Pastor Vlad Savchuk is not only my friend, but he’s a powerful minister and pastor of one of my favorite churches, HungryGen, out of Tri-Cities, Washington. Over the past years, he has emerged as one of the most important voices on fasting, and he has written a best-selling book called Fast Forward.
In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, “When you fast,” not if. Christ’s expectation of His followers to fast was so strong that He worded it “when” and not “if.” For many Christians, fasting represents the next level. If you’ve been praying, “God, what do I need to do differently,” I believe stepping into the discipline of fasting will help usher in your breakthrough. Fasting is a great place to start if you’re in a season of hardship and you feel like something needs to change or you need to increase your spiritual discipline.
I had the privilege of interviewing Pastor Vlad on the topic of fasting. This is our conversation.
Pastor Mike: We live in a society where intermittent fasting is a diet strategy. Different world religions, like Islam, fast as well. Can you break down the fundamentals of fasting? And what makes Christian fasting distinctly different?
A Definition of Christian Fasting
Pastor Vlad: Biblically speaking, fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual reasons. It’s not abstaining from TV, sports, or sex like some think. Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual reasons. In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to only fast one day a year, on the Day of Atonement. But, interestingly, God commanded Israel to feast for 7 days. So overall, God is not a fasting God, He’s a feasting God. Heaven is a party!
But because we live in the flesh and because of the fall, we still have bad stuff in us. We see food as a particular issue in many biblical accounts. Eve’s first temptation was food. Esau ate himself out of his inheritance. Coming out of Egypt, Israel’s first temptation was grumbling and complaining because they didn’t have water or food. Our Savior’s first temptation from the evil one was with food.
Breaking King Stomach
We are spiritual beings, and our spirit operates through our soul and eventually through our body. Our body, many times, can hold that resistance. However, many people have another king in their life – their stomachs. So when we fast, we break the grip of “King Stomach.”
Secondly, what happens is that instead of getting direction from the body, the soul begins to get direction from the Holy Spirit. That’s why fasting is challenging for so many people because they have an affair with food. Food, especially in Western countries, has become people’s best friend. The fridge has become a place of comfort instead of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And when we look at people who get drunk as their way of processing grief, pain, and suffering, I would say that we, as Christians are no less guilty than when we turn to Cheetos as our way of coping.
What fasting does is it resets our soul and indicates that our comfort is the Holy Spirit. Biblical fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual reasons to pursue God.
Pastor Mike: I love how you said fasting’s not always giving up television or social media. As a pastor, I’ve often seen people fast from those things because they wanted a break from them. There’s an element of fasting that’s sacrificial; there’s pain involved. Can you talk about what stepping into true spiritual discipline looks like?
Pastor Vlad: I’m reminded of the story of Daniel. Even though it’s used to describe Daniel’s fast, we don’t actually see a reference of Daniel’s fasting. Instead, we see him restrict his diet in Daniel chapter one and later in chapter 10, where he commits to three weeks of mourning. It’s interesting that he makes a decision to press into the Lord and restrict his diet. Though I wouldn’t call it a biblical fast, it’s still a significant way of sacrificing something.
Persevere In Your Fast
The Bible says that when the angel came, he said, “From that day that you made your mind to understand and humble yourself before God, I came.” So I always encourage people that to persevere in the fast, you must understand that the moment you decide to fast, God already takes notice of that and is already beginning to send an answer your way.
But sometimes, like in the story of Daniel, there are Princes of Persia. Sometimes spiritual resistance takes place during a fast. So Jesus’ fast was not a visitation of glory and angels. It was actually a lot of temptation and struggle. You will often deal with hunger pains in the first few days of a fast. Then, you deal with the mental battle of craving the rest of the fast. That has nothing to do with physical hunger. People who persevere in fasting develop mental resilience because most fasting has nothing to do with the physical, it has to do with the mental and spiritual.
So when you finish a fast, your mind is stronger in the Holy Spirit. And, of course, your body gets a lot healthier. So there are many benefits of fasting. And in my “Fast Forward” book, I include a health tip of what happens to your body when you’re fasting on day one, day two, day three, and so on, so it encourages people.
We don’t fast for physical reasons. It’s not a diet; it’s not starvation. But at the same time, we reap health benefits. So my resolution when I begin to fast, I make up my mind that I will persevere through whatever trials I endure and make it to the end of the fast (and I’m not a legalist, if I need to break it, I break it). My Savior on the cross said, “It is finished.” He didn’t say I quit. He didn’t quit when it was hard. Jesus is the author and the finisher of faith, and so many people have never finished anything. A fast is one of the places where you can break the stronghold of quitting when it’s hard and instead persevere. It has a domino effect on the other areas of your life.
