In yesterday’s sermon, we focused on the spiritual discipline of fasting. It is an interesting discipline considering the importance of it in the life and teachings of Christ, yet there is little focus on this discipline in the modern Church. We went fast in our discussion, so for clarity, let’s revisit what we have learned to this point.
- Fasting is for the purpose of godliness – growth in righteousness.
- We fast because it is commanded – Matthew 6:16.
- Fasting draws into deeper intimacy with the Father – Matthew 9:14-17.
- In fasting, we seek a reward (answers and guidance) from the Father, not from others.
- We fast to look forward to our future physical union with Christ.
After the message was over, I was surprised to hear so many say that they had never heard a sermon on fasting. Further, while many understood its connection to food, few had realized its importance. Finally, a number of folks confessed that they had assumed the discipline had ceased with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t really know why I was surprised…I don’t remember a single sermon on fasting and I have been in church since before I was born. Perhaps somewhere along the way the preacher discussed it, but it was never a focal point, therefore, I have been neglectful over the years of this discipline.
Because of all this and my personal growth in this area, I thought it would be appropriate to focus some attention this week and dig a little deeper. This is part one of our further discussion. I want to, in order, discuss: (1) practical application of fasting, (2) Old Testament purposes and occasions for fasting, and (3) fasting in the New Testament. So…we endeavor first with the “practical application” of fasting.
Yesterday we went to great length to express the importance of fasting. You may remember our definition from Kenneth Boa: “The spiritual discipline of fasting is abstention from physical nourishment for the purpose of spiritual sustenance.”
At the end of the sermon, you may have thought, “I think I get it…and I am so moved by this truth that I will try a 40 day fast like Jesus.” I hope you were touched by a living truth yesterday, but there is a reason why we only asked for three days in the #100daychallenge. Let me take a couple of minutes to explain…
First, fasting is not singularly about food. While food is the primary source of fasting because of how it drains the body physically, the principle of fasting is about denial of self. This concept will be worked out further in the coming posts. For some, a fast may not be about food, it may be about eliminating something else that isn’t profitable or something they might be dependent upon (caffeine for example). Further, many people have physical limitations that the Lord knows and understands, such as diabetes.
Because the principle is denying self, the application may take many forms. It would be appropriate to consult a doctor before engaging in a long term food fast, especially if you have physical limitations. God’s purpose in fasting is not your death, it is for the purpose of denying ourselves so that we are more dependent upon Him.
Second, in the same vein, you must set yourself up for success and not failure. Any fast is difficult, especially for the first time. If you proclaim a 40 day fast and you have never fasted…you will not succeed. Many want to follow the example of Jesus in Matthew 4, but they fail to understand the full picture. First, undoubtedly, Jesus did not eliminate water from His fast, for the body cannot physically survive without water for 40 days and nights. Second, this was probably not Jesus’ first fast. As we shall see in our second discussion, the Jews regularly practiced fasting. It was a part of their everyday life. It is reasonable to assume that Jesus had fasted many times before this moment.
Train your body for fasting. Start out by fasting for one day, then try two, etc. Start out fasting just from food, while continuing water and liquids. The more you exercise this discipline, the more you will understand your body and be better prepared for the next fast. Don’t go for the whole boll of wax in one shot, build yourself up. In our #100daychallenge, it may be appropriate to fast for one day, then replenish, and fast for two more…or simply go at your own pace.
Again, the importance is your commitment to denying yourself, not sending yourself to the hospital in a misguided, but sincere effort.
Finally, make your fast personal. We are asking for you to fast for the upcoming changes in our ministry. But each of us has items worth fasting about in our own personal lives. Find that area of your life where you see excess and work on that. Deny self, fast for godliness.
We can do it together!
Held by Grace, PC