Sunday, August 21, 2022
Brooke Allen - Journey Church Online Host
16 “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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.”
This is a difficult section of Scripture that has always challenged me. There are two ways to “fast”. One way to fast is to refrain from something specific (i.e. technology, social media, food groups, etc.). The other is to totally abstain from food and drink other than water. This section is talking about the latter. Jews were required to fast the day before each of the annual seven festivals to prepare themselves for the celebration of remembrance. Whether they fasted then, or at other times for personal reasons, it was often accompanied by wearing uncomfortable clothing and ashes to declare their unworthiness. The “hypocrites”, who wanted to appear super-spiritual, beefed this up with contorted faces and wailing in public.
Jesus is very clear in this part of the sermon that this is the turning point. This new way of living is not steeped in ritual but in relationship. God doesn’t want your platitudes or meaningless “checking of the boxes” – he wants you.
Jesus says, “WHEN you fast…”, not “IF you fast…”. It is meant to be an intentional, regular spiritual discipline. I grew up in a faithful Protestant home, but fasting was not part of what we did. In fact, it was something I resisted my whole life. I don’t have any physical issues that would limit me from fasting. I just get….wait for it….hungry!
Fasting is meant to be a BLESSING to us – a practice for seeking him, rededicating ourselves to him, or just being obedient to his calling. It is not meant to punish us, but to help us grow in our faith and intimacy with Christ. Yes, you will be out of your routine. You will get hungry. Your brain and body will slow down. You will have to resist your own desires for immediate gratification. But the physical and emotional discomfort are there to remind you of why you are doing this. It’s there to bring your focus back on God and say, “God, I want to be obedient to you. What do you want to say to me? How can I see YOU today?”
During the 21 Days of Prayer, are you being called to restart and refocus your priorities? Maybe, like me, God is calling you to include a new spiritual discipline in your life. I pray that you will hear that small voice and do it. He will bless you for it!
(NOTE: If you have a physical condition that precludes you from abstaining from food and drink, please talk to your doctor. Consider a selective type of fasting where you give up something that is getting in the way of your relationship with God – again, this is meant to bless you, not harm you!)
“Lord, I humbly turn to you today. Please show me today and this fall what you want me to do to intentionally include you in my daily life. Please open my eyes and ears to your faithfulness, goodness, majesty and love. Amen.”
Daily Prayer Initiatives
- Jesus to change more lives as we double the square footage of our Castle Pines location.
- Momentum as we launch our Highlands Ranch location.
- Someone you can invite to Journey on Friend Day (Sunday, September 11)
- One bold prayer you sense God is personally inviting you to pray during the 21 Days.
Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily Scripture passage several times. From the passage of Scripture you read, highlight one or two verses that stick out. Write them down, and even consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.
Make some basic observations about the scripture you just read by asking these questions:
- Why was this written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- What is the author trying to communicate?
- What does the Scripture passage teach me about God and humanity?
After taking some time explaining the highlighted scriptures, begin to think about how they apply to your life. Ask yourself these questions and spend some time writing down your thoughts:
- What do these verses mean today?
- What does this verse(s) mean for my life?
- How does this verse challenge my thinking and actions?
- What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?
Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through the Bible verses. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.