Once Again Jesus Strikes a Nerve

Not to worry! You may read my feeble attempt to convey my thoughts and say, “Didn’t strike my nerve, I’ve mastered everything found in your post.” To you, I encourage, “Write a book! I’ll read it!” To those struggling as I…

In the sixth chapter of his account of the gospel, Matthew begins by quoting Jesus’ words of warning against doing good things for the wrong reasons. He says, “Beware!” I’m confident we all know the possibility of doing this, so… no, this isn’t what strikes a nerve. It is what Jesus assumes, that everyone who is His, will be consistently doing.

He naturally concludes in this chapter that believers can be identified as people who give, pray,… and fast. Notice in verses 2, 7, and 16, He says, “When (not if) you give, pray, and fast, then…”

Okay look, I’m a far cry from being the giver and prayer that I know my Lord calls me to be, but they do exist as evidences in my life. Fasting though… hey, I come from a denomination that considers it sinful to bypass a KFC! We’re the Forest Gumps of fried chicken.

Does Jesus really see fasting as an important part of the believer’s life? What can possibly be gained from starving ones’ self from… well, not just food? One author defined fasting (simply for me) as “doing without something in order to grow in grace and to appreciate God more.” What did he mean by this?

Basically, there are three types of hunger that every believer encounters regularly. We have a physical hunger that includes things like food and other things necessary for survival (by the way, I am told that we are the first generation to ‘live to eat, rather than eat to live’).

We have emotional hunger pains such as the need for attention and recognition.

There’s also the spiritual hunger we’re given at the new birth experience. Unfortunately, the third is usually the neglected hunger… treated much like a bear’s stomach when he hibernates in the winter.

To further drive home the reality of overemphasizing the first two hungers and neglecting the third, Paul wrote:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19 ESV

Fasting is an opportunity to feed our spiritual hunger. When we neglect our physical and emotional hungers in lieu of our spiritual hunger, we not only appreciate them more, but we also open the door for God to fill those voids with His Word and His will.

We shouldn’t forget though that Jesus began this dissertation with a warning. There is also the opportunity to use fasting wrongly. It can be used for show… to which Jesus declares the reward is in the recognition. In this case, we’re only feeding our emotional hunger.

We can also find ourselves fasting with the motivation for gain from God. While there are times when the Bible calls on us to fast to move mountains, we should not do so to gain approval or self-gratifying wishes. Nor should we fast with the belief that it makes us better Christians or enter into a fast with a holier-than-thou attitude, as though fasting makes us more pleasing to God or better than those who do not fast.

We are perfected in Christ alone. We are pleasing in God’s eyes because of Jesus, not by anything we do. It was His work that made and makes us better Christians. We do not fast to twist God’s arm to work for us, but to humble ourselves so that He can work in us… to transform us into the image of His Son.

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About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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9 Responses to Once Again Jesus Strikes a Nerve

  1. Wonderful post, Mike!

  2. Challenging! This is a subject I have not had cause to study much, although I would have to say that food (when having to feed a family) has at times been an unwelcome interruption to prayer and study times. When meeting deadlines in children’s ministry work, food was forgotten . . . but I tend to think that “prayer and fasting” as a determined activity for a specific purpose is something different again.

    • mtsweat says:

      Amen, and agree. I think we are called to be a people identified with fasting for specific needs and to hone in on our spiritual hunger (which really got most of this post). I really like RJ’s take on our physical weakness opening the door for God to give strength. Kind of runs hand in hand with “in your weakness, I am made strong.” Thanks good friend and God bless.

  3. Wayne Augden says:

    Thanks for the post Mike.

  4. RJ Dawson says:

    Thanks for the post, Mike. You have brought up a good topic that is rarely mentioned.

    The Pharisees (as examples), fasted for the wrong reasons, of course. Isaiah said fasting is not a religious exercise or something to show our strength, but for the breaking of the bonds of our flesh, our sinful human nature. It greatly assists us in spiritual battle also. As we grow weaker in our physical strength by denying our body physical food for a time, by coupling fasting with prayer we grow ever stronger spiritually and closer to God, and are able to “hear” Him much better. Our spiritual communication increases.

    Fasting should be a regular part of every believer’s life, as you stated. I once belonged to congregations that partook of fasting on a weekly basis (at least one day), and we did two-day fasts about once a quarter or so. I have heard of people doing long extended fasts, even forty days, as did our Lord Jesus, Moses (twice), and Elijah (the only three mentioned in Scripture).

    Regular fasting is much easier and the body adapts. It’s an excellent way to help the spirit rule the flesh.

    • mtsweat says:

      Hi RJ! Great to hear from you, friend. You really make some excellent points that add much meat to my words. I really appreciate the comments. God bless!

  5. Susan Michaels says:

    Forrest Gumps of Fried Chicken…:) That’s a good one!

    This is a subject that’s seldom raised, so thank you for doing so. No questions, there have been seasons when God has called me to fast and pray through very intense spiritual challenges, often with a prayer team. But you’re right on, if fasting or anything else we claim is ‘spiritual’ is in any way’self’ motivated, it’s empty works.

    In Christ alone! Amen! Blessed weekend, friend!

    • mtsweat says:

      I’m the king of the seldom raised subjects, Susan. I’m sure you can guess why… I fail miserably in areas like this one. God bless, friend.

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