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THEN SHALL THEY FAST

(SERMON NUMBER 4 ON REVIVAL)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, August 10, 2014

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Luke 5:35).


Jesus called Matthew to be His Disciple.  Then Matthew made a great feast in his own house. “Many publicans and sinners came” and sat down at the feast with Jesus (cf. Matthew 9:10). The Pharisees saw it and asked why Jesus ate with such bad people. Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). He meant He did not come to call those who thought they were righteous. He came to call those who knew they were sinners.

The disciples of John the Baptist came to the feast to question Jesus. They asked Him why they, and the Pharisees, often fasted - but His own Disciples did not fast. Jesus said,

“Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Luke 5:34-35).

Jesus meant that it was not suitable for His Disciples to fast – because He was still there with them. He called Himself “the bridegroom” and compared the feast to a Jewish wedding. But Jesus said that He would soon be “taken away from them” (Luke 5:35). He meant that He would ascend back up to Heaven – and then they would fast.

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Luke 5:35).

Now, I want you to focus on those words of Christ,

“and then shall they fast in those days” (Luke 5:35).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

Their time of suffering, of waiting for spiritual power and their persecution would come after [Jesus] was taken away, so they would fast then. [The words “then shall they fast”] indicate that the disciples must have fasted during the time of tarrying before Pentecost just after Jesus was taken away (Acts 1:12-14). Paul fasted likewise, praying for the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 9:9, 11, 17). Later Barnabas, Paul and other preachers and teachers fasted as they prayed and waited before God, Acts 13:1-3 (John R. Rice, D.D., King of the Jews, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980 edition, p. 144).

The Bible condemns hypocritical fasting, but it never condemns sincere fasting. The Bible plainly tells us that Christ Himself fasted in the wilderness near the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:1, 2). All three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record Jesus’ words to us, “And then shall they fast in those days.” We are still living “in those days” – for that is Christ’s instruction for us in this present dispensation – “in those days” in which we are still living. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Today fasting has real value...Fasting should be done with the idea that we are prostrating ourselves before God because we are in need of His mercy and His help” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 53; note on Matthew 9:15).

Spurgeon said, “Prayer and fasting have great power” (“The Secret of Failure”). I know that is true. In the first revival I saw, people forgot to eat, they were so caught up in prayer. Hundreds of people were converted over a three-year period. In the third revival I saw, the preacher was compelled to fast and pray all day before God sent revival in the Sunday evening service. About 500 people were converted, beginning that night and continuing for about three months. I know by personal experience that Spurgeon was right when he said, “Prayer and fasting have great power.” But Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “This whole subject [of fasting] seems to have dropped right out of our lives, and right out of our whole Christian thinking” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Eerdmans, 1987, p. 39). Dr. John R. Rice said, “Fasting is such a lost art, so little practiced, so little taught, that we need to consider...what is the meaning of fasting” (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer – Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970 edition, p. 216). Here are some of the things Dr. Rice said about fasting.

1.  Fasting means putting God first. There are times when we should turn our backs upon everything else in the world and seek the face of God. Such times should be times of fasting and prayer.

2.  Fasting means giving the whole heart to prayer and waiting upon God. So fasting is really putting God first when one prays, wanting God more than one wants food.

3.  Fasting means persistence in prayer. There is no point in fasting as a matter of self-punishment, if we do not pray. Fasting should be accompanied by persistent, fervent prayer.

4.  Fasting shows a person’s sincerity and confidence that God will answer. Prayer is often a shallow and insincere thing. That is one reason many prayers are not answered. Fasting shows God that we are very serious about getting Him to answer us (ibid., pp. 218-220).


Then Dr. Rice listed several things we can get from God by fasting and prayer (ibid., pp. 220-227).

1.  Help in a time of trouble often comes from fasting and prayer. A time of trouble is a good time to pray. And if the trouble is really bad, then it is a good time to fast as well as pray.

2.  We should sometimes fast and pray to find out what is wrong, what displeases God.

3.  Fasting and prayer often lead to victory over sin. In the first revival I saw, young people who were seeking to please God, even confessing their sins openly to each other. That sometimes happens in revival. Great victory over sin came to them, as we fasted and prayed.

