November 21, 2007

Fasting and Dieting

Matthew 6:16-18

"You are fasting ... only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father ... will reward you."
Matthew 6:18


In North America today many people spend a lot of time and money trying to lose weight. Many even go to weekly meetings for help with their weight-loss plan.

That's different from the fasting we read about in the Bible. Both have to do with eating less food, but that's where the similarities end.

The Old Testament prophets fasted, and so did Jesus and his disciples. Fasting should be considered by all followers of Jesus: rich and poor, those with an abundance of food as well as those who have little. Jesus did not say "if" you fast but "when" you fast. Our self-centered and affluent lifestyles cry out for discipline, sacrifice, and time spent with God.

Fasting is intended for self-examination and a deeper experience of God's presence and power (Joel 2:12-14). It should be done sensibly and secretly. While much celebration is commanded in the Old Testament, there was only one prescribed fasting day each year (see Leviticus 16:29-31). God promises that purposeful and prayerful fasting will be effective in our walk with him.

So when you fast, do it quietly and cheerfully. Your heavenly Father will reward you. Let God draw you closer to himself. Undoubtedly you will be more thankful for your food and more willing to share with people who are needy.

Almighty Father, may our turning away from food for a time remind us of our need to turn away from secret sins or hidden pride, lest we think we can neglect you. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — John Van Schepen

Dr. John Van Schepen is a retired pastor who served churches in Washington, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oregon and California. He and his wife, Willie, have been blessed with five children and several grandchildren.

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