In the previous post we had a look at Romans 12:1 and saw how offering every area of our lives to God is the only ‘logical’ response to what he has done for us through Jesus. This is a great truth and a great challenge to us, but I can hear the doubters talking!
“This doesn’t specifically mention fasting!”
“I can sacrifice other things, such as my time, as my response!”
These kinds of responses to this verse are true, to a certain extent. It is true that this verse doesn’t specifically mention fasting. It is true that other things in our lives, can be offered to God. However, going without food is one of the biggest and hardest sacrifices to make. More than this, it is one of the most key ones. I want us to take a look in the bible today and unpack some more on why we should fast.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is half way through, arguably, his most famous public address, the sermon on the mount. In the first half of this chapter we see Jesus very clearly laying out three principles, three disciplines, for Christian living. He begins the chapter in verse 1 by saying;
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
He then carries on and says in verse 2;
“So when you give….”
And in verse 5;
“And when you pray….”
And again in verse 16;
“When you fast….”
When you look at the structure of this chapter as we just have, it is clear to see that Jesus is making the point that giving, praying and fasting are all practical out workings of righteousness. They are the disciplines through which we practice our righteousness. They are all disciplines which are examples of our righteousness because of Jesus. So, fasting is an example of our righteousness.
Let me put it to you that fasting is, along with giving and praying, also an expectation. Notice how Jesus doesn’t say “If you give; If you pray; If you fast”, if he had said it like this then it could be taken as an optional extra to the Christian life! But he doesn’t, Jesus is clear “When you give; When you pray; When you fast”. There’s no two ways about it, these three disciplines are an expectation of Christians.
You can see this expectation of us again in Matthew chapter 9. In verse 14 we see a disciple of John ask Jesus a question about fasting;
“How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
To which Jesus responds;
“How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
Essentially Jesus is saying that there is no point in fasting whilst he was there in the flesh with them, but a time was coming where he would no longer be with them, that is when they were to fast. That time is now! He is no longer here with us in the flesh, as he was at that time, although thankfully he sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us! Now is the time that followers of Jesus were and are expected to fast.
So, fasting is an example and an expectation of our righteousness, which was given to us through Jesus. This is why we should fast!
Many people I speak to give regularly. Many people I speak to pray regularly. Very few people I speak to fast regularly. This is not meant to come across as condemnation, but rather as encouragement. Let’s be a church who practice and outwork each of the three disciplines laid out for us in Matthew 6!
I’ll leave you with a thought which I heard from Jentezen Franklin, Senior Pastor of Freechapel, a huge multi-site church in the States. He reminds us of the Parable of the Sower found in Mark 4, go and read it to remind yourselves! In verse 20 the parable finishes with Jesus saying;
“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
When we hear and respond to the words of Jesus we produce a crop. Jentezen challenges us by the thought that those who implement one of the three disciplines will produce thirty times what was sown, those who implement two of the disciplines will produce sixty times what was sown and those who give, pray and fast will produce a crop a hundred times what was sown! Christianity is about relationship, so without getting caught up in a religious mindset, allow this thought to mull over in your mind today!