer just to survive.” I agree with that. And we certainly aren’t going to get many young people to stay in our church this Fall if we don’t use this weapon God has given us – the weapon of fasting and prayer! You need to understand that fasting takes hold of the power of God – the only power that can bring lost young people into our church and convert them! Fasting is one of the weapons of spiritual warfare, as Paul said,

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (II Corinthians 10:4).

Fasting is one of the greatest weapons we have to get young people into our church and see them saved! Our greatest weapons in the battle for lost souls are intense prayer and fasting!

II. Second, fasting is blest of God in setting free those that are captives.

Through the prophet Isaiah God said,

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

This is the fast which God approves. Fasting can be used of God to loose the bands, the chains, of wickedness. Fasting can be used of God to undo heavy burdens, to let those oppressed by Satan go free, and to break every demonic yoke.

Never forget that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against...spiritual wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12). The war we are in for the souls of the lost is a battle with Satan and his demons. Never forget that every lost person we bring to church is, in some sense, under demonic influence, for Satan is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Some of these demons are so strong that nothing but fasting and prayer can overcome them. You can be sure that Jesus said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). I know that the modern translations leave out “and fasting.” I believe that those modern translators were tricked by Satan himself to leave out “and fasting.” They base their translations on two old manuscripts from Alexandria, where the copyists were influenced by Gnosticism and deliberately left out “and fasting” because they were heretics who didn’t believe in fasting. But the words “and fasting” are in the Chinese translation because the Chinese know about demons. The Christians in China have been in hand-to-hand conflict with Satan and his demons for generations. We in the West would do well to follow the example of the Chinese Christians who know that “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Therefore I am asking you to join me in fasting and prayer next Saturday – as we pray for God to deliver many young people from Satan, among those we bring to church this Fall. I am asking you to fast, with only water if possible, all day Saturday, until we come to church and pray for the new people on Saturday evening. We will give you a light supper after we pray on Saturday evening. If you have diabetes, or some other medical problem, please ask your doctor before you join us in this day of fasting.

As you fast next Saturday, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you are used to drinking coffee or tea, you should probably continue drinking the usual amounts of those, because it may give you a headache to stop them abruptly. If you cannot fast with water only, perhaps you could fast by taking tomato juice, or some other juice, as a partial fast.

Be sure to spend time in prayer and Bible reading during the day on Saturday. Pray by name for as many new, unsaved people as you can. If you are planning to join us in this day of fasting, please remember these words from Dr. Elmer L. Towns of Liberty University,

      Fasting to God will not hurt any more than dieting to get thinner. If you can cut back in your eating just to lose weight, you can cut back on food, in a reasonable way, to seek God’s presence and get an answer to your prayers (Elmer L. Towns, D.D., The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting, Regal Publications, 2001, pp. 11, 12).

Now, if you are planning to spend next Saturday fasting for the lost to come in to our church and be saved, please come here in front of the pulpit now, and Dr. Kreighton Chan will pray for God to help you fast and pray next Saturday (prayer). You may be seated.

One more thing – if you are not yet a born again Christian I want you to understand that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sin and save you from judgment. Jesus rose from the dead and went back to Heaven, where He is praying for you now. Come to Jesus by faith and He will save you for all time, and for all eternity. And be sure to come back here next Sunday. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 2:18-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Price of Revival” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

THEN SHALL THEY FAST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:20).

(Jeremiah 14:11-12; 7:29, 31; Matthew 16:18)

I.   First, fasting makes our prayers more likely to be answered by God,
Isaiah 58:9; Joel 2:12; Acts 9:11; II Corinthians 10:4.

II.  Second, fasting is blest of God in setting free those that are captives,
Isaiah 58:6; Ephesians 6:12; 2:2; Mark 9:29.