Summary: “Fasting”… topic we don’t hear much about in the church to day - Many of us may think of fasting as for the spiritually elite… those specially gifted… a gift we seek about as much as celibacy or martyrdom. - Many of our initial thoughts, or even experi
“Fasting”… topic we don’t hear much about in the church to day
- Many of us may think of fasting as for the spiritually elite… those specially gifted… a gift we seek about as much as celibacy or martyrdom.
- Many of our initial thoughts, or even experiences conjure up thoughts of sitting around with hunger, headaches, and a real irritable mood that doesn’t seem to be winning any Christ-likeness awards.
How striking are the words of Jesus… Matthew 6… S.O.T.M…
“WHEN you fast… your heavenly father who sees what is done in secret will REWARD you.”
Notice Jesus says WHEN, not IF but WHEN you fast.
- For Jesus, the place of fasting was assumed.
- In this portion of the S.O.T.M., … ch. 6 begins with “When you give… when you pray… when you fast…
- Here Jesus addresses the most basic elements of devotion to God… giving, prayer, & (striking only to us)… fasting.
- So common a part of spiritual devotion that in Matthew 9:14-15; the disciples of John the Baptist come and question why fasting has not been MORE prominent… Jesus explains, while he’s with them, it’s time to enjoy his presence, but “when the bridegroom is taken away, they WILL fast” again. Again giving a common place to fasting as a part of spiritual life.
- So it was that we find after the resurrection, his disciples… his followers did fast, the apostle Paul said he “fasted often;” and throughout early church history fasting is a dynamic part of spiritual life.
- So why do we imagine it for the elite… the extreme?
• Scholastic Era… much of spiritual life moved from the heart to the head
• Often renewed, even in the deep spiritual awakenings in America… but once again, when “the landscape is dotted with shrines to Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples,” (Richard Foster); the idea of fasting seems foreign to us.
… BUT WE WHO DESIRE TO DRAW FROM THE SOURCE OF OUR NEW LIFE DO WELL TO REMEMBER JESUS SAID “WHEN.”
- Perhaps more striking, he said ‘… your Father will REWARD YOU”
• Jesus would have us understand that a spiritual fast can be a spiritual feast.
- Through my study & personal experience I believe more than ever that we can find FEASTING THROUGH FASTING.
- There is no getting around the fact that fasting is a discipline, and as with all disciplines we initially see the cost before we can appreciate the reward.
- But in fact, every day we are living out of the rewards of discipline
- Jesus knew our spiritual nature well; he knew the same value of discipline holds true for our spiritual life.
Let’s look at the rewards of fasting…
1. Fasting, as a spiritual discipline, provides a powerful means of SPIRITUAL DEPENDENCY; by directing us to the provision of the Spirit.
• You may recall that as Jesus’ began his ministry he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4
• Similarly, we read in John 4:31-32, how once, “his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
• Dallas Willard explains… “Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food.
• Fasting is a means of freedom from the distortion that we are merely physical creatures.
- When we were first created… “God breathed His Spirit into us”; having died spiritually in our fallen nature, we again can receive life as we are “Born again by the Spirit”
• Our deepest nature is that of spiritual life; alive by God’s Spirit.
So while its great to eat because I’m physical… to work because I’m rational & functional… Jesus came to liberate us from the distortion that these are the deepest source of our life. That source is found in PRAYER, and often sharpened and enhanced by FASTING… which focuses our attention. In this way we can understand fasting.
• Fasting isn’t about pain, but perspective.
• Fasting isn’t about renouncing the goodness of food, but recognizing the spiritual sustenance in God.
• Fasting will be a battle because my spiritual nature is having to press through my physical nature.
2. Secondly, in a similar way, fasting as a spiritual discipline provides a powerful means of SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT, by disclosing us to the transformation of the Spirit.