“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Mt. 6:16 (ESV)
As I continue to examine the common spiritual disciplines, today we look at the discipline that is probably the least favorite and least practiced discipline in the modern church…fasting.
As I read today’s verse, the first thing that strikes me is that Jesus didn’t say if you fast…He said when you fast.
For Jesus, fasting was an essential element of following Him.
Yet there are many Christians today who have not heard any teaching on fasting, and for that reason have never engaged in the discipline of fasting.
Richard Foster points out in his book, Celebration of Discipline that he was unable to find any books written on fasting between 1861 and 1954. Even since that time, few books have been written that deal extensively with the subject.
As today’s verse points out, it is important that we fast with the right motive. Here Jesus speaks against fasting for the purpose of impressing others with our spirituality. We may also fast in the hope of “getting” something from God.
The right motive to fast is because God expects us to fast. It is not a strict commandment. It is a request.
God tells us to fast because He has spiritual goals for us that can only be accomplished through the discipline of fasting.
Fasting is a spiritual exercise meant to yield spiritual fruit.
Like any new exercise, it should be undertaken slowly and in incremental steps.
Foster suggests starting with a 24 hour fast, having lunch one day, and then missing dinner and breakfast the following day. That way, you miss only two meals and can adjust to the hunger. Another option is simply skipping lunch one day as a first step in fasting.
If you are particularly prone to hypoglycemia, you might tray a partial fast of having only fruits rather than a full meal.
Whatever type of fast you decide to undertake…the important thing is to begin. Take that first step and begin to experience the spiritual fruit God has planned for you!
Prayer: Lord, remind me of your desire to teach me through the discipline of fasting!