Day 8

Fasting as Worship (1 of 3)

from the Lent 2016 reading plan


Matthew 6:16-18, Hosea 6:6, 1 Samuel 16:7

For the next three days, we are going to take a look at what the Bible has to say about fasting—perhaps one of the more misunderstood spiritual disciplines among Christians today.

One classic logical fallacy that our generation often falls prey to goes like this: “If something doesn’t make sense to me, then it must not make sense.” It can be easy to view fasting in this light, can’t it? If I don’t get it, then what is there to get?

I have a friend whose wife is a Pilates instructor. My friend, having no real interest in ever doing Pilates, once observed her class and jokingly referred to the workout as “jumping jacks.” We all had a good laugh until she challenged him to give it a try and see if it was as easy as he thought it would be. He agreed, and essentially got his lunch handed to him as he discovered that watching someone else do Pilates was a very different experience than doing it himself.

Fasting is like this. To look at it as an outside observer, we may wonder what not eating food for a period of time has to do with our relationship with God. But when we practice fasting ourselves, we find that while the answers may be hard to put into words, fasting is a unique and powerful way to worship God through the denial of our regular appetites.

When Jesus talks about fasting, He talks about it as an act of worship. In fact, Jesus assumes fasting will be part of our worship when He says, “When you fast,” as opposed to “if you should choose to fast” (Matt 6:16). Jesus tells us to use discretion when we fast so that it stays between us and God. This guardrail is there to keep us honest, lest we begin to think we’re owed something—like respect or praise—in exchange for our sacrifice.

Fasting is not a tactic we employ to get God to do things for us. We know this because God tells us He does not look upon the surface of things, but on the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Fasting is not a means to manipulate God by bolstering our self-righteousness. In fact, the minute we try to spin our fasting into self-righteousness, Jesus says, we already have our reward, and it is not with God (Matt 6:18).

Fasting is a way to worship by denying our regular appetites in order to cultivate a hunger for God. Fasting awakens our senses. It causes us to feel our frailty and need. And it helps us understand more fully what it means to know God as our provider—which is difficult to do when we go through life with our basest appetites always satisfied.

This is convicting when I think about my own life. Being honest, I would have to say that I rarely let an appetite linger. And I wonder what difference it makes in terms of my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit when I go through life essentially fat and happy all of the time.

A life of perpetual satisfaction must, of course, produce a small view of spiritual disciplines—like calling Pilates “jumping jacks.” But my small view does not make the practice of fasting small. It just reveals that I am small-minded when it comes to the practice of a spiritual discipline Jesus assumes will be part of the worship of the people of God.

Lent is a season where we anticipate and celebrate the greatest expression of self-denial in the history of the world—the death of Christ. Fasting is one way we can get a taste (no pun intended) of Christ’s self-denial, which we believe leads to our everlasting delight.

May the Lord continually deepen our experience of worship, and may He teach us to employ well the variety of means He has given us—like fasting—in healthy, God-honoring ways, so that we might draw near to Him in our hearts.

Written By Russ Ramsey 

Post Comments (27)

27 thoughts on "Fasting as Worship (1 of 3)"

  1. Patrick Shen says:

    God sees to the heart of all things. He knows our intentions. He wants actions that pursue his presence.

  2. Patrick Shen says:

    I think of John 3:26, For God so loved the world that he gave is only son…” He modeled sacrifice as an pure expression of Love. I want my Fasting to operate in much the same way towards God.

  3. Patrick Shen says:

    I will not drudginy do this fast. I will rejoice in it and do it with a heart of Love.

  4. Patrick Shen says:

    We need to need. Self denial creates space for Us to interact with God. It reminds us in a very tangible way of his presence and our hunger and need for it.

  5. Patrick Shen says:

    Jesus teach me to love the father as you did. In this season of confession, repentance, and sacrifice, bring me closer to you. Help me to know your mind, love like you love, care about the things you care about, pray like you prayed. I want to know you in every way possible.

