September 13, 2020

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" (Matthew 9:14).

Fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is not an activity engaged to lose weight or to impress people on one’s piousness. It is personal and it is private. In fact, when a person fasts no one is to know about it except the person and God.

What is fasting? It is the discipline of refraining from eating or drinking for a period of time so that a person will focus his/her full attention on God and His will in a given situation. While fasting was a common practice in the Old Testament, and is referred to in the Gospels, neither the Apostles Paul, Peter, John, or James mentions the practice of fasting in their letters. And yet, for 2 millennia religions, including Christianity, have practiced fasting “as a means of Christ’s ongoing grace for His church” (David Mathis).

Should Christians fast? Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2). He taught His disciples to fast (Matthew 6:16-17). He said His followers would fast after His resurrection and ascension (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35). These are not commands, but are teachings we should not ignore.

Fasting is not an end unto itself, but a means of focusing one’s whole person (mind, body, spirit, heart, will) on the Lord for a specific and spiritual reason, such as:

1.    When facing temptation and trials (Matthew 4:1-11).
2.    To repent of sin and seek God’s forgiveness (1 Samuel 7:6).
3.    To humble one’s self before God (1 Kings 21:27-29).
4.    To worship God (Luke 2:37).
5.    To request deliverance or protection from an enemy (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).
6.    In a time of extreme grief (1 Samuel 31:13).
7.    To get focused on the Word and work of God (Nehemiah 1:3-4).
8.    To strengthen one’s prayer life (Ezra 8:23).
9.    To focus on the needs of others (Isaiah 58:3-7).
10.   To seek God’s leadership (Judges 20:26).

To encourage the practice of fasting, Jesus gave three parables as to its significance (Matthew 9:15-17). We will look at those in the next two devotionals.

“Father, I know the practice of fasting encourages us to focus our full attention on You and Your specific will in a given situation. While it has become a common practice among Christians now days, I pray that our motives behind the practice will be holy and sincere. Thank You for the many ways in which we may express our love and devotion to You. In Jesus’, name. Amen.”


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