The Reward Comes After
So when things get hard, and I get attacked during a fast, feel hungry, have difficulty sleeping, or experience joint pain, I remind myself that the reward of fasting usually comes after the fast, not during the fast. Jesus came out of a fast and returned in the power of the Holy Spirit. During a fast, he was tempted and tried. So if my fast is full of temptation, trials, and difficulty, I persevere, knowing this is where God led me, and I will reap the benefits afterward. Usually, the moments of trial, hardship, and headaches don’t last very long. If you persevere, you paralyze those resistances and experience the sweet presence of God, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, a renewal of your spiritual hunger, a breaking from certain strongholds and attacks from the enemy, and a breakthrough in your family, finances, and even ministry.
Pastor Mike: Some people say, “Well, I’m gonna fast because I want to hear the voice of God.” Is it that God is not speaking any other time, and you’re provoking God through the fast? Narrate for people what happens spiritually as they’re fasting.
Pastor Vlad: Fasting is a biblical definition of humility. Something significant happens when we fast. We humble ourselves before God in fasting, which strengthens prayer. So as we fast, we receive heightened sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. It renews our hunger.
When Prayer Meets Fasting
Jesus’ disciples couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy. When he came down the mountain, Jesus said, “How long shall I be with you, you unbelieving and perverse generation?” Now, Pastor Mike, unbelieving relates to having a weak connection to God. Perverse relates to having a strong connection to the world. And then he gives the solution to the disciples. He said, “This kind,” meaning this category of spiritual warfare, “goeth out but by prayer and fasting.” This issue will not go except by prayer, which is renewing your connection to God, and fasting, which is disconnecting from the world.
Fasting without prayer is a diet, but when prayer is coupled with fasting, you connect to God and disconnect from the world. That resets and shifts something in your spirit by giving you the power to overcome stubborn problems and issues.
Increasing Your Spiritual Weight
Now, God doesn’t get closer to us when we fast. He doesn’t love us more when we fast. In my book, I mentioned in one chapter that fasting increases your spiritual weight, but it does not increase your spiritual worth. Your worth to God is the same, but your weight can be different in the realm of the spirit. You can be heavy in the spirit, or you can be very light in the spirit.
So fasting makes me more aware of God’s closeness to me. It doesn’t bring Him close. What brought God close to me to live in my heart was Jesus’ blood, not me denying myself. So I become more conscious of the God who is near. I draw nearer in pursuit of Him and become more sensitive to and aware of Him.
During fasting, a lot of repentance and mourning take place. Jesus told His disciples, “When the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast.” I always tell people if you want to last, you gotta fast. If you want to not stray, you gotta pray.
Designed to Fast
So prayer and fasting go together to renew that spiritual connection to God and break things in the spirit realm. Then, we reap the benefit of fasting in our bodies. Our body is designed to fast. Think about it – when we wake up every morning, the meal that we have is called breakfast, which is actually breaking a fast. Your body is wired to fast. When my dog gets sick, he fasts. It helps him recover. And even physicians will tell you that when you’re going through sickness, you pull back from eating to give your body enough energy to attack that sickness. I heard a study from one doctor that says that, on average, a male has about 38 extra pounds on their body reserved for seasons of starvation. In the past, our ancestors starved so that 38 pounds could last them for about 68 days.
On average, most of us will enter into starvation mode on day 40. And so, most of us have plenty of stored energy in our bodies. When you fast, your body begins to consume that. It begins to kill off bad cells and renew itself. So we experience spiritual connection, mental clarity, and physical renewal.
Pastor Mike: Wow, that is so powerful. As you were talking, I was thinking about autophagy. After 48 hours of abstaining from food, your body will recycle waste cells, break them down, and then rebuild them into new cells. What does spiritual autophagy look like if that’s what’s happening to you physically and biologically? What if, during your fast, God could break some religion and some tradition in your life? What if God could break down some strongholds and remetabolize them into a spirit-led light during your fast?
I cannot emphasize enough how much Christians need to fast. We have been discipled in the local church to sit in a seat, listen to a preacher, sing some songs, and then return home. As a result, American Christianity looks nothing like first-century Christianity.
Right now, people reading this are inspired to fast. I want to disarm people from all of their excuses. I’m going to pretend I’m a congregation member from V1 Church or HungryGen and give you excuses so you can answer them.