  6. C Bates says:

    That the way humans see and the way God sees are different. I can only see outward appearances, physical things that light must reflect off of and enter into my eyes in order to perceive it. God’s sight apparently doesn’t work on the same science nor the same process that humans rely on for sight apparently because we aren’t able to see the things that He can see, nor is there a process or explanation on how He is able to see the way He does, in terms of seeing hearts.

  7. C Bates says:

    Man’s sight is limited. So if I want to have a clearer picture, I can rely on God and His vision.

  8. Steele Fredricksen says:

    Man is so concerned with our appearance, or doing things for others. It was so good to hear that men already have their reward if they are looking for approval from other men. Men can be so distant from God by simply wanting to please others while thinking its pleasing to God.

  9. Steele Fredricksen says:

    God doesn’t care about our appearance. He does not care what we do for Lent, or the amount of effort we put into the sacrificial part of it. He wants us, our need for Him, and our relationship to grow.

  10. Steele Fredricksen says:

    I will let go of any distractions, and truly see what is keeping me from embracing God. Not only am I being distracted, but I’m getting a false hope of what life and joy truly is.

  11. Steele Fredricksen says:

    The good news is the fact that we can let our pride go. We don’t have to try. We don’t have to prove ourselves to God, let alone man. God wants us as we are, in our raw form, wherever we are.

  12. Steele Fredricksen says:

    I pray God will show me where I am blind. I pray for the strength to let those things go that are so paralyzing. I pray for true joy, and for God to take away my want for earthly desires. I want to desire You, Lord, and You only. I don’t want to feel better for performing, but rather through seeking You.

  13. Calar Chaussee says:

    We are to live our lives as Jesus did. Accept everyone where they are and love them without judgement or expectations.

  14. Calar Chaussee says:

    We must practice our disciplines for God for his sake, not for others to see and give us praise. We must worship him with our hearts, our time, and our lives/lifestyles. We must make our disciplines between God and ourselves. God loves us and as long as we are devoted to him, his kingdom, and his plans for us we will be rewarded.

  15. Calar Chaussee says:

    Man can easily lose sight of what people need, what they have to offer, and to love one another, because we tend to judge before we love and invest in others.

  16. Noah Stephens says:

    When all of man’s appetites are continually satisfied, there is no felt need to depend on Christ. Fasting provides a way to place oneself in a position of need, so that Christ can show himself more fully to us.

  17. Noah Stephens says:

    The death of Jesus was the ultimate expression of self-denial, and when we follow in his footsteps, we move closer to the glory he has promised us.

  18. Daniel says:

    The sacrifice of Christ was for us; and it is something we can share in through fasting and self-denial. These elements are not intended to be punishing, but are powerful ways to connect with the real cost Christ paid out of His love for us.

  19. Daniel says:

    God is not interested in things, or us attempting to prove our faith by actions; He sees and is invested in our hearts.

  20. Daniel says:

    We should embrace fraility, humility, and dependency upon the Spirit. We can have a small view of not only sacrifice, but God in general, and should embrace the commands and expectations of Christ, even when they seem illogical to us.

  21. Daniel says:

    Honestly, I have never taken part in a fast; yet now, I feel led to do so and will respond accordingly.

  22. Daniel says:

    Lord, help me to determine what it is you’d desire for me to fast, and what will bring me to a place of greater surrender and experience of your love and sacrifice for me. I praise you for what you laid down, and how you have saved me. Amen.

  23. Isaac Jones says:

    Man should fast and remember his frailty and dependence on the Lord.

  24. Isaac Jones says:

    Heavenly Father,
    Help me to fast. Lord I do not like to hunger and I get angry without food. Help my evil heart to be humbled as I fast and turn this frustrating action into an action that brings me to praise. May I understand that my dependence relies on you; amen.

  25. Isaac Jones says:

    This teaches me that there are actions we do to show our faith. Both fasting and giving are largely supposed to be secret actions that show our dependence on God as provider. These actions show our living faith, for faith without works is dead. These actions cannot be used as righteousness and self praise when nobody knows about them.

  26. Isaac Jones says:

    God desires physical pictures of our inward hearts. God desires fasting and remembrance of Him as sustainer and provider. God wants us to be aware of our frailty and our need for Him.

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