Prepare – Matthew 6:16–18
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
When Hudson Taylor was born in 1832, his parents prayed, “Grant that he may work for you in China.” At that time, few Chinese people had heard of Christianity, and fewer were Christians themselves. Taylor felt God’s call to China early in his teenage years, and diligently studied medicine, Mandarin, and Bible in preparation for his call. At age 21, he boarded a small boat from Liverpool to China. Once there, he never left. By the time of his death in 1905, his mission had 825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China, more than 500 local Chinese helpers, and over 25,000 Christian converts.
Taylor learned a powerful teaching of Jesus from Chinese Christians: “In Shansi I found Chinese Christians were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are-dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.” Taylor learned fasting produces a physical hunger that helps us realize our spiritual hunger for God.
Throughout the Bible, people fasted to deepen their dependence on God. David wrote, “I humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). Ezra said, “I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God” (Ezra 8:21). Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2) and the early church did too (Acts 13-14).
Not all fasts look the same (Daniel 10:3). Some fast differently due to medical concerns. Yet, fasting isn’t dieting. If you’re dieting to lose weight, that is your reward. If you’re fasting to feast on God’s Word over a meal time, God is your reward. How can fasting deepen your dependence on God?
~ Pastor Steven Dunkel