Fasting Devotional Day Ten: Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Text: Matthew 6:16
By Brian Lambert
When Jesus taught about spiritual practices such as prayer and fasting, He often used the Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees) as an example of how “not” to do it. They used prayer and fasting to receive praise and applause from men, rather than to honor and please God.
To fast, means to go without food for a set amount of time. It is giving up food to focus on God over a certain issue. It is to be so consumed with the issue that it becomes more important than food. Fasting is a way to enhance our prayer life and seek God for an answer or an end to the issue.
Fasting was a common practice in Israel. The Day of Atonement was the only required fast, but other fasts were implemented at various times in Israel’s history. Because Jesus paid for our sins once and for all on the Cross, New Testament Christians do not observe the Day of Atonement, so fasting is never commanded. However, it is implied that Christ expected believers to fast, but differently than the Pharisees.
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Matthew 6:16)
Jesus noted that the religious leaders abused the practice of fasting. He called it hypocrisy. They appeared in public to be sad or mourning. They often “disfigured their faces” with dirt and ashes so others would notice. They would commonly wear old and dirty clothes so people would recognize they were fasting. Their fasting was a show, and they received their reward which was the applause and praise of the people. It was hypocritical. Their practice of fasting missed the mark of its intended purpose.
How do we fast faithfully?
Challenge: Fast Privately, Be Yourself, Stay Focused on God
1. Fast Privately: There will be times that you do not eat, and others will take notice and ask why you are not eating. It is ok to explain that you are fasting and why you are doing it. And of course, we will share with others during a corporate fast and for the sake of accountability. However, as much as possible, we should practice fasting privately. Why? Because our hearts are susceptible to spiritual pride and loving the praise of others. Privacy is a form of protection – protecting our hearts from sin and remaining faithful to the purity and purpose of the fast.
2. Be Yourself: There is no need for extravagant changes in your daily routine or drastic adjustments to how you present yourself or relate to others (mood, tone, body language). Be yourself. Act normal.
3. Stay focused on God: The purpose of fasting is not to get attention, impress others, or to prove our level of spiritual maturity. The main goal is to seek God differently and to connect with him in a deeper way.
If we can rise to this challenge, God will reward our faithfulness!