Sermons

Summary: There is a time for fasting for the glory of God, and then there are times to enjoy food, company, and good times. However, some people are not satisfied with anything and prefer to stay miserable, indecisive, and closed to what God has in store for them.

I was born and reared in south Louisiana in the heart of what is known as "Cajun Country". The city in which I grew up was surrounded by lakes, bayous, swamps, and refineries. You couldn't go ten miles down one of the major highways that went through town before you spotted your first alligator lurking in the ditches and marshes, waiting for a deer, rabbit, turtle, or other unfortunate critter that got too close to the edge of the waters. We also were near crayfish holes and during the proper seasons, a lot of families took nets and other traps to catch the "mudbugs" and then have a crayfish boil with spices, corn, potatoes, and onions all together in one big pot. That was good eating, and so were the alligator tails after the hunters caught their yearly quota, sold the hides, and cut up the meat to give to neighbors or to sell at the local market (this was long before large grocery store chains or Walmart). Basically our diet was what some states used for fish bait. Food and good times on weekends were a part of the Cajun life. French surnames were as common to me as "Smith" or "Jones" were in other places. By the way, words like "vegan", "keto", "paleo" "gluten-free", "low sodium" and "low calorie" did not exist in our culture.

I say all of this to show that once upon a time, people enjoyed life, their friends, neighbors, relatives, good company, and good food, and things tended to be a little slower and easy going than today. When anyone got sick and had to go to the hospital, concepts such as going without meals or water for set amounts of time was not a part of the preparation or regimen for getting patients on their feet quicker or to adjust to new ways of living better. The first thing often waiting for the recuperating patient at home was food brought over by family and friends, and not what we would consider healthy today. Meals such as fried chicken, pasta, pies and cakes, breads, vegetables smothered in real butter or thick sauces, and sweet tea with real sugar was a treat for them. Same thing went with funerals, a Southern tradition if ever there was one.

The years have come and gone, and my health in particular has brought about changes in my diet and routine, and when I have been hospitalized for anytime over a day or two, I have been ordered by my physician to abstain from food or water for set times in order to have more accurate readings on my organs or other areas, or for a medication to effective work, or a clearer diagnosis of blood samples. A couple of years ago I had to undergo three days of tests and procedures and could not eat until everything was done. The first day was pretty rough, but by the end of the third day, I really was not hungry and I did not want to fill myself up with anything sweet, salty, or fried. Right now, due to kidney problems, my food intake is drastically decreased of my own choice and I have cut out foods that I once craved but do not find the least bit appetizing now. I eat when I'm hungry, which is not all that often.

I have come to appreciate the concept of fasting, or decreasing one's intake of food for a period of time for medical reasons, but when we read of people fasting in the Scriptures, it is for the purpose of being nearer to God in prayer and study of the Word, and to get away from the things of the world and rest in Him. We read of Moses, Elijah, the Lord Jesus, Daniel, and Paul all going without food or water for set times either as a sign of repentance, or to endure temptations, and often to seek God's counsel through prayer (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 10:3; Luke 4, Matthew 4, Acts 9:9). As we venture further into Mark's Gospel, we come to Chapter 2, verses 18-22, where the disciples of John the Baptist were practicing fasting for the sake of personal piety and dedication to God, while the sanctimonious Pharisees were fasting in order to look pious and holy before the people. One group was sincere, the other one did it for show. Jesus' own disciples were asked why they did not participate in fasting while the other two groups made it a part of their lives.

Jesus tells both groups and the crowds around Him that this is no time for such a discipline to take place, nor for somberness and rigid religious practices. Jesus tells everyone that these days are for good times and joy. A wedding celebration is fixing to take place, and everyone is invited to participate. Jesus wants no one left out of what will be the crowning event of all history. In His teaching, Jesus presents a foretaste of the happiness that He, the eternal Bridegroom will have with His Bride, the people of God who will make up the future church. While He was around, there would be a time of happiness and joy. Look at the evidence for such a claim: Lepers were healed, people were freed from all sicknesses and diseases, the paralyzed now walk, people are being delivered from demon possession, people are being saved from sin, and the Gospel message is being preached, telling all people of the kingdom of God and the offer of redemption from sin forever. Who wouldn't be happy under those circumstances?

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