Summary: Fast when out of your despair, you feel totally dependent upon God.
One day, Kathy Cash’s husband, of Dallas, Texas, announced to the family that he was going to fast and pray. Ginny, their 5-year-old, had recently learned that fasting meant not eating.
“No!” she shouted. “You can't fast! You'll die!”
Her dad carefully explained that many men and women fasted in Bible times.
Ginny paused a moment. Then, with a flash of insight, she blurted out, “And they all died!” (Kathy Cash, Dallas, TX, Today's Christian Woman, “Heart to Heart”)
Little Ginny didn’t really understand what fasting was all about, and the whole idea scared her. Maybe, the whole idea scares some of you, especially when you think it’s a sign of real spiritual devotion, and you don’t do it as often as you think you should.
Matthew 6:16 “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. (ESV)
They have received their pay in full. The hypocrites put on a show of spiritual devotion by looking somber and messing up their faces when they fast. Now, their show may impress some people, but it certainly doesn’t impress God. He gives them no further reward. On the other hand, God rewards those who fast in secret.
Matthew 6:17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face... (ESV)
Groom like you normally would...
Matthew 6:18 ...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. (ESV)
God rewards those who do NOT put on a show of spiritual devotion. Instead, they give (vs.2-4); they pray (vs.5-14); and they fast (vs.16-18) in secret. As a result, the invisible God rewards their invisible deeds. So, when you fast...
FAST IN SECRET.
But what is fasting all about anyway? Is it an act of spiritual devotion? Is it something those who are super spiritual do on a regular basis?
Well, the answer may surprise you. Several years ago, I studied all the passages in the Bible that reference fasting in one way or another – 35 in all. Actually, the word itself is used about 40 times in the Bible, and the answer surprised me!
You see, before I studied the Bible on the subject, I thought fasting was a spiritual discipline reserved only for the super-spiritual. I thought only the super-saints did this, and those who were really super-spiritual fasted for 40 days and 40 nights!
Well, just the opposite is true. It is NOT the super-saints who fast in the Bible. It is NOT the super-spiritual. It is the super-sorrowful who fast, and often because they are super-sinners. Let me read excerpts from the majority of passages in the Bible that talk about fasting, and I think you’ll see this for yourself.
In Judges 20:26 we have the first reference to fasting in all the Bible. It’s in a book that talks about a constant cycle of sin, judgment and rescue, sin, judgment and rescue. And on the down-side of one of these cycles, it says, “Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and WEPT. They sat there before the LORD and FASTED that day until evening...”
1 Samuel 7:2-6 All the house of Israel LAMENTED after the LORD... they... FASTED on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.”
2 Samuel 1:11-12 They MOURNED AND WEPT AND FASTED until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son... because they had fallen by the sword.
2 Samuel 12:15-25 David FASTED AND WEPT over a sick child.
1 Kings 21:27-29 Ahab, a wicked king, “PUT SACKCLOTH on his flesh (a sign of extreme grief) AND FASTED... AND WENT ABOUT DEJECTEDLY.” Why? Because God had pronounced judgment on his wickedness.
In Nehemiah 1:4, when Nehemiah heard about the broken-down condition of Jerusalem’s walls, he says, “I sat down and WEPT AND MOURNED for days, and I continued FASTING and praying before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 9:1 The people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads (again, a sign of extreme grief).
Esther 4:1-3 There was great MOURNING among the Jews, with FASTING AND WEEPING AND LAMENTING, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
In Psalm 35:13-14, David says, “When they were sick— I wore SACKCLOTH; I afflicted myself with FASTING... I GRIEVED... as one who LAMENTS his mother, I bowed down in MOURNING.”