When Jesus said, “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16) He gave us a statement about fasting that is full of meaning. From those three words we see several principles regarding fasting that every believer needs to consider.
Fasting is spiritual
Fasting is abstinence from food with a spiritual purpose in mind. It is abstaining from the most natural things your body desires – food – in order to call upon the God of heaven to do something supernatural in your life or someone else’s life. In a practical way, fasting can also be abstinence from other things in life. For example, just think what would happen in your life if you fasted from television for one week or think what would happen in your life if you fasted from the Internet for one week. Fast from whatever is important for you for a time, and you will see God do something really great in your life. Remember that fasting isn’t just abstaining from something, it is abstinence from something with a spiritual purpose and goal in mind.
Fasting is important
In the sermon on the mount Jesus said, “when you give” (Matt. 6:2), “when you pray” (Matt. 6:5), and “when you fast” (Matt. 6:16). By combining these three spiritual habits together He was placing equal value and importance on each one. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and to praying. Just as you study God’s Word regarding giving and praying, study it in regards to fasting. Just as you practice giving and praying, practice fasting. God desires fasting to be a significant part of your life.
Fasting is expected
God expects His people to fast. Just as He expects you to give and pray, He expects you to fast. When Jesus was teaching His disciples He said, “When you give… when you pray… when you fast” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). Just as Jesus expects us to be generous and pray, He also expects us to fast. Fasting should be as normal in the Christian’s life as giving and praying. When you examine the early church you find them having a habit of fasting. For example, the early church fasted before sending out missionaries (Acts 13:1-3) and before appointing elders (Acts 14:23).
Fasting is normal
Jesus said, “When you fast.” The word “when” also implies something normal in your life. Fasting should be as normal in the Christian’s life as praying and giving. Fasting is to be a natural, usual, and routine spiritual habit in the Christian life. It shouldn’t be an odd thing for you to fast.
Fasting is regular
When Jesus said, “When you fast,” He was also implying that fasting should be regular, meaning you will need to set aside regular times for fasting. Just as you set aside time to pray alone or to meet with others for prayer, you should set aside regular time to fast for various kingdom causes.
Fasting is never convenient
God knows there is never a convenient time to fast. Jesus knew that “when you fast” life would get in the way. In our busy lives there is always a holiday, birthday, trips, office lunch, or something that creates a bump in the road, so we talk ourselves out of beginning to fast or continuing a fast. My advice to you is to just jump in and do it, and everything else will take care of itself! If you have never fasted before, just do it for one meal or one day and you will see what I mean.
Fasting is for everyone
Jesus said, “When you fast.” Yep, He’s talking to you. You may be thinking, “I don’t know how fasting can really be for me.” According to Jesus it is the expected, normal, and regular spiritual habit of every believer to fast. I know you love to eat, so do I, but I also love to see God do incredible things and some things will not come about until we seek God’s face in prayer and fasting.
Fasting is personal
The “you” in “when you fast” also implies fasting is personal. This means you get to decide how often, how long and what kind. The Bible does not command how long or how often a believer should fast. That is between you and God.
Fasting is rewarding
After Jesus said “when you fast” He gave some instructions about fasting and concluded by saying, “And your Father, who sees everything will reward you” (Matt. 6:18). That is a promise from Jesus. He rewards those who seek His face, intercede for others, and lay petitions at His throne that are accompanied with fasting. Take delight and joy in the fact God wants to reward this incredible act of self-denial for His kingdom.