The Sermon on the Mount: Day 18

How to Fast

by

Today's Text: Matthew 6:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, Psalm 51:16-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, Revelation 19:6-10

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, Psalm 51:16-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, Revelation 19:6-10

One of my pet peeves is when people in public talk really loudly on purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I like loud and extroverted people in general, but the random strangers who want to be overheard irk me. Have you ever noticed someone talking about their awesome adventures, juicy gossip, or busy schedule, and it feels like they want you to hear every word? To know how cool or important they are? As I write this I’m sitting in a coffee shop next to a mighty loud cell phone talker. Deep breaths.

In my work as a counselor, I’ve learned about a common human defense called “projecting.” Projecting is essentially when you don’t want to face your own weakness, and so you deny your problems while seeing and disliking them in other people. Pet peeves are often projections. To be honest, I have on occasion noticed myself starting to talk extra loud in public and I hate it. That’s probably why it really bugs me so much in other people, because I’ve felt my own shallow desire to be admired and I’m not proud of that.

The truth is, most people deeply crave admiration and recognition from others. We want someone to tell us we are cool, perfect, strong, holy, or worthy. Jesus addressed this condition of the human heart in the book of Matthew, when He instructed His followers on how to fast.

When Jesus spoke about fasting it was a common practice for Jewish people, but had become quite a show for some. This practice which is meant to humble people before the Lord, instead made them proud in their own self-righteousness. The fasting people made their deeds obvious to all around them by looking visibly disheveled and afflicted. Like the person talking loudly in the coffee shop, they wanted others to notice and affirm their value.

To the religious people fasting for human recognition, Jesus said, “You have received your reward.” Meaning, “You want human admiration so badly? Then enjoy it. But I know your heart, and you’re not doing this for me.” You see Christ told His followers to hide their fasting because He wanted to keep their intentions pure and their faces turned toward God alone, so they might find their worth and identity in Him.

God is always concerned with our heart than our sacrifices, and He shows that throughout the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord already knows the motives of our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 17:10)—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no sense in putting on a show, and there is no need either, because the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love” (Psalm 145:8-9).

Christ gave us commands and practices to connect with us, not to put us under another law. As Paul proclaimed in Galatians, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Sometimes that yoke of slavery looks like an insatiable need to have others admire you. But the Lord knows that a true sense of your value can only be found in Him, and so He wants to free you from that devastating rabbit chase.  

Whatever works you are doing for the Lord, make Him your audience of one. And “your father who sees in secret will reward you.”

SRT-SOTM-Instagram-18

Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

  • I was praying this morning about a conversation I need to have with someone about talking too much. A few days ago I spent almost an hour an a half on the phone with this person and I spoke maybe for 10 minutes of it. The conversation was filled with her telling me about her day, what went right, what went wrong, her plans. What she should do about these certain situations, etc. Ejven when she asked me a direct question, I was not given the opportunity to answer her properly and the short answers I did give her, I am not sure she really heard. I really felt as though there was a lesson I needed to teach her about communication being a two-way street. As I was asking God to help me craft what I would say, He very quietly reminded me that this was in fact exactly how I spoke to Him. I would tell Him about my frustrations, thank Him for the gifts He has given me and ask what to do about XYZ, but did I ever just sit and let Him speak to me? Did I really listen for the instruction He wanted so badly to give me? I was ashamed and embarrassed and convicted that for me, I need a fast from talking TO God and lean into talking WITH God. Lord, help me to listen to You, to not come to You with my lists everyday but to listen to what You would have to say to me. Remind me that I am to sit at Your feet and be still in prayer with You, instead of rushing through our time together trying to check off a list of all the things I need to tell You. Help me to listen more. Thank You, I love You. Amen.

    • Melinda

      This is pure gold! Thank you, Rebecca, for this divine instruction and conviction. Lord, let me sit at your feet and listen to your word as I leave the talkers in your most capable hands! Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips, in Jesus’ name amen!

    • Sarah

      I was just thinking about this in regards to a conversation I had with someone just yesterday. It is so frustrating to feel like you’re not actually being heard (ever). This change in perspective is just what I needed to hear! Thank you for sharing.

  • Wow talk about conviction. I really need some work here. I don’t want to need validation but I am consistently seeking it. I pray that God will teach me to see my worth in him not man.

  • churchmouse

    Balcony People by Joyce Landorf, I believe. It’s been around for awhile.

  • churchmouse

    An additional thought : We as the body of Christ are called to be encouragers and to lift each other up. Perhaps if we truly made this a habit, we wouldn’t feel the need to seek approval from others. Our ‘love tank’ would already be filled to overflowing. We would feel so recognized and appreciated by fellow Christians that we would not be tempted to seek the applause of others. We’d have plenty cheering us from the church, lifting each other up and encouraging us to see who we are in Christ. All our eyes would be on Him and if a brother or sister look like they’re beginning to drown, we would immediately share our oxygen tank with them. What a witness that would be to nonbelievers. (A great book on this : Balcony People). Let’s make it happen!