4.  Fasting and prayer helps us intercede for others. If you are praying for others to be saved, pray specifically for one person at a time, not just a general prayer, “Oh, God save someone.” Fast and pray for the lost by name. Do you want to pray for someone? Then fast and pray for that person until the answer comes from God! An old song says it well,

Did you keep on praying Till the answer came?
There’s a promise true For your faith to claim;
At the place of prayer The Lord waits for you,
Did you meet Him there, Did you pray it through?
Did you pray till the answer came?
Did you plead in the Saviour’s name?
Did you pray it through till God answered you,
Did you pray till the answer came?
   (“Have You Prayed It Through?” by Rev. William C. Poole, 1875-1949;
      altered by the Pastor).

When I was first saved, in the early 1960s, I read John Wesley’s Journal nearly every day. It’s like reading the Book of Acts. It tells of the great revival called “The First Great Awakening.” I was just a boy, about 22 years old. I didn’t know there had been no revivals like that for a hundred years. I thought, “If it happened like that in Mr. Wesley’s day, God can do it now!” My ignorance kept me from doubting that God could send a revival to the Chinese church where I was a member. I fasted and prayed for God to send revival. I prayed for revival every Wednesday night in prayer meeting, before the whole congregation. One time I was told by Murphy Lum to ask God’s blessing on the food before a banquet meal. I stood up and prayed for about ten minutes for revival! I sat down without remembering to pray for the food! I must have made a nuisance out of myself, praying for revival all the time! Some people said, “Well, he’s just a boy. He’ll get over it!” But one morning, at camp, while I was still asleep, God answered me! I will never forget the mighty revival that shook that church, with hundreds of young Chinese people coming in and getting saved.

Over the years I forgot how I had prayed. But one day Dr. Lum said to me, “Bob, do you remember how you prayed all the time for revival back in the early 1960s?” Then I did remember. Dr. Lum said, “Bob, you got what you asked for!” Tears came to my eyes when I realized, for the first time, that I had “prayed through” for that outpouring of the Spirit of God!

Another time, there were several young men at the seminary praying in my dorm room for God to either convert the unbelieving professors or remove them. Many of us were fasting and praying for that to happen. The last time that prayer meeting was held, over 100 students crammed into my room, with many in the hall, and others outside the window. About 35 years went by, and I forgot how we fasted and prayed. Then one day I found out that the very last liberal professor was gone – and every one of the new professors believed the Bible, and most of them were even Reformed! The young men who came to my room to pray every week had prayed through! And God answered our prayers above and beyond what we had ever expected!

Did you pray till the answer came?
Did you plead in the Saviour’s name?
Did you pray it through till God answered you,
Did you pray till the answer came?

I had waited for many long years for a wife. I was now over forty years old. There was nobody I knew who could be a pastor’s wife. So I prayed on and on for a wife. And yes, I even fasted and prayed! Then one night I looked across the room and saw Ileana. And God seemed to say, “That’s the one you prayed for!” Some people said, “You’re not going to marry that young girl, are you?” But I did. And she has been a perfect pastor’s wife – absolutely perfect! I had prayed through – and God had answered.

I’ll tell you three more. Nobody thought my mother would get saved. I didn’t even think she would. I kept praying for her, but it seemed hopeless. Yet I prayed on and on. I often fasted and prayed for Mother to be converted. She was now going to be 80 years old, and didn’t seem even one bit closer to being saved. Ileana and I were in New York, where I was preaching in some special meetings. I remember exactly where I was. I was fasting and praying for the service that night. At one point, I started to pray for my mother to be saved. All of a sudden God spoke to me. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it almost seemed like one. God said to me, “Your mother will be saved now.” With tears streaming down my face, I phoned Dr. Cagan here in Los Angeles. I said, “Doctor, will you go over and lead my mother to Christ?” He said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” – words like that – because Mother got mad at him when he had spoken to her before. I said, “Go on Doc, God just told me she will get saved now.” To make a long story short, he drove over to see my mother and quite easily led her to Christ! My boys can tell you that it changed her life completely! She was here in church with me every night, right to the end of her life! I had prayed through for my mother! By the grace of God, I had prayed till the answer came!

