Summary: One of the misunderstood topics of the Bible and one not covered so much in preaching is the subject of fasting. What is it and is it for us today?
Griffith Baptist Church – 1/6/08
Text: Matthew 6:16-18
My pastor and his wife were recently invited over to dinner at the house of a member of their congregation. When they arrived, dinner preparations were almost finished, and the member’s young son was just finishing his task of setting the table.
When they sat down to eat, the young boy’s mother said with surprise, "Why didn’t you give the pastor a knife and fork dear?"
"I didn’t think I needed to," the little boy replied "I heard Daddy say he eats like a horse."
Some might say it is time for the pastor to fast, or at least set a good example.
Our Christian life will always fall into three areas:
1. Doing good to others – almsgiving - 6:1-4
2. An intimate, personal relationship with God – prayer – 6:5-15
3. Our life itself, especially in the area of personal discipline – fasting – 6:16-18
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, volume 2, pg. 33.
In our text today we have the subject of fasting
Fasting by definition - to abstain as a religious exercise from food and drink: either entirely, if the fast lasted but a single day, or from customary and choice nourishment, if it continued several days (blue letter bible – greek – nēsteuō)
Three facts to observe:
1. Always has a spiritual purpose
2. This is an act that is voluntary and is not commanded to be done in the church age
3. Fasting does not mean you are more spiritual than others. It is your choice.
Some Biblical reasons for fasting:
1. Because of sin and the need to repent – Israel (1st Sam. 7:6); when Nineveh needed to repent after Jonah’s preaching (Jonah 3:5)
2. Because of mourning – When Saul and his sons died (1st Sam. 31:13; 2nd Sam. 1:12); When David mourned and prayed for His sick child (2nd Sam. 12:16)
3. When seeking God’s will – Ezra 8:21-23
4. Preparation for service or some great spiritual event – Jesus in the wilderness before His public ministry (Matthew 4:2); Esther and her confrontation with the king (Esther 4:15-17) [Revivals, special events, ordination of ministers (Acts 13:2-3)]
5. Times of Despair – When Darius fasted because of Daniel in the Lion’s den (Dan. 6:18)
NOTE: Fasting will not be effective when sin remains – Jeremiah 14:12 - When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
Three factors needed for fasting:
1. A Proper Spirit – A Right Attitude
A. Over the door of a little cabinet maker’s shop in London there hangs this sign: "Living Above." It is a notification to his customers that he can be found above his shop if the door is locked. It is a great thing for a worker to be able to say he is living above his work; that his dreams and hopes and real life are above the level of his day’s toil. He may have to work amid the clods and clutter, but at least he can live above. No matter how lowly a man’s work, his life can be above. --Moody Monthly
B. A correct motivation, centered on the Father (verse 18)
C. A correct foundation, sincerity (verse 16, “not as the hypocrites”)
D. A correct soul position, humility – Psalms 35:13 - But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
2. A Personal Sacrifice – A Right Heart
A. Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.” Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 13
B. There will always accompany with fasting some type of sacrifice, mostly giving up of food for a time. There might be other sacrifices that could be made:
iii. Whatever is may be, we sacrifice something to spend time communing deeply with God
C. Most of all, He wants the sacrifice of heart:
i. Entire - Joel 2:12 - Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
ii. Clean - Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.