  • hilary Raper

    I’m so guilty of this. It’s so easy to get caught up in “the show” and we lose our pure motives. Well, I know it is for me at least. Lord, help me to please you and only you. Help me to seek your approval and no one else’s.

  • These scriptures and reflection by Kaitie are so spot on! I am so guilty of wanting affirmation sometimes from others. This is such a great reminder to do all “unto the Lord.” That subtle tendency to promote ourselves or our agenda even on social media. Holy Spirit, by your grace, keep me in check.

  • Diane Huntsman

    I just love this spot light shining ever so brightly on our hearts, our motives as to why we do what we do.. to be seen.. yes the age old problem of wanting validation and approval of others.. wanting to be seen as “spiritually mature” it’s a problem.. but it’s a problem with a solution.. solution being playing for that audience of ONE. It’s a human flaw to need the applause of other humans.. I’m thankful for Gods empowering that enables me to shift the focus from people to Him when it comes to all the doing in life.. it takes conscious effort paying attention to the “who I’m talking loudly” but once we are in tune to paying attention and lights are shed on real motives, God then gives us the power to quiet down, to step out of the spot light we’ve created and to live unto Him.. but it’s a continual battle to reel in my motives and to truly live unto Him and not for the notice of others.

  • What a great reading and devo! I always used to take fasting so literally (to abstain from food), but boy is it so much more than that. Fasting is surrendering our ego and our plans to God’s love and guidance. Fasting is a tool to help us get our hearts right. To shift the focus from me me me to love love love. We are fasting (surrendering) our self-righteousness. We let God fill our cup instead of trying to fill it up ourselves.

    Studying David right before the Sermon on the Mount was so perfect. It’s all about the heart.

    And as usual loving the study book questions. It helped me realize that when we do good things as a love offering to God and as a way to love our neighbor, God will bless us with a divine love that heals everyone involved. This divine healing/love is our reward. And it’s the best reward there is.

  • I read the title of this and thought fasting? Is that really something I need? And then I read it and God gave me a major reality check. I’ve been going through some frustration at work lately feeling like I give and give and give to everyone else, and all I get back in return is more work and stress. What a humbling reminder today’s reading was… time to refocus on the “why” versus the “what I get.”

    • Taylor

      Absolutely love this study!!! Life has been a little extra stressful lately and I know I came across this study right when God intended me to ❤️ I’m trying to catch up on the past 18 readings but I still can’t find the study questions on the app, I’ve even tried to google it! Would someone mind telling me where the study questions can be found on the SRT app? Thank you and God bless!

      • Kendra

        Hi Taylor!
        There are no questions through the app. It’s just the readings and devo here. The beautiful study books SRT sells has them plus so much more!

  • churchmouse

    I’ve viewed fasting as doing without, usually eating, in order to replace that activity with time with God, to hear Him more clearly. Sometimes I’ve cut out TV or cell phone use. But with today’s Scriptures, I see that fasting can be adding something as well, maybe things/persons I have neglected or overlooked. Fasting can be having a cup of coffee with an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile, taking a meal to that new mom I’ve just met, going by the nursing home to see that senior who can no longer make it to church, picking up groceries for that harried neighbor. I can fast my time to take time for others. Yes. Thank you for the reminder that any kindness given can be a kind of fasting. God will place that person on our heart. We act on His prompting. The person is blessed. God gets the glory. Yep. That’s good fasting.

  • Oh my, how our amazing God has a sense of timing like no other! I have been called to lead a section in our church BB. I pray and prepare for our weekly meetings of young boisterous boys and am so wanting to share the amazing story of our best friend in life EVER. But….BIG but, we have a special service to enrol the boys into the Brigade for the coming year and it’s always a big day in the Church calendar, so imagine my dismay that they’ve decided to trial it at the evening service and not the busy morning service when everyone will see the boys (ME)!!! I have been truly humbled by today’s devotional. Yes I have been called by God to do this work and yes he is helping in planning and executing those plans but wow-wee it will be for HIS glory and definitely not mine!! Thank you Lord for a lesson in humility. Happy Thursday SRT Sisters.
    xoxo

  • Hi ladies, will you pray for me this morning? Yesterday at school, I fainted, and from what students said, maybe had a seizure, while I was teaching. I went to the doctor and they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. This is something that has never happened to me before, so it is a little freaky. Also, prayers for my students, because I know they were really scared. Thank you!

    • Michele

      Prayers!

    • Debbie

      Praying now!

