Of Backsliding

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? 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 58:3-6

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
~ Matthew 6:16-18

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
~ Psalm 35:13

When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
~ Psalm 69:10

In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
~ 2 Corinthians 6:5

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:27

And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
~ 2 Samuel 15-18

Fasting And Backsliding, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following contains an excerpt from his forty addresses on “Only A Prayer Meeting”.

Dear Friends, I asked you specially to pray, just now, for those who are backsliding, for those who are declining by little and little from the ways of God, that eternal mercy may stop them, and bring them to a better and happier condition.

You have noticed in the papers, lately, an account of a fasting man; and I am afraid there are some people who are doing spiritually what that foolish fellow is trying to do physically; he is seeking to find out how long he can fast; I think he is going to see whether he can live for forty days without eating I do not recommend any of you to follow his example; and it strikes me that, if I did, you would not be likely to try it; there are not sufficient fools in the world to make such an experiment as that practicable on a very large scale. God has made it a law of our being that we should eat in order to live; but this stupid man means to ascertain how long he can violate that law, and still live.

I have known some professing Christians who seemed to be trying to see how long they could live without eating spiritually. Prayer is neglected, the reading of the Scriptures is forgotten, attendance upon the means of grace is very much slackened; and as for coming out to a week-night service, that is given up altogether. If they are not quite going without all spiritual food, yet they are trying to find out on how little they can exist. If they try the experiment long enough, they will be like a valuable horse that a Frenchman had, which managed to live on next to nothing. He had at last brought the poor creature’s allowance down to one straw a day, and then the experiment failed, for the animal died. Some professors have got down to one service on the Sunday as their spiritual food for the whole week, and we have not been greatly surprised when their poor form of religion has died altogether. They tried how little their souls could live upon, and there is an awful risk in such an experiment as that.

Now, first of all, the man who tries to live without food denies himself a natural pleasure. Whatever may be said about eating for the nourishment of the body, this is certainly true concerning spiritual food; for, to feed upon the Word is a great delight to the heart, to feed upon Christ is a heavenly banquet. You felt it to be so once, did you not? Then, you must be out of health if you do not enjoy your spiritual food now. If you cannot eat, you take it as a sure token that there is something wrong with you. The psalmist speaks of ” fools ” whose ” soul abhorreth all manner of meat;” and he significantly adds, ” and they draw near unto the gates of death.” God grant that we may not be such fools in a spiritual sense!

We are not surprised to learn that the fasting man is gradually losing weight. That might not be so great a calamity to anyone who is overburdened with flesh as I am, but it is a serious thing for most people to be losing weight; and if you do not have spiritual food, you will certainly lose weight in many ways. You will lose weight of moral character; you will lose weight of influence; you will lose the weight of solidity and restfulness of mind; you will lose power in prayer; you will lose force in every direction; and, if you do not actually die, you will get to be a living skeleton.

I know some professors who, if they are Christians at all, are nothing but skeletons; they are bony kind of people, very bad to run against, for they bore holes in you. The moment you come into contact with them, they begin to bore you about modes of worship, or about the Second Advent, or about high Calvinism, or about low Arminianism, or anything else which is their special craze. They have lost weight, they have lost enjoyment, they have lost all pleasure in religion, and they become uncomfortable people to associate with, for they are very apt to make others as miserable as they are themselves.

That fasting man is also losing strength. He has no vigour, he could not run up a hill, he can do very little now; and, soon, he will not be able to do anything at all if his foolish experiment be continued. As for the man who does not feed spiritually, what can he do? What can be done by those professors who do not take spiritual food? Go and get a number of consumptives from Brompton Hospital, and say to them, ” Come along, you poor weak-kneed creatures, we are going to make a railway cutting. Here are the planks, and the picks, and the shovels; so set to work, and get the cutting made as fast as you can.” They stand still, or lie about on the ground, and you say to them, ” Why do you not get to work? ” They cannot do it, poor things! One of them tries to lift his pick, but it is as much as he can do simply to lift it; he could never use such a tool as that. Another takes hold of his spade, and puts his foot on it, but there is no force in him; so we say to the whole lot of them, ” You had better go back to the hospital.” Now bring us a dozen stalwart navvies, tell them what you want done, give them the picks, and the shovels, and the planks; see there, they seem to walk through the hill, they have tunnelled it as if they had simply threaded a needle! So, let a man have spiritual force through feeding on the wondrous bread that Jesus Christ gives to our souls, and all things are possible to him; but let him go without his spiritual meat, and then what is there that he can accomplish?