January 21, Tuesday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Why should I Fast?”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Matthew 9:14-15 (ESV)

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 

At the turn of the new year, our church typically has a corporate fast to start out the new year. Fasting has quickly become a forgotten and neglected practice in our culture of opulence and instant gratification. We have access to an abundance of things at the tip of our fingers, and so it has become increasingly difficult to abstain from things like food, drink, social media, entertainment…etc. After fielding several questions from people who genuinely wanted to engage with the Lord in this time of fasting, I thought it would be helpful if I shared a little bit of my experience and understanding of why I believe fasting is so important. 

First of all, fasting quiets the noisiness of our flesh so that we can be attentive to the Holy Spirit. The greatest paradox of fasting is that when we fast, time actually feels like it goes slower. There are less distractions when we shut out social media. There is less noise in our lives when we simplify things. Our usual tendency is to drown out our inner turmoil with the noise of the world. We think that more toys, more entertainment, more relationships can fill the voids in our life, but they cannot. They are mere distractions. Only the intimate presence of God fills that void and fasting quiets our flesh so we can deal with our inner turmoil and seek Him in the midst of it. Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that (He) is God. Fasting helps us experience that reality.

Second of all, fasting is meant to strengthen our spirit. It is a voluntary weakness of our flesh that is actually meant to strengthen our inner man. Think about it, we have every right to eat anything we want to eat, and yet, when we choose to lay down these rights in our flesh, I believe we are building an inner resolve that aids us in our pursuit of holiness. The truth is, we are people that easily give in to temptations, but fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps us to resist the devil. Do you long to pursue God and a life of holiness but find yourself lacking in willpower to resist temptation? You need to fast! It is ridiculous to think I can run a marathon without training. Similarly, it is ridiculous to think we can finish the marathon of life without spiritual training. I like the NLT translation of 1 Timothy 4:8. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” May our times of fasting be the training needed to run the race that God has designated for us well. 

Finally, fasting is an expression of our longing for Jesus’ return. In our first passage, we see John’s disciples question Jesus and his disciples: Why did they not practice fasting, rather it seemed like they were overindulging in food? In fact, Jesus was called a glutton probably because he ate so much with the people he came to minister to (Luke 7:34). But Jesus, without skipping a beat, points to the fact that their national mourning, repentance, and longing for the coming of the Messiah is actually fulfilled in Jesus’ coming. He is the King of the Kingdom of God, the Bridegroom who would receive his Bride. There is no reason to fast when He is present, but when He departs (which He has), the bride will fast while it waits for her bridegroom to return. Our fasting is in response to the ache inside of our hearts for Jesus to return. 

There are so many other reasons to fast – to mourn and repent, to seek guidance and direction, to experience breakthrough, just to name a few of the things. But my prayer is that the next time you decide to fast, your heart would be in the right place – and you would be all the more aware of the rewards of fasting. 

Prayer: Father, in my times of fasting, may my heart be quickened to your Holy Spirit. May I know the depths of Your love and may the times I fast produce fruitfulness in my life. May it produce a deeper yearning for intimacy with You. May it produce a deeper hunger for Your presence. May it produce a stronger will in my spirit to pursue a life of holiness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV): “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. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Question to Consider

  1. Did Jesus expect everyone to fast? 
  2. In this passage, what is a proper fast?
  3. How do you feel about fasting and its place in your life?

Notes

  1. While Jesus did not command a fast, it seems like he expected his disciples to fast. Notice in verse 16, it doesn’t say “if you fast,” but rather “when you fast.” Thus, we can deduce that fasting is a spiritual practice that should be part of our regular regiment.  
  2. Jesus teaches us to fast not as a badge of honor to show off to others, but rather as an intimate act between our Father and ourselves. While it may seem more rewarding to be complimented by others in our discipline and holiness when we fast, there are actually greater rewards from our Father when we do it in secret and with the right heart. 
  3. Personal Response.

Evening Reflection

Have you considered regularly scheduling a fast for yourself? Some of us may have corporate fasts with our church during the start of the new year, during lent, or during the advent season, but consider scheduling in days to fast throughout the year and see how God will move in your life! 

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