Fasting: How We Show Our Dependance on God

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“Fasting: How We Show Our Dependance on God”

(Selected Passages)

Series: The Spiritual Disciplines [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

June 10, 2018

Introductory Comments:

When I say the word “fasting,” what comes to mind?

You may think of a religious zealot. 

You may think, “there’s no way that I could do that.”

You may even think, “Pastor Matt has lost his mind to preach this to us.” 

(pause)

However, did you know that fasting is mentioned more in the Bible than baptism?

Fasting is perhaps the most misunderstood spiritual discipline, the most ignored spiritual discipline, and perhaps the most feared spiritual discipline. 

(pause)

We are continuing our series on the spiritual disciplines, those acts which draw us closer to God, which we purposefully work towards. 

Why do we practice the spiritual disciplines? It’s because we love Jesus and we want to follow Him! We want to be more like Him! We have devoted our lives to Him! So, we discipline ourselves to become what He created us to be. 

These are not just a list of rules or requirements. We do them because we love Jesus and we are loved by Him.

(pause)

Thus far we have learned about Bible-intake and prayer. 

Today, we will see what the Bible has to say about fasting. 

Let’s pray together as we begin. 

(Prayer)

This morning we will learn three steps we should take regarding fasting. 

Before we do that, I want to go ahead and share with you the first of the three weekly challenges (I’m throwing a curve ball at you all).

  1. Challenge yourself to understand the biblical teaching on fasting.  [on screen]

As we go through this message, I want us all to challenge ourselves to be open to the biblical teaching on fasting and not just disregard it. 

OK? OK!  Here we go.

First, . . .

I. Fasting should be practiced [on screen]

First of all, what is fasting?

Donald Whitney is his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life says, “Christian fasting is a believer’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.”

I also like this definition from author Tim Challies, “In fasting you are withholding from yourself something you need (food) in order to pursue something you need even more (communion with God).”

As we fast, the fact that we ultimately are dependent on God comes to the forefront of our minds. We focus more on Him!

So, even though we may hear of people who are giving up chocolate, or Facebook, or TV, or dating. These examples are not really fasting in the biblical sense. 

Biblical fasting always involves giving up food, which is something that we need.

It may do some of us well to give up some of these other things, but these are not things that we need; they’re things that we want, so while helpful it’s not biblical fasting. 

(pause)

I mentioned already that many of us, probably most of us, are pretty unfamiliar with fasting. 

Yet, the Bible pretty much assumes that we will fast.

Jesus said this in Matthew 6:16:

16 “Whenever you fast . . .”  [on screen]

Again, as with prayer, Jesus expects it.

In Matthew 9:14-15 we read of a conversation Jesus had regarding fasting. It says,

14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. [on screen]

Jesus is basically saying, “Later on I will be gone from this earth. That is the time that you are to fast.”

We see that, in fact, after Jesus left the earth the believers in the early church fasted. 

Listen to Acts 13:2

 2 As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting . . . [on screen]

The Bible reveals that Jesus fasted, others fasted during the time of Jesus, and followers of Jesus fasted after Jesus went back into heaven. 

Fasting among followers of Jesus should be practiced. 

Second, . . .

 

II. Fasting should be purposeful  [on screen]

In the Bible we also see Jesus giving us some instruction on how we should fast.

Let’s look again at Matthew 6 (verses 16-18).

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  [on screen]

So, Jesus said we should be purposeful. 

Here are two ways we should be purposeful in our fasting:

First, we should have integrity. 

This is what Jesus was talking about. 

We shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves when we are fasting in order to make people think we are more spiritual. 

Ideally, the only ones who should know that you are fasting are you and God. Sometimes others have to know because of practicalities, but the fewer, the better. 

Additionally, we should be fasting for a spiritual purpose. We shouldn’t be doing it in order to lose weight or punish ourselves in some way. 

If we are fasting in the name of following Christ, we should really be doing it to follow Christ. 

We should have integrity. 

Second, we should have intention. 

We should have a reason why we are fasting. 

What is your purpose? What is your intention?

Did you know that three different US presidents called for fasting for the nation? John Adams, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln all called for national fasts. 

