Blessed… Fasting

“And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18, Common English Bible).

Let me be the first to say, and if you look at me you will know that what I am saying here is true, I have never been one to spend much time fasting. Before entering the ministry I was asked once to participate in a 4:00 fast. You couldn’t eat before 4:00 in the afternoon throughout Advent. I don’t remember the point of the fast, I just remember doing it. I have also participated in a few short term juice fasts. One year I did a meat fast through Lent. To be honest, I didn’t find any of them particularly meaningful.

I believe to truly find the meaning of today’s reading we need to return to the beginning of chapter 6. In verse 1 Matthew quotes Jesus saying, “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Then he goes on to talk about giving, prayer and now fasting. All of these are acts of worship. In each case, comes the caution against public displays.

There was initially only one day of fasting for Jews, the Day of Atonement (today, Yom Kipper). By Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had increased this for the super-religious to 108 days per year. Further, for the average Joe on the street, they insisted that each year they have four days of fasting.

In order to demonstrate how faithful they were, they went about the fast in sackcloth and ashes. They wanted everyone to know how faithful they were by the way they showed themselves to the world.

Jesus obviously was not impressed by this and here gives caution to those who want to show the outward signs of faithfulness while actually having nothing within. He is, in essence saying, “Folks, you’ve got it backward.”

At its very essence, our faith is a faith of the heart. It is a faith that doesn’t speak first to the world whether we are living this out in our giving, our prayer lives or in other forms of worship such as fasting.

I recently read something about “super-charged” prayer. It basically said that fasting super-charged our prayers and that when we are fasting God would multiply our prayers and the really hard things in life require both prayer and fasting. I’m not sure that is actually true. Does God answer prayer for those who are fasting and prayer more quickly than for those of us who simply pray? Possibly. But, I would submit, if one is going about fasting and prayer in the right ways, God may well do so but I don’t think it is really because of fasting. I think that because of the way they are seeking God, God is going to honor that kind of faithfulness.

What is your experience with fasting? Did it make a difference?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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