Summary: Fasting is the least practiced discipline, but is doable. part 12 of 13 on Spiritual Disc.
Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting
Sermon Number 11
March 16, 2008
About two weeks ago, we were watching something on television and there was a commercial for the Olive Garden restaurant. Zachary commented “the food looks so good!” He was ready to dive in and eat another dinner. The commercial served its purpose, his mouth was watering for the great looking food. Doesn’t your imagination begin to run wild . . . you can picture getting that big Olive Garden (pictures of these foods are shown while I am talking via power point) salad, the breadsticks, maybe chicken parmigiana, or Capellini Pomodoro, with a little desert on the side. Um, you can almost taste it. Isn’t it incredible how food has such a stranglehold on us.
Of all the Spiritual Disciplines we will talk about, the one that is least practiced is fasting. On the Spiritual Discipline pre-surveys many of you completed, fasting was the discipline which was the least practiced.
That is normal, but why? Why is it we don’t practice fasting. Most people would say, ‘I could skip a meal or two and it wouldn’t hurt me.’ So, why don’t we skip that meal, not for dieting purposes, but for the purpose of growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It should be our everyday goal to become more and more like Christ. So, let’s see what Jesus had to say about fasting.
In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Did you notice something about what Jesus said? He did not say . . . if you fast, He said, “WHEN you fast.” It was an expectation which arose from the teachings of the Old Testament. The Jewish people had a number of specific days in which they were to fast. It was expected. It is not a command, in fact, the words of Jesus just fall short of being a command. We are expecting to fast.
Also notice what Jesus said a little earlier in Matthew 6. In verses 2 and 4, Jesus said, “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy...”
In verses 5 and 7, Jesus continued, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites . . . 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray . . .”
You see, there is an implicit expectation from God that we will pray and give. Nobody doubts that we should pray and give, we believe that is something we should be doing. Yet, in this very same section, we tend to ignore the words from Jesus, the expectation that we should fast.
And honestly speaking, it’s easier to give something and pray a little, but to fast - - to really abstain from eating food . . . ooooh . . . . how difficult that is. Just don’t watch television while you are fasting.
I mean, we see commercials that make our mouths water, because restaurants and advertisers know we can’t resist. Even sermons have commercials . . . kind of like little teasers, not really to tempt you . . . and ooooh look at that, oh man doesn’t that look good, and ooooh look at that pizza with all those pepperonis, but you need something to wash it down . . . there’s the dessert. WOW! I’m stuffed just thinking about that food. Now why did I show that food to you? (More pictures of food . . . pizza, hamburgers and dessert).
Think about how we think with our stomachs. How food becomes a god to us. What was the first temptation and sin in the Bible? What did satan tempt Adam and Eve with? Food was the means to get them to sin. He went after their hearts through their stomachs. Notice in Genesis 3:6, “Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye.”
Think about the stranglehold food had over the Israelite people during the Exodus.