Part of a Rich Tradition with Jesus
Tuesday - September 21st
Scripture to Read Today: Matthew 3:13-4:2
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
For millennia, fasting has been a component of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is well-documented in the Bible, with stories of people fasting for a variety of reasons. Both Old and New Testament saints fasted as a regular part of their walk with God.
Old Testament saints fasted during times of sadness and national remorse. They fasted when they needed perseverance or mercy and wanted to hear from God (see 1 Samuel 7:6; Nehemiah 1:4; Esther 4:16). On the other hand, fasting was no guarantee that God would respond in the way the intercessor desired. For example, King David fasted to ask God to spare Bathsheba's child's life, but the child died (2 Samuel 12:16-20).
Fasting was a common practice among the Jews at the time of Jesus. Jesus began his ministry by fasting for forty days (Matthew 3:13-4:2). He also fasted before healings and to stay away from temptation. However, he did not impose a severe fasting regimen on his followers (Matthew 4:2; Mark 2:18-19; Luke 5:33).
Fasting was practiced by the New Testament church as they sought God's will and the needed grace and strength to stay committed to God's work. There were other fasting periods associated with religious occasions (Acts 13:2-3). Fasting is an integral aspect of many Christian traditions' preparation for a particular liturgical season. For example, fasting during Lent reminds many Christians of how Jesus gave up everything—including his life—for us.
Fasting for the wrong motives or with the wrong attitude is also frowned upon in Scripture (Matthew 6:16-18). When people do not live according to God's will, they should be prepared for nothing to come from a fast (Isaiah 58:3-7). The practice should not be a spiritual show put on for others to see. It doesn't make somebody holy or pious, and it doesn't gain any "spiritual points" with God (Matthew 6:16; Luke 18:9-14).
Fasting isn't a miraculous means to get God to do what we want; it's not a way to get God to help us carry out our plans. It is not a blackmailing of God or a desperate tantrum to gain his attention. Fasting isn't a spiritual technique to lose weight or gain power over people. Instead, fasting focuses us and allows us to seek God's will and grace in ways that go beyond our usual worship and prayer practices. Fasting allows us to spend one-on-one time with God. We give Him the time and attention we might otherwise devote to eating, engaging on social media, playing sports, shopping, or watching television.
When we fast, we join a rich tradition of God's people seeking to focus our hearts on God's power to meet needs.