Some people associate fasting with dieting. But the self-control in an effective weight-loss program is not God's idea of power fasting. To be sure, He wants us to avoid gluttony and other physical excesses, but He also wants something deeper from us, something infinitely more precious and spiritual-a disciplined holy lifestyle that gets us as close to Him as we can get: into His mind, conformed to His will, and after His heart.
Fasting is a critical element of this discipline.
Let me walk you through some Scriptures that will help you see the connection between fasting and getting close to God, and the power He promises to those who seek Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
To begin with, fasting is mentioned over fifty times in Scripture, so we know it's an important topic. Jesus discussed it in His very first sermon-the Sermon on the Mount:
1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face
18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
— Matthew 6:1, 16-18
Let's do some observations together. First, notice how Jesus' statements about fasting begin and end with a common theme-motive. There are apparently two possible motives for fasting, aren't there? One to be seen by _______ and another to be seen by ________.
Which motive does Jesus command us to choose? ___________ And why? What will God do when we act from the right motive? __________________.
What related words begin verses 16 and 17? _________ and __________. And what characteristic of true discipleship follows? ________________________________
Jesus set a great example for us when He fasted for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2). This was clearly God's purpose: we're told He was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (v. 1). After this long time without food, when Jesus was terribly weakened, the devil tempted Him to use His divine power as Son of God to command stones to become bread.