30 January 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 6:16-18 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16–18 NLT)
Fasting is a physical exercise with a spiritual purpose, it’s not a weight-loss diet. The specific purpose of fasting is to deny our physical appetites for a spiritual purpose. Fasting for a spiritual purpose is specifically accompanied by prayer, quiet time, and “seeking closeness with God.” If we merely skip meals without changing our schedule and priorities, we may as well be dieting to lose a couple of pounds.
Again, Jesus says when you fast, not if you fast. Fasting was part of the Jewish culture and religion. Everyone fasted annually in conjunction with the Day of Atonement celebrations. Religious Jews often fasted one or two days in the week as a spiritual exercise. And, in the case of the religious hypocrites Jesus referred to, as an element of spiritual pride. No God-points there!
Fasting is part of the life of a “disciple.” Fasting requires a heart-prompted decision and some intentional discipline. To be spiritually beneficial, fasting requires some planning and preparation. Otherwise it’ll just make you hungry and grumpy. You’ll need to change your schedule, slow down, and use time ordinarily spent on meals (preparation and eating) to pray, journal, meditate on scripture.
It’s not merely the religious behavior or the outward act (Jesus relates this principle to prayer, giving, fasting), it’s the motive. If your motive is to impress others with your “holiness,” or to pride yourself in your superiority, enjoy, because that’s all you get! If you’re rightly motivated in your prayer, giving, fasting, your Father will reward you. Give fasting a try. See how it works for you!
Father, this is another thing that I’m not very good at! My life is busy and full and meals and meetings are so much a part of what I do! I’m paying attention here, and I know that I’ve got to think this through and make some space for this important spiritual practice and discipline. Like most things that are important, I’ll need some help here!