    • churchmouse

      Praying for you and your students, for peace and reassurance

    • Gena

      Jesus touch Laura with your peace. Protect her physically. Use this as a way to reach students with WHO You are. Show them how much you love and care. Help Laura and her students not be fearful. In Jesus name. Amen.

    • Hilary

      Just prayed for you!!

    • Pam

      Praying for you, Laura. Make sure you stay hydrated.

    • Lana

      Praying!

    • Other Karen

      Prayers for you! My husband had a single seizure about 10 years ago (while we were visiting Chicago and I was 4 months pregnant!). The neurologist said it is not unusual for people to have a single seizure for no known reason. We’ve since heard of it happening to others. My husband has not had one since. I hope and pray that this is the case for you…one time, never to happen again!

  • Maria Baer

    It is all due to Hurrican Maria

  • Maria Baer

    Sisters, I need major prayers. My mom is in Puerto Rico and we have not heard from her the past 26 hrs. There are no news because apparently the area she’s in is completely destroyed. I’m trying to stay optimistic but I’m scared and a mess. I do trust God yet I hope he forgives my human moments of fear. Please pray that my family is ok. Thank you in advanced.

  • Karen From Virginia

    I know my bent is to be known. I want others to see my love for Jesus and what he has given me. So I have spent my life time being disappointed because the Lord is not giving me that kind of life. He has called me to the secret things and I have had to learn The joy and humility of being with him and knowing that if he is please with me that that is what matters. It modifies my flesh and makes me wonder if I’m any good at times but repeatedly the Lord has said I have been called to him and it’s not my place to boast or to be motivated by making much of myself. Because the Lord has made himself known to me and taught me that he is more interested in my heart and my secret life with him, it has help me to embrace the beauty that comes in being known by him. Yes, I still want to have the limelight and think I’m awesome until God reminds me of those who have gone before me and have been faithful in ways that I have never been asked to be. Then I can be humble and remember that I am like Jesus said in Luke, I am unprofitable servant. am just doing what the Lord has asked me to do. But the reward of being his, and having my life be with him is everything

  • Always love Katie’s take on things! Thank you so much for this powerful message!

  • Other Karen

    God is concerned with our hearts more than our sacrifice…such truth that I need to hear over and over again!
    Just wondering if anyone practices the spiritual discipline of fasting? My dad is a minister and we’ve talked about from time to time. He says it is a spiritual discipline Christians should practice sometimes, just as we do other spiritual disciplines. My own pastor has preached about it too. Admittedly, I’ve only done it once or twice many years ago. How does one go about it without being showy? Seems others would notice if I skipped a couple meals…I don’t normally ever skip meals! For those that do fast, how do you do it? How often? Do you do it regularly or during times of trial or repentance, like the story about David? What spiritual blessings have you experienced?

    • Karen From Virginia

      Just recently I started fasting again. When I was younger sometimes I fasted I don’t weekly basis or once a month. I learned that sometimes when I did it I was trying to get approval from God when maybe Ii over ate I felt bad about something. But I also learned early on when there was Grace to do it it was beautiful. There have been times when I have fasted multiple days, I haven’t done that in a long time but when I know that when I have fasted especially more than a day something always was broken. Something significant changed. There is a power that comes from fasting and it’s amazing. When it’s God.

      The way I have done it has been different. Are usually do a liquid fast if I’m working. I have tried to fast with just water but when I’m responsible for tasks it’s too much. I have had a protein shake or something in the morning that would help and liquids. Sometimes I do it 24 hours and sometimes I do it just until dinner. I just pray about it. And the Lord gives me creativity so that no one notices that I’m eating. If my husband happen to be around I think I would tell him but if she isn’t around in the morning because our schedules are a little different. But generally I just been able to stay to myself and and use that time for prayer. About a month ago I was able to fast and the Lord just made a way that even the normal lunch I had to go to with my coworkers was canceled and my schedule was later than normal. When it’s the Lord it is he’s drawing me to know him more through fasting there is a grace and a joy. Our pastor of mine long time ago said fasting from food and feasting on God. And in those times when I have gone out and fasted Jesus has met me in a very special way and I believe him to give me strength to do what I need to do or to pray about things that I am concerned about. If this is something that you would like to do, I would encourage you just to pray and ask God as to when and how. We don’t earn a favor through it but there is a power that comes when we sacrifice. If food is an issue like for me I have to have something in having a smoothie works but I do still get hungry but I try to satisfy that with water or other liquid’s. Some people really fast other things but there is something about food if you can do it even for a meal when your eyes are fixed on Jesus. It is beautiful and there is a power in it I can attest to that. I hope that’s helpful

    • Christy

      I like to do periodic “partial” fasts when I give something up (and sometimes a full food fast). I find it helpful in stripping away my idols and helping me refocus on God. I don’t worry too much about what people say or think either way, I’m not doing it for them, it’s just part of my routine for that day like putting on my shoes. If you’re interested, I would start maybe by asking What is it that I go to first before prayer when I’m upset or anxious? Then try giving that up for a time period. I’m not going to lie, my most common fast is not even food-related, it’s online shopping!

