When You Fast

Read this featured blog post by Pastor Jeremy Vines


When you Fast

We are going to pick up where we left off in Matthew chapter 6

So last week we talked about When you Pray - Jesus told how not to pray, the wrong motives for prayer and then he gave us what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. And then He immediately goes into this passage.

Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 


I know most of you probably already know this - but sometimes we can assume we all know what we mean by a word like fasting. But some people might not be sure.


| fast |

verb [no object]

abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.

Fasting - in the Biblical sense is to go without something, usually food.

Ok so Jesus is saying WHEN YOU FAST - Not IF YOU FAST.

     AND like prayer - we should not make a show of it.


Fasting is meant to be part of the Christian lifestyle - just like prayer and reading your Bible. 

You would not expect to hear a follower of Jesus say they never read their Bible… Right? 

And you would never expect to hear a follower of Jesus say they never pray… 

Then we should also not expect to hear a Follower of Jesus say they never fast. Or they have never fasted.

Fasting in some capacity should be apart of your life.

How much should you fast - and how often?

These are great questions that the Bible does not answer.

There is no set amount of fasting prescribed in the Bible. Yet we are clearly commanded to do it.

The Bible also doesn’t tell us how much or often we should pray. And that does not seem to make us stumble. 

Now someone may hear that and say - yes it does Pastor - the Bible says pray without ceasing… (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

That is not what that verse means. It does not mean to pray 24/7, that is not possible, it means don’t give up on praying.


The first thing we have to understand is what fasting for and what is NOT for.

1. It is not a hunger strike.

You are not denying yourself of food to get something from God.

I know that mean seem obvious but many people try to use fasting to get God to do their will…. It won’t work. 


2. Fasting is not punishment.

You should never use fasting to create suffering for yourself.

It is amazing to me how many people seem to feel that suffering brings approval from God. It does not work that way. 

God does not delight in your suffering. 

When we endure suffering imposed on us from others. It pleases God. When we inflict suffering on our selves it does not.

So if it is not about striking and getting God to do something, and if it is not about punishment - what is Fasting for?


Fasting is about denial - self denial.

Matthew 16:24 (ESV)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“Self denial is a crucial part of following Christ.” 

Learning to let go of the things that don’t want to let go of you.

Fasting is the discipline of denying yourself of the things that hardest to refuse.


I am telling you right now - if you struggle with habitual sin - it is because you don’t know how to deny yourself.

Just because you desire something does not mean - you should have it. 

You really need to hear that. 

You need to learn that.

Our culture has digressed to the point where we believe that every desire we have is something we SHOULD indulge.

This could be food - sexual - material or just about anything.

For example if you have mounds of credit card debt - and every time you want something - you just get it even if you don’t the cash to pay for it - you don’t know how to deny yourself. You haven’t learned that yet. And that is what fasting is meant to teach you.

When you can deny your body of food - you can deny your self of anything. Fasting teaches you that. If you never fast - you won’t learn it.

My Struggle

Let me tell you about my own struggle - I learned recently that I was a full blown addict. I honestly didn’t even know.

Earlier this year my Dr. diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic.

I took this about as serious as most Americans do - I lost 3-5 pounds and then gained 15. 

What did get my attention was 6 months later I had to wear a pair of pants I hadn’t worn in a year or two. 

It took an act of God and about four different positions to get those pants buttoned. And I was fairly certain that they would break free and the flying button would no doubt break a window.

At that point I set out to take my diet seriously.

For the last 7 weeks I have cut about 95% of all processed sugar out of my diet and about 75% of all carbs from bread…

It turns out I am actually allergic to sugar - when I eat way too much of it my whole body swells up.

This was by no means in preparation for this message. 

Let me tell what you I learned. 

I used to say things like - “I have to eat breakfast”.

For the first 2 weeks of this change - I felt like I was starving no matter how much non sugary food I eat. But once I finally came off of the sugar cravings - something amazing happened. I could go many hours without eating at all - and it didn’t even bother me. 

Just clear the is a difference between dieting and fasting - what I have been doing is been about diet. Not fasting.

Why am I telling you this?


I am not telling you this because I think you all need to cut processed sugar out of your diet - although I think you all need to cut processed sugar out of your diet. But that is not why I telling you this. 

Denying myself of sugar has freed me from an addiction I didn’t even know that I had.

That is what fasting does. 

“Fasting looks like bondage - but gives freedom.

Indulgence looks like freedom - but only gives bondage.”

So if we are going to fast - the first thing you need to understand is that it is about self denial and self control.

Whenever we fast for God - we should use our withdrawal to draw closer to closer to God.

Whenever you say no to one thing, you can say yes to something else.

  • Fasting brings focus. Jesus Fasted 40 days and 40 nights. 
  • Contact your Dr. before a long fast…
  • Fasting gives you spiritual strength
  • When I am weak, then I am strong.
  • Fasting brings clarity. We see many examples of the first disciples fasting before making big decisions.
  • As we just read - Correct Fasting will be rewarded.


Today I want to close with a passage from Isaiah.

The children of Israel did not understand fasting and they used incorrectly just like Hypocrites that Jesus referred to did. I really think this passage needs no commentary - I just want you to hear it. 

Isaiah 58:1–11 (NLT)

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. 

Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. 

Tell my people Israel of their sins! 

2 Yet they act so pious! 

They come to the Temple every day 

and seem delighted to learn all about me. 

They act like a righteous nation 

that would never abandon the laws of its God. 

They ask me to take action on their behalf, 

pretending they want to be near me. 

3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. 

‘Why aren’t you impressed? 

We have been very hard on ourselves, 

and you don’t even notice it!’ 

“I will tell you why!” I respond. 

“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. 

Even while you fast, 

you keep oppressing your workers. 

4 What good is fasting 

when you keep on fighting and quarreling? 

This kind of fasting 

will never get you anywhere with me. 

5 You humble yourselves 

by going through the motions of penance, 

bowing your heads 

like reeds bending in the wind. 

You dress in burlap 

and cover yourselves with ashes. 

Is this what you call fasting? 

Do you really think this will please the Lord? 

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: 

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; 

lighten the burden of those who work for you. 

Let the oppressed go free, 

and remove the chains that bind people. 

7 Share your food with the hungry, 

and give shelter to the homeless. 

Give clothes to those who need them, 

and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, 

and your wounds will quickly heal. 

Your godliness will lead you forward, 

and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 

9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. 

‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. 

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. 

Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 

10 Feed the hungry, 

and help those in trouble. 

Then your light will shine out from the darkness, 

and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. 

11 The Lord will guide you continually, 

giving you water when you are dry 

and restoring your strength. 

You will be like a well-watered garden, 

like an ever-flowing spring. 

God does not want us to torture our selves trying to get favor from him. He does want us to learn self control so we can be free to serve him completely. 

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