Fast from Judging

By Francis Frangipane
(En EspaƱol)

There are many types of fasts. If you have ever gone on an extended fast, you know it can be a life-changing experience. The king of Nineveh along with the nobles and all the people of his nation fasted completely from food and water. The Lord heard the sincerity in their repentance and spared their nation, making them an example of how prayer, coupled with fasting, touched the heart of God (Jonah 3; Luke 11:32).

A fast can be a powerful tool to help stimulate revival or, conversely, it can degrade into a religious exercise that has almost no spiritual significance. The Pharisees fasted twice a week but did so to be seen of men. Their fast became a thing of religious pride. It was completely without spiritual value.

Examples of True FastsAt its essence, the purpose of a fast is to help us reach our spiritual destination faster, hence the name fast. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). The goal of our hunger is for righteousness to prevail, either in us personally or in our family, church, city or nation. Fasting takes us there faster.

Yet we must not allow our fast to become a form of self-inflicted punishment. Fasting is not about "severe treatment of the body" (Col. 2:20-23). In truth, a fast is a gift of grace -- an opportunity to engage the Lord in an extended time of desire. During the time you would have nourished your body, nourish yourself spiritually instead. Draw closer to the Lord. Read the Word of God, memorize Scriptures, or pray for yourself and others.

Isaiah 58 tells us that a fast can also be a time to show God's love to others. The Lord says,

"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him?" ---Isaiah 58:6-7

Therefore, when you are fasting from food, consider also ways to help the disadvantaged and hurting. You might even devote your food money to a relief agency who gives care to suffering people in destitute places.

The Intercessor's Fast

From our study, we see that a fast can be a genuine form of seeking God, or it can be a shallow display of self-righteousness. The fast itself can be a denial of food or a specific food group, such as meats or desserts, like Daniel's fast (Dan. 1:12; 10: 2-3). Or it can be a denial of self, where we give ourselves to helping others less fortunate than ourselves (Isa. 58).

One aspect of the Isaiah 58 fast is seen in verse 9, which reads, "Remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness." This aspect of life, "the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness," sadly, has become a normal part of our American culture. Self-righteous judging, fault-finding, loveless criticisms and slander are all things that many Christians do without conscience or regret. If, however, we remove these things from our lives and give ourselves to a walk of love, the results are profound:

"Then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell."
---Isaiah 58:10-12


Thus, I want to introduce a new concept: the fast from judging. When I have mentioned this type of fast to others, it is interesting to watch the reactions of some. "If we fast from judging, what will we think about?" they query. I am not saying we should fast from thinking. No, I am saying only this: After we have thought about some issue of life, fast from letting our concluding thoughts be those of judgment. Rather, let our thoughts end in sincere prayer for mercy, redemption and forgiveness.

You see, the instinct to judge and criticize is a curse upon the church, and it brings death upon us as individuals. A curse? Death? Yes, every time we judge we are simultaneously judged by God, and each time we condemn another we ourselves are condemned (Matt. 7:1-2; Luke 6:37).

Many Christians will pray, engage in spiritual warfare, and rebuke the devil, yet often the enemy they are fighting is not the devil. It is the harvest of what they have sown with their own words and attitudes! What is happening to us is consequential, as Jesus said, "by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:2).

When we judge and criticize, we position ourselves under judgment. You see, we are constantly sowing and harvesting life according to our own attitudes.

When I say "fast from judging," I do not mean we should abandon discernment. No. But judging people is not discernment. When we see something wrong, instead of only turning critical, we must learn to pray for mercy for that situation. We may still see what is wrong, but now we are harnessing our energies and seeking to redeem what is wrong by the power of Christ's love.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7). When we resist the impulse to judge or condemn and instead pray for mercy, an amazing thing happens: fresh mercy opens before us. You see, in every moment of every day there are two paths in front of us: one leads to increased mercy in our lives while the other leads to a life of obstacles and difficulties. How do we receive more mercy? The key to a life blessed by God's mercy is to give mercy to those around us (Matt. 18:21-35).

There are Christians I know who have not made spiritual progress for years. They attend church and they tithe, yet they maintain a self-righteous, judgmental attitude. They always have something negative to say about others. As such, they position themselves under God's judgment. Their capacity to receive divine mercy is closed because they do not show mercy toward others.

James wrote: "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Let me repeat this sobering verse again: "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy."

Are you pondering why your version of Christianity doesn't quite feel like the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10? Perhaps it is because you are too judgmental. Let us, therefore, discern "what spirit" we are of (Luke 9:51-56). Let us remember that mercy triumphs over judgment. If we strive to be merciful, God promises He will respond to us as we have responded to others. Finally, let's ponder the next season of change. Perhaps it is time to embrace the mercy fast and see what changes occur when we fast from judging.


Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.