Here’s one more. By the way, all of these were times of prayer and fasting. Yes, fasting was very prominent in all of them! When my wife was pregnant, we had a very slovenly, bad doctor. He later lost his license to practice medicine. We went for him to do an ultrasound to look at the baby. When the ultrasound came back, the doctor made us sit down and told us the baby was badly deformed. But he would take another picture and give us the final answer on Monday. We went home that Friday afternoon and I felt almost hysterical at the thought of a badly deformed baby. But, out of habit, I fasted and prayed that it would not be true. That night God came to me in a dream. This is absolutely true, ask my wife! God came to me in a dream and said, “Robert, your wife is going to have twins – and that confused the doctor.” When we woke up the next morning, I told Ileana, “Don’t worry. You are going to have twins.” On Monday we went back, and the doctor told us to sit down again. I said, “I don’t need to sit down. She is going to have twins.” He said, “How did you know?” I said, “God told me in a dream last Friday night.” So, these two big sons were given to us, whole and healthy, in answer to prayer.

Here is the last one. I could give so many more, but we only have time for this. It was the last night of a big Bible conference back east. The church was packed, and some of the most famous preachers in the world were there. The pastor had asked me to give the final sermon on Sunday night. All I had with me was a simple evangelistic sermon. That morning I asked a young man who was a member of that church what he thought I should preach that night. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t preach an evangelistic sermon. The pastor preaches evangelistic sermons every Sunday, and all the people that come tonight will already be saved. So whatever you do, do not preach a salvation message tonight!”

I went back to our motel and told Ileana to take the boys out somewhere so I could spend the afternoon alone. All I had with me was a very simple evangelistic sermon. I paced the floor. I sweat. The Devil told me that I would make a fool out of myself in front of all those famous preachers. I paced back and forth. Needless to say I was fasting! I tried to prepare another sermon, but I couldn’t. It seemed clear that I had to preach that simple little evangelistic sermon. So I prayed for God to draw two or three people to come “forward.” I said, “Please, God, don’t let me be embarrassed in front of all those big preachers!” Then God seemed to say, “Are you preaching for them, or for me?” So I said, “God, I will preach for you, not them. I don’t care if I make a complete fool of myself, I will preach for you alone.”

About that time Ileana and the boys got back. I was still trembling with anxiety as we got to the church. I trembled and sweat as the hymns were sung. Then the pastor introduced me, and suddenly I was as calm as if I had been in my own church! I preached that sermon with all the force that was in me.

To make a long story short, about 75 people came forward to be saved that night, including the pastor’s own son – who was a lost man trying to be a preacher – and an old man in overalls, who crawled to the front of the church on his hands and knees crying out, “I’m lost! I’m lost! I’m lost!” Three teenage girls got up to sing as a trio. They broke into tears and confessed that they, too, were lost. That evening service went on until nearly 11:00 PM. No one moved. They sensed this was something unusual. Dr. Ian Paisley’s son told my wife and boys, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” He is the son of a world famous preacher. Revival had come to that church. More than 500 people were saved and joined the church in the next few weeks.

The Devil had spoken through that young man who had said, “Whatever you do, don’t preach an evangelistic sermon.” But God had overruled the Devil and had sent revival in answer to my prayers that afternoon, as I fasted and sought for God’s message.

Dear friends, we can have revival. It is possible. God can do in a few minutes what we haven’t been able to do in years! Take the manuscript of this sermon home! Read it several times next week. It will increase your faith! Join us for another day of fasting and prayer next Saturday. Pray and fast for God to come down among us and exalt His holy name!

Jesus died on the Cross to pay the full penalty for your sin! He shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin! He rose bodily from the dead to give you life! Trust Jesus by faith and He will save you – for all time and all eternity! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 9:10-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Have You Prayed It Through?” (by Rev. William C. Poole, 1875-1949;
altered by the Pastor).