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THE REWARD OF FASTING
by Rick Sutherland
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18, NLT)
Everyone who decides to enter a fast, does so with a purpose in his mind, with a reason for fasting. What is your purpose for entering this time of fasting? Perhaps you are seeking a physical healing or a healing of relationship, the salvation of family members, a need for wisdom or guidance, or for a deeper connection with God. Fasting throughout the Old Testament was done primarily out of a deep sorrow or grief of heart and often out of repentance for sin. The Law mandated only one fast and that was for the Day of Atonement once a year, a time for men to “afflict their souls” in humility before God. (Lev. 23:27) Yet we see the example of fasting being done occasionally throughout the scriptures in times of distress or danger, when seeking guidance and as a show of penitence for sin, whether personal sin or the corporate sin of a nation.
The Pharisees however, had taken the practice of fasting to a new level. They were practicing it twice a week and using sackcloth and ashes, appearing unwashed and disheveled in public and with a downcast and sullen look as an advertisement of their piety and supposed humility in seeking after God. Jesus stated that they had received the reward they were looking for—the admiration and praise of men!! Jesus warns against such an outward show and tells the disciples to wash their faces, comb their hair and not to have a sad countenance for others to see when they fast. He reminds the disciples and us that our Father who sees the secret motives of the heart and what we do in secret, will reward us in the open! We must remember that when we fast, we are not buying or bargaining with God for a reward! Yet, according to Jesus, we can expect a reward from our Father because we are simply seeking God, longing for his answer and are obeying what the Word of God instructs us to do. Are you expecting a reward?