Some time ago I wanted to do a search in the Epistles (New Testament letters) to see all the times it talked about fasting (from food). So I opened up my Bible program and searched for the word ‘Fast’ to see all the times it came up – what are all the things God said to the first disciples in the new covenant about fasting?
What I saw in the search results on the word “Fast” turned up a big surprise for me.
In the epistles, the New Testament letters to the early disciples, I didn’t find any instructions about fasting from food, how to do it, when to do it, etc – but it turned up a whole lot of results on two phrases (that basically mean the same thing) that contained the word “Fast”: “be steadfast”, and “hold fast”!
Wow! To me this was a revelation – that God’s emphasis to persevere (hold fast) is so critical. That’s what He was emphasizing to the early disciples. And it was like God directly speaking to me too – what did He want me to emphasize on. It wasn’t ‘fasting logistics’, but ‘holding fast’ to what I have!
A parent will emphasize the most important things the most. For example, he or she will teach a child both to respect adults, and also to tuck in his bed in the morning. Both are good things, but one is a lot more important than the other. Respecting adults should be talked about a lot more than tucking in sheets! And correction of a disobedience there should be dealt with a lot more sternly than if a child doesn’t tuck in his bed sheets.
I’ve seen that in the same way, I don’t only need good Bible knowledge, I need to know what God’s emphasis is for me, what does He want me to prioritize and focus on over other things. It’s not just knowledge, but wisdom. And I believe I can see what God’s emphasis for me is by how much He talks about something in His Word. God did not write the Scriptures through men aimlessly, random wandering thoughts. The One who knows the exact number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7) knew exactly how many times each word and phrase would come up in all of the Bible! It wasn’t by coincidence that the Lord mentions “Hold fast” and “Be steadfast” over and over again across the epistles.
And Jesus actually used the phrase first, a long time before the rest of the New Testament was written:
Jesus said, Luke 8:15 "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
Jesus was the first one Who talked about it when He said that the Christians who bear fruit are the ones who hear the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
If I were to paraphrase it, I think we can say it plainly: the way to bear fruit (to become like Jesus and walk with God) is to hear God’s Word, and then to keep on obeying it, day after day, every day, for the rest of our life, however long we may live on this earth. As long as today is still called ‘Today”!
In our church we’ve often quoted Hebrews 3:13, emphasizing encouraging one another, which is our protection from becoming hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
But what is the verse after it?
Hebrews 3:14 “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end”
To me, this tells me one of the best ways to encourage myself and someone else, and be protected from sin: the exhortation must be emphasized to ‘hold fast’, to be steadfast, to persevere everyday, to not give up, to take one step at a time.
I remember our Brother Sandeep shared years ago – the coach of a marathon runner doesn’t yell to the runner, “PUSH IT!” he says: “One step at a time.”
The fact that fasting (from food) shows up so little in the Bible, and “holding fast” does show up frequently speaks to me that the Master Encourager wants to cheer me on in my marathon – and He’s not focusing on telling me about little details of my running form (though they’re important and He will speak them to me at the right time here and there). He’s mostly saying ‘Hold fast’ – don’t get overwhelmed by the length of the run. Have endurance by making up your mind that you won’t give up, and then after that just take the next step. I've noticed even in matters of earthly endurance (like running a long distance) that the encouragement that helps me the most is - commit to finishing. As long as I'm able, I'll keep running until I reach the end, no matter how many times I stumble along the way. I will by the grace of God, go all the way.
And this word has been one of the most critical in my whole life, and kept me getting up after falling, kept me pressing on when I was tired: hold fast. It’s been one of the words from God to me that’s helped me most. Get up after falling (1 Jn 1:9). Press on through the hard day. Keep resisting in the temptation (Jas 4:7). Continue to confess and believe God’s promises and think about the hope I have when things look grim (Heb 6:19 – steadfast hope). Keep focusing on the joy before me when the cross is the most painful (Heb 12:2). When the load seems too hard to bear, keep taking it to the Lord in prayer, and be thankful (Php 4:6-7). Constantly repent of any coldness of heart toward God, be on fire again (Rev 2:4-5, 3:16-19). I know all these things already, now I have to set my mind that I’ll keep doing them the best I can until my dying day.
Because my life is His now, I’m never taking it back for myself. I give myself to the Lord not by becoming a missionary or evangelist, but by committing myself to Him forever. A woman doesn't give herself over to a man by working for his company. She gives herself over to him by marrying him - a lifelong commitment. Or it’s like a person who has voluntarily traded themselves in happily to a Master, to be their slave forever. One who sells himself into slavery is permanently saying to the One he sells himself to, “I’m yours.” He has no intention of obeying himself sometimes, and then his Master at other times.
But sometimes we do slip up and obey ourselves.
Praise God that it’s not primarily our perseverance that’s our hope that keeps us, it’s His!
Hebrews 13:5 “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,"
If we don’t give up on God (who’s not just a Master – He’s our Dad now), He won’t give up on us. If we don’t leave Him, He won’t leave us. What an eternal hope and joy we have!! No one can ever take that from us.