“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others 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. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Chances are you are among the massive majority of Christians who rarely or never fast. It’s not because we haven’t read our Bibles or sat under faithful preaching or heard about the power of fasting, or even that we don’t genuinely want to do it. We just never actually get around to putting down the fork.
What is fasting? Well, it’s not dieting. It’s not skipping meals to lose weight. No…whenever fasting is mentioned in the Bible it refers to, abstaining from food for the purpose of growing spiritually.
What is the purpose of fasting? What are the benefits? Why should we consider fasting as a spiritual discipline?
First of all fasting is good for us physically - It gives our digestive systems a rest. It also purifies our bodies by allowing built up toxins to filter out of our systems.
But fasting’s main benefit is spiritual - Fasting teaches us self-control and encourages a prolonged un-distracted focus on Christ.
Richard Foster writes, Our human cravings and desires are like a river that tends to overflow its banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channel. More than any other discipline fasting reveals the things that control us.
Spiritual benefits of fasting:
- Fasting will strengthen your prayer life
- Fasting will help you find God’s guidance
- Fasting will help you find divine deliverance or protection
- Fasting will call you to repentance
- Fasting will humble you before God
- Fasting will help you overcome temptation
Fasting is not a command in the Bible. Jesus does not ORDER us to fast but several passages of scripture show that our Lord did ASSUME we would fast. For example in verse 17 of Matthew 6, Jesus did not say IF you fast but WHEN you fast.
For fasting to be a spiritual discipline it must include prayer. We are replacing the physical meal with a spiritual meal. We are sacrificial our physical desires to pursue spiritual desires.
- Consult your physician.
- Start small.
- Make a plan.
- Expect difficulty.
- Avoid distractions.
- Use the time to pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus.
- Expect to experience an increased awareness of God's presence and power.
Today’s Challenge: Fast one meal and give the time to God in prayer. Begin to add this important spiritual practice to your life.
- Have you ever fasted? How did it go?
- Why is fasting an important spiritual discipline?
- Why does it seem that so few Christians fast?
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