Summary: The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of sacrifice. Fasting is a tool that helps us see and understand the brokenness of this world. But more it helps us to move to action and become repairer and restorers.
Good morning! Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at Jesus’ teaching about giving and prayer. These are two of the three righteous actions Jesus tells His followers to observe as they live their lives.
Today we are going to talk about the third righteous actions – fasting. We find Jesus teaching about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18
Let’s read this passage – if you do not have a Bible you can find the Scriptures printed on the insert inside your bulletin.
How many of you have ever been asked by the doctor to fast prior to having tests or some other medical procedure done?
Did you find that when you were told not to eat that suddenly your body began craving food? Suddenly you began thinking about food like never before!
Recently, I began Weight Watchers. I am trying to monitor my intake of food and be mindful of my portion sizes. As I have committed myself to losing weight and getting healthy it seems there are foods that I just cannot get out of my mind.
My wife, who has lost more than 70lbs. in the last 18 months, tells me that I will eventually think differently. But for now it is a struggle to think of food in a different light than in the past.
When I was in Bible school I had a classmate who was addicted to fasting. As a matter of fact he fasted so much that he caused some imbalances in his brain. One day he disappeared from St. Louis and was eventually found in Atlanta, GA.
I have another friend who believed that fasting was the only way to bring revival. He and his wife fasted so much that she died of malnutrition. I am not talking about people with no access to food – but those who had believed that somehow their act of fasting was a way to force God into sending revival.
(TRANSITION) Fasting is certainly something we should engage in as believers. But what is it and why do we do it?
Jesus assumes that fasting would be part of the normal Christian life. Like prayer and like giving, the act of fasting helps to promote an attitude of dependence on God.
Fasting, to put it quite simply, is setting aside a space of time where we abstain from food and drink. Obviously, we cannot do this for days on end but we can push the plate back every now and then. We could take the time we would have spent eating and use it for prayer or devotional reading.
Fasting is not complicated and it is NOT MAGICAL! It is not a formula whereby you go on a hunger strike to get God’s favor.
Almost every religion requires some form of fasting from its adherents. Buddhists fast and so do Muslims. I remember trying to go to the shops in South Africa during Ramadan – the Muslim time of fasting. Some of the shopkeepers were looking pretty worn out.
Even in the Greek and Roman religions of Jesus’ day fasting was a part of their duty to the gods. To the Greek or Roman fasting was not about gaining some high spiritual place. Fasting was about ensuring the proper relationship between you and the spirits and the gods.
When Paul talks to the Corinthian believers about whether or not to eat meat offered to idols we get a glimpse into what the Romans/Greeks thought. In their minds one could ingest evil spirits through food. They especially believed that food was eaten near someone who had just died (often would fast until the person was buried).
But the Romans and Greeks also believed that fasting could provide a way for someone to gain stronger magical powers. Through fasting they could receive dreams, oracles from the gods, or the ability to cast stronger spells. It was a way for them to have greater PERSONAL POWER.
Though other religions practice fasting it does not mean that we, as Christians, have the same motivation for fasting as they might.
The OT speaks often of people fasting. Moses fasted 40 days prior to receiving the 10 Commandments (cf. Ex 34:28). Daniel fasted prior to receiving visions (cf. Da 9:3; 10:2f., 12).
Esther called for a season of fasting before entering into the king on behalf of her people.
The OT idea of fasting speaks to a “humbling of the soul.” To fast was to humble oneself before God in total dependence on Him for strength and life. But what was the motivation behind the fasting?
When we look at the fasts of Daniel, Moses and Esther we see the motive rests on how their humble action COULD BENEFIT OTHERS. It was NOT ABOUT REVELATION – THAT WAS A BY-PRODUCT OF COMING HUMBLY BEFORE GOD. IT WAS NOT ABOUT POWER – IT WAS ABOUT SERVING A NATION THAT NEEDED GOD’S PROTECTION.