Pamela Myers Palmer
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18
Fasting** is a spiritual discipline that is mentioned all throughout Scripture. Fasting means to abstain from food, drink, and/or object for religious purposes. Esther and Mordecai fasted. Moses fasted. Daniel fasted. And Jesus fasted. Jesus instructed His followers to also fast. That means you and me. When Jesus spoke of fasting, it wasn't a matter of if a believer would fast, but when. Fasting isn't a very popular practice to engage in, but if we want to get deeper in our walk with Jesus and live more like Him, then fasting is something that each of us may consider and learn to practice.
As human beings, we naturally want to indulge our fleshly desires and give into what the body wants. We don't like to tell ourselves no or abstain from anything. Fasting breaks that cycle of excess so that we can hear God better, discern His will, and deepen our roots of faith. Fasting can lead to the breakthrough, healing, or answer you're waiting for.
The passage above is an incredibly powerful reminder from Jesus on how we should fast. We shouldn't fast for show, or to gain attention to ourselves, or to look as though we're more righteous or better than others. Fasting isn't starving oneself, fasting isn't a way to launch a new diet, and fasting isn't to make any one of us look more holy. Fasting is an act of faithful service and obedience to God. Fasting is between you and God.
Fasting takes a serious dose of self-control. So, I like to think of it this way: as I tell my body no to food, or whatever it is I am fasting from, I am saying yes to God. I am saying yes to righteousness. I am saying yes to His ways. I am saying yes to opening my heart to what He has for my life. I am saying yes to bearing the spiritual fruit of self-control. I am saying yes to more prayer and time with God. We may abstain from one thing, but we surely gain much more in return. The reward from the Lord is great and bountiful when we fast.
Consider what holds you back from fasting. Perhaps speak with a spiritual mentor or your pastor about practicing fasting, or read a helpful resource such as: A Hunger for God by John Piper, to get started or begin learning more about fasting.
**Consult a physician before fasting from food or drink to make sure it is medically safe for you to fast.
>>Suggested readings: Isaiah 58, Esther 4, Matthew 4, Matthew 6, Psalm 67
Let Us Pray
Lord, we have a tendency as human beings to over indulge and to keep giving into our fleshly desires. Help us to practice self-control. Let us bear this fruit of the Spirit of self-control because it is honoring to You and will help us to keep living a righteous life. Show us the way of fasting and lead us to better understand what Your word says about fasting and how each of us can integrate this spiritual practice into our lives, as we look to live more like Jesus. Increase our faith and draw us closer to You each day. Amen
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