“When you fast…” — Jesus

why would you fast?

I was asked to teach a young adult Bible class on Bible study or fasting. I chose Bible study because, at the time, I’d never fasted. I didn’t want to teach what Jesus and others said about fasting then make excuses about why I’d never practiced it.

Since then I’ve fasted. I’m not an expert but I’ve learned some things by experience in addition to what I read in the Bible.

Jesus fasted. He assumed and stated His disciples would fast after He was taken away from them (Matthew 4:1, 2; Matthew 6:16-18; Matthew 9:14, 15).

The church at Antioch fasted when they sent out Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).

Paul, Barnabas, and the churches of Galatia fasted after or during the appointing of elders (Acts 14:21-23).

Paul counted fasting part of his sufferings for the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:4, 5; 2 Corinthians 11:27).

When we read the Bible, we learn God’s people have fasted. In the Old Testament, they fasted in times of war or the threat of it, when loved ones were sick, and when seeking God’s forgiveness. In the New Testament, fasting accompanied dealing with temptations, special missionary emphasis, and in the selecting and appointing elders.

Some things I’ve learned from fasting:

  1. I spend much time preparing for, cleaning up after, or driving to and from eating events. I’ve done most of my fasting during “weeks of isolation” where I set aside special time for study and reflection. I was amazed at what I could do during the time I would’ve been eating for three-five days.
  2. The hunger pains were good reminders when I had a special prayer emphasis. When I felt the hunger, I would pray.
  3. Fasting is a good exercise in self discipline. I don’t do what I feel like doing when I don’t eat when I’m hungry. There are many times I don’t need to do what I feel like doing. Practice strengthens that muscle.[tweetthis]Fasting is a good exercise in self discipline.[/tweetthis]
  4. Fasting gave me a greater appreciation of food and water when I broke the fast. Gratitude is often heightened after deprivation, whether voluntary or involuntary.
  5. I now read Psalm 42:1 and sing As the Deer with a different understanding after going without food and water.
  6. I learned that liver and onions isn’t a good meal to break a fast. Some reading about this topic can be helpful. I read Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, the summer I fasted the first time.[tweetthis]I learned that liver and onions isn’t a good meal to break a fast.[/tweetthis]

Jesus didn’t say, “If you fast.” He said, “When you fast.” Although we’re not saved by fasting, we may be served well by fasting and other teachings of Jesus which we may or may not have noticed, practiced, and encouraged other disciples to obey.

Jesus concluded the sermon where He mentioned fasting by saying, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man…” (Matthew 7:24, NKJV). I want to be a wise man.

How has fasting made a difference in your life?

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6 thoughts on ““When you fast…” — Jesus

  1. As odd as it may sound, being a person who has always struggled to keep his weight under control, I have greatly benefitted from fasting. I Ihad fasted three days before meeting the author of this blog, in West Tennessee, for a one-on-one conversation.

    • Eric, Thank you. I think we can help ourselves and others by teaching on this topic by word and example — and sharing our successes and failures.

  2. We are not a society much inclined to deprive ourselves, and would benefit much from the practice. Fasting forces the mind away from self, and increases spiritual focus, even if only for part of a day, or a whole day. Since it is a rather private matter I suppose that’s why we don’t hear much about it; but your words and experiences carry a healthy spirit, and are much appreciated.

    • I think you are correct. There is a fine line between “so that you do not appear to men to be fasting” (Matthew 6:18) and “Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Yet similar warnings about praying for show do not prohibit us from having public prayer.