Excuse #1- I have a medical condition that prohibits me from being able to fast. That’s why I always fast from social media or from movies. What do I do?
Pastor Vlad: I would first consult your doctor. Some medical conditions do not prohibit you from fasting. I’m not a doctor, so I cannot tell you which ones are those, so you need to consult your doctor. I had a fever for about four days before going on the fast I’m currently on. I’ve had a perfect excuse not to fast. However, I recovered faster from the fever by joining the fast. Suppose a full fast isn’t possible at your doctor’s direction. In that case, you might consider practicing a Daniel’s fast, restricting certain foods to seek God.
There should be no excuse to fast, even if you are battling sickness or taking medication. However, you can modify the fast and practice Daniel’s fast. God sees your heart and sees the sacrifice.
Pastor Mike: Okay, here’s another one.
Excuse #2 – I must work and perform at a high level. I can’t be grouchy or irritable. My job requires a lot of energy output in order to sustain my family, and if I’m fasting, I just can’t pull it off.
Pastor Vlad: The first few days will be challenging, but it gets easier physically after that. When I did my 40-day fast on water, right in the middle of it, I flew for 20 hours to a different time zone in a foreign nation. I got out of the plane, preached four times, got back on the plane, came back, preached again at HungryGen, and that was on the 23rd day, on water only.
My pastor worked in construction and fasted for 40 days. Over 12 months, two pastors on my team did four 21-day fasts on water. I know businessmen who fast, and many of my staff work high-capacity, very intensive jobs. So the first few days are a little harder. We encourage people to drink a lot of water. But this excuse that you’re going to die or not function well is usually given by people who have never fasted on water longer than 3 days.
Pastor Mike: You killed all my excuses right in a row! As you’ve talked to me today, you’ve given so much biblical proof to understand the importance of fasting. You have taken away all the excuses. And I know the reader is inspired to fast. Try a 24-hour, 48-hour, or 72-hour fast.
Consider incorporating regular weekly fasting in your life. For several years, I consistently fasted on Fridays. I did it because, typically, people get paid on Fridays, so they go out to eat and spend the most money. However, I wanted to do the opposite of the world’s system, so I did “Fast Fridays” for years.
Pastor Vlad, I cannot thank you enough for being with us here. Can you pray for the people reading this who are inspired to fast?
Pastor Vlad: As you’re pressing in and as the Lord is speaking to you, maybe you’ve been waiting for a sign from God. You just got your sign, so this is your confirmation. If you’ve been asking, “What’s lacking? How can I break through this spiritual stagnation? I’m not happy with where I’m at spiritually.” Join the biblical fast. Early Christians fasted twice a week, every Wednesday and every Friday. Jesus asks those who follow Him to deny themselves.
Our culture focuses on discovering yourself. Discipleship is about denying yourself. One of the best ways to do that is to make your body a living sacrifice. You’re not killing yourself; you’re just giving your body to the Lord. As you do so, God will begin to speak to you.
Let’s just pray right now.
Father, I ask you in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, who leads us to the cross but also leads us through the cross to resurrection. Lord, we believe for breakthrough in the areas of our lives where we are currently experiencing a breakdown. We believe for breakthroughs in the areas of our life where we experience famine, storms, and struggles.
In the name of Jesus, Lord, I pray that you will begin leading fathers, mothers, and even young adults to fast. Lord, I pray you’ll challenge them to accelerate their spiritual life. Not to wait for another conference, another meeting, another prophecy, another guest speaker, or another revival service, but to begin to build revival in their own life and
in their own home.
I bless them right now, God. I confirm your leading. I confirm you are speaking in their life. I pray for pastors and leaders that are watching this and who feel like they need to go to another level, but as they’re trying to take their ministry to another level, I know You’re taking them
to a deeper level in consecration, self-denial, and discipline.
We’re not in love with discipline, we’re in love with you, Lord, but we’re denying ourselves. We’re laying all that at the altar so your fire can fall on the altar. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Pastor Mike: Pastor Vlad, thank you so much for being with us today. I encourage everyone reading to pick up your book “Fast Forward” as they pursue fasting.
The “Fast Forward” book is available in four formats: hardcover, paperback, Audible, and on Kindle. People can also download it on Pastor Vlad’s website, free of charge.
🎧 You can check out Pastor Vlad’s YouTube channel here.
💻 Visit pastorvlad.org for more information on his ministry.
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