Summary: #3 of 4 sermons on biblical fasting.

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A Practical Guide to Fasting (Part 1)


I. General Observations

II. What Is Fasting?

A. Definitions

III. Who Fasts?

A. OT Examples

B. NT Examples

C. Contemporary Examples


This is our third message on the subject of fasting. We be-gan by looking at an OT perspective on this issue. There we discovered God’s attitude toward fasting and His desired results from participating in this discipline. Last week we looked at a NT perspective. In that passage, Jesus taught His disciples that fasting is a duty to be performed without seeking personal notice and completely directed to God.

Today, I would like to begin to look at the subject of fasting in a more general overview type of approach. Because the Bible is so rich with examples and teachings concerning fasting, it will take us two weeks to get through all of the biblical information. The title of these sermons is: A Practi-cal Guide to Fasting, Parts 1& 2.

These messages will seek to be more exhaustive in scope than the previous two sermons. But as the title suggests, I will attempt to present the material in such a way as to make it extremely simple to grasp and easy to apply to our lives. If there are any questions that are left unanswered by the end of the message next week, I will give you an opportunity to ask them next Sunday night in an open forum.

General Observations

Before we get into the biblical data pertaining to fasting, I’d like to make some general observations concerning our societal attitudes toward fasting. I believe that it is fairly obvious as to why I want to talk about our cultural views. We live in a society that loves to eat; it is one of our greatest passions. Think about it…

…how many times in the past week have you been “too busy” to stop and eat 3 meals a day (and perhaps a snack or two in between meals)?

…how many commercials and billboards have you seen or heard that are related to food or eating?

…how often do we have to have food at gatherings in or-der to make them more pleasurable (or simply as a means of encouraging people to attend)?

…how many of us are hoping to get out of here “on time” so that our Sunday dinner plans won’t be negatively af-fected?

In more ways than we care to honestly admit, we have become a nation that revolves around eating. Some of you may be thinking, “Surely you must be exaggerating, Pastor Ritch? We’re really not all that bad. Can you back up what you’re saying with facts?” Listen to these statistics:

“A 1998 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 53.8 percent of American adults reported being overweight…The CDC considers anyone up to 30 pounds over the target weight for their body size to be overweight” (David Pitt, AP). Other studies have found that the percentage of overweight people in the US is even higher than the CDC findings.

An article from the website Healthology states, “strong evidence exists that the two main factors that are responsible for the upswing in obese and overweight people in America and other industrialized nations are overconsumption of food and physical inactivity.” Focusing on the eating side of the equation concerning our current health status, that same article goes on to say:

One of the reasons that we eat too much is that portion sizes in both cookbooks and restaurants are several times larger than the recommended standard serving amounts. For example, while the standard serving for meat is 3 ounces (e.g., the size of a deck of cards), restaurant portions typically start at 7 to 8 ounces and climb up to 22 to 38 ounces. A medium-size movie theater popcorn consists of 16 cups (the standard serving is 3 cups) and some soda servings can be as big as 44 ounces (the standard serving is 12 ounces). These “super-sized” portions contribute to our increasing overall caloric intake, and counteract the efforts we may be making to specifically reduce the fat in our diets (Why We Are Overweight: Genes vs. Lifestyle).

I have to admit it, when I go to a fast food restaurant and there’s an offer to upgrade my “value” meal for “only 39¢” more, I usually go for the “bonus” fries and drink. After all, it IS a real deal, isn’t it?

Andrew Murray made this observation, “In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in his need of food, and his enjoyment of it. It was the fruit, good for food, with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was with bread to be made of stones that Jesus, when hungered, was tempted in the wilderness, and in fasting He triumphed” (With Christ in the School of Prayer).

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