January 30, 2023 - The Power of Fasting

The Power of Fasting

Yesterday in our sermon we talked about how we can become more like Jesus. We talked about the power of being united with Christ and abiding in him. This week we will talk through some specific spiritual practices that can help usher in the presence of the Lord in our lives.

As we begin a new week, let’s take a moment to prepare our hearts to welcome God’s presence.

So let’s slow down, set our minds on the things above, and open our hearts to allow God’s presence to take over. Right now, in this moment, God wants to meet with you and draw near to you. All we have to do is prepare our hearts for him to do so.

Father, you are holy, righteous, and seated in heaven; sovereignly looking over every aspect of our lives. However, at the same time you are present right here in this moment with me. Father, I ask that as I draw near to you, you would draw near to me.

As we begin to spend this week learning about life-changing practices, this morning we are going to reflect on the spiritual practice of fasting.

Our Scripture today comes from Matthew 6:16-18, when Jesus teaches his disciples about fasting during his famous Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:16-18 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.

One of the first things we should point out is the language Jesus uses at the very beginning. Jesus begins this teaching by saying “And when you fast” rather than “And if you fast”, implying that fasting is a normal practice of a disciple of Jesus. In the eyes of Jesus, there is an expectation for fasting to be a regular practice of his disciples.

This however is not the case in today’s world. In fact, there is probably no practice of Jesus that is more alien or neglected in the modern Western church than fasting, and it is a practice that is certainly not expected to be a part of the Christian life in our culture. Rather, fasting has become an option that might be suggested for some. However, this is not what we see in the life of Jesus. When you look at the life of Jesus, you cannot miss his regular practice of fasting.

So then we must begin to reflect on why fasting was so important to Jesus, and why he expects his followers to practice fasting as well.

Maybe you have never fasted because you have never learned about what fasting is. Perhaps you may have fasted in the past, or you are fasting for the first time in your life during this month of prayer and fasting, but you still aren’t really sure on what fasting is and why it is important.

In short, fasting is a practical and physical way for us to deny our bodies of things that they want in an attempt to starve our flesh. And not only do we deny our bodies things that our bodies want, but we also intentionally replace those things with something that will welcome the Spirit into our lives.

Richard Foster says that “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us the most”.

I believe this is why Jesus expects fasting to be a regular practice in the life of his disciples. Because fasting starves our flesh from gratifying its desires, and it opens a pathway to freedom and contentment that can only be found in God.

Going back to our Scripture in Matthew 6, notice how Jesus ends his short teaching on fasting by promising a reward. I believe the reward that Jesus is talking about is deeper intimacy with our Father. The practice of fasting causes us to live in utter dependence on our heavenly Father, and as a result of deeper dependence we experience deeper intimacy.

This is why fasting was a regular practice in the life of Jesus, and this is why he expects his disciples to practice it as well.

Spend some time asking God to reveal to you how you can incorporate fasting as a spiritual practice in your life. If you have never fasted before, ask God to continue to open your eyes to the importance of it and lead you in your next steps towards fasting. Perhaps you are fasting right now during our season of prayer and fasting as a church, but throughout the rest of the year it is not a regular practice. Ask God to show you how fasting can become a regular part of your life and journey with him on a consistent basis.

In what ways can you incorporate the practice of fasting into your life as a disciple of Jesus?

Once you’ve spent some time considering how you can incorporate the spiritual practice of fasting into your life, yield and commit to do what the Lord is calling you to do.

Pray: Father, thank you for the different spiritual practices that you give your people in order to grow deeper in our relationship with you and be transformed into the glorious image of Jesus. I pray that you would give me a stronger passion to live like Jesus, including a stronger passion for fasting. I pray that fasting would give me a deeper dependence on you that leads to deeper intimacy with you. As I starve my flesh, fill my soul with your Spirit. Amen.