    • Hailey

      Hi, Karen! One of my dear friends who was Shepherding me through the gospel suggested fasting one day a week during Lent. For that day I would lean on Jesus and be wrapped in prayer. It was a really great experience. I highly recommend this! I also think it is a good way to try fasting out. Fasting doesn’t have to look like one extreme for each person either. Pray and ask what it should look like for you so that you can truly lean in and learn.

    • aprilinsydney

      Hi Karen, who are the “others” who would notice? If, for example, they are your family in your home, if you explained you will be fasting on X day, that would not appear to be “showy”. It’s quite practical to explain why you’re suddenly not eating with them. My understanding of the reading is the showy part comes from attitude. There would be a difference if you tell your family why you’re not eating versus telling everyone you’re fasting (to look good, gain sympathy, etc). If “others” are people at work, you don’t necessarily have to explain yourself. A polite “no thanks” or thanks, but I can’t today” to a lunch invitation etc is ok. It’s really about where our hearts are at. Good luck :) xx

    • Other Karen

      Thank you for the ideas and suggestions, ladies! Lots to ponder and pray about.

  • I think, well I know, my love language is giving…. I love to give… of myself.. gifts.. time… There is a healing for me that goes with giving, a peace, a joy… Sometimes, like at birthdays, or occasions to be celebrated a gift may be, or is given not always something big… sometimes the gifts are almost that small you might ask.. ‘did you bring me a gift..’ Lol.
    Seriously though, mostly, I give gifts on the spur of the moment, not always planned… just.. A bunch of flowers, a card with words of affirmation, sweets, a book, homemade cakes, chocolates, prayer and fasting for bigger requests from God for others I see in need… just because… I have learnt to do these under the radar, quietly and in view of no one.. I love to let people know they are loved, appreciated and are worthy..They matter!
    There is a kind of heartfelt praise to the Good Lord, to see the surprise and joy on their faces…
    Recently, I made cards for each person in my office, numbering 20, with affirmimg words or scripture on them, their faces a wonderful picture… All glory to God.
    I tell you this NOT to boast, or for that matter praise. Or for reward…
    True, God sees, and I pray He smiles at something I get right, that this warms His heart.
    I have never liked attention, recognition… of any kind. To be standing in front of people being acknowledged, scares the pants of me…woooowhaaa. (a shiver)
    I know my writing today wasn’t about fasting, but it was about doing things, not to be seen doing for acknowledgement, or recognition, but from the heart, with only one thing on mind… glory and praise to God …
    I am a sinner. A sinner saved by grace and redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus, and to that end, I will do my utmost to be worthy of such a gift.., not always, and in fact, never perfectly, but with a heart willing to try…
    Thank you Lord God for your love, your grace, mercies new each day. Thank you Lord God that You see me, that You hold me close, that You guide me.., please Lord God might I ask, that You continue to help and lead me in ways that will bring You all the glory and praise.. Thank you Lord God thank you for everything.. in the Mighty and Power filled name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

    Happy Thursday, Sisters, praying the Lord turn His face to shine on you… because He sees you, always, in love…xxx

    • lynne

      Thanks Tina for your words of love!! I too am like you, I love to give but I want to do it to bring Him all the glory and not me. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Jenny

      Thank you for sharing your kind gestures, Tina! I feel like you in many ways, I’m a total giver. But I hate attention or recognition and I do things for others under the radar as well. It’s amazing how something so small or just a kind gesture can transform someone’s day, maybe even their life! I hope you have a blessed day!!!

    • Pam

      Thank you, Tina. I believe Jesus told us to love sacrifically (just like He did by giving his life for us) and this results in “bearing fruit.” John 15: 1-17 When we do this our prayers are answered-and we show ourselves to be His disciple. He said it twice in that passage and He also said it is the way to “complete joy.” You are an awesome disciple and I know people who get to be around you experience His love flowing through you (like a vine). Thanks for sharing your story- you are ALWAYS an encouragement to me!

    • Lana

      Loved this Tina! I especially liked the reminder that I am a sinner. That’s why it is so important to forgive and to love graciously! We have all been there! And sometimes we have to love at a distance to protect ourselves. But it doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven. And it doesn’t mean we still don’t shoot love beams and prayers at them! I am a sinner is such a gracious and humbling thought. We’ve all been there. That’s why we continue to show each other kindness/to fast (Isaiah 58:6-8) anyway! And those little acts of love you offer! I know they are changing lives. So grateful for you, Tina!

Further Reading...