Our president of the Southern Baptist Convention has asked Southern Baptists to pray as we approach the annual meeting. I participated in that fast this past week. 

There’s intention behind those fasts. 

Dr. Whitney, in his book, gives this example of how it should work out:

“As you are fasting and your head aches or your stomach growls and you think, I’m hungry! Your next thought is likely to be something like, Oh, right—I’m hungry because I’m fasting today. Then your next thought should be, and I’m fasting for this purpose: _________________________.”

He continues, “Your hunger helps you, serving as a continual reminder of your spiritual purpose.”

Now, here are just a few possible purposes for fasting:

To strengthen prayer. 

To seek God’s guidance. 

To express grief. 

To seek deliverance or protection. 

To express repentance and return to God. 

To humble oneself before God. 

To express concern for the work of God. 

To minister to the needs of others. 

To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to the Lord. 

To express love and worship. 

So, as we fast, our fasting should be purposeful. 

Perhaps the greatest purpose of fasting should be to drive us to God, primarily through prayer. 

That’s our last point . . .

III. Fasting should be prayerful  [on screen]

We see prayer associated with fasting all throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

In the Old Testament, Ezra 8:23 says,

23 So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and he was receptive to our prayer. [on screen]

In the New Testament, Acts 13:3 says, 

3 Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off. [on screen]

Fasting provides a natural prompting for a supernatural act.

(repeat)

The natural prompting is our hunger. 

The supernatural act is communication with the one, true, living God of all things. 

If you don’t a have a spiritual purpose, undergirded by prayer, fasting is just a bad diet. 

(pause)

Perhaps there’s something that you really want to spend extra time and energy praying over and you don’t want to forget about it. Maybe you should consider fasting and praying over that issue. 

If done correctly fasting drives us to prayer and to God. 

Fasting should be prayerful. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Remember, as with all of the spiritual disciplines, fasting is done with both our effort, and God’s empowerment. We need His grace and the leading of His Spirit to live for Him. 

We don’t do it to earn God’s favor, we don’t do it to impress Him. 

We do it because we have already won His favor through the work of Jesus and because we have been impressed by His great love for us. 

We want more of Jesus and more of God’s presence, so we fast to focus upon Him!

Here’s our bottom line this week:

Bottom Line: Fasting magnifies our dependence on God.  [on screen]

(repeat)

When we fast we are reminded how we need the Lord more than food and how we need to spend time pursuing the Lord more than we do pursuing food. 

The knowledge of our dependence on God is highlighted when we fast. 

Here’s our weekly challenge for this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Challenge yourself to understand the biblical teaching on fasting.  [on screen]

Are you open to what God might be telling you about fasting?

As with all of the spiritual disciplines, we must be open to doing what the Bible actually calls us to do. 

Challenge yourself to be open to what God is saying to you. Explore the Bible some more on this topic. 

  1. Challenge yourself to fast for a certain period of time.  [on screen]

For some of you that may be just one meal. Some of you may legitimately have health issues which prevent you from fasting for five days, or a week. 

However, I want all of us to challenge ourselves to fast for a certain period of time. 

  1. Challenge yourself to fast for a certain purpose.  [on screen]

As you fast for a certain period of time, make sure you are also fasting for a certain purpose. 

Maybe God has impressed something on your heart. Maybe you are burdened about something. Maybe you simply want to be more holy, so you want to fast and pray for God to make you holy. 

Challenge yourself in some way. 

Closing:

Remember, this is all about making us more like Jesus wants us to be. 

Jesus fasted and He expected His followers to fast. 

Will we do so?

Fasting points us to our dependence upon God. 

Did you know that we are dependent upon God for everything?

We are dependent on God for every breath, every piece of food, every step we take, and for our very lives. 

Yet, we have rejected God. 

Even though we have rejected Him, He offers us life once again. 

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Have Thine Own Way

Benediction:

Be back tonight as Rev. Marvin Pittman shares a word with you from the Bible. My wife and I will be on our way to Dallas. Be in prayer for us, or you may want to fast. 😀

Also, be in prayer for our youth this week as thirty of them are going to camp. Pray that God would do great things through them, for His glory. 

God bless, you, church!

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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