January 9, 2023
Feasting on God – Matthew 6:1-18
Listen to last week’s sermon entitled Feasting on God found in Matthew 6:1-18 to launch our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.
The sermon delivered by Pastor Eric on Sunday, January 8, 2023, titled Feasting on God, inaugurated our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting scheduled to begin tomorrow. Every year, when we observe our annual 21-day period of prayer and fasting, we are amazed to see how many people write to us to express their desire to participate in this endeavour.
What is fasting?
Fasting has many definitions, but biblically speaking, it refers to abstaining from solid food for a spiritual purpose. If it is conducted properly, it can be extremely powerful. It is clear from the Scriptures that not every fast is heard by the Lord, which suggests that fasting must be conducted with sincerity. During this period of fasting, we do not abstain from food in order to please others, but rather to please God; nor are we competing with one another. Since this yearly discipline was introduced almost 14 years ago, it has proved to be a rewarding experience. This event has attracted a number of participants over the years, many of whom have shared their testimonies with us. Several of them were following this discipline for the first time. They shared how God used their fasting to accomplish something in their lives. In the same way, Pastor Eric is confident that the Lord will do something in our church and in the lives of our people again this year.
When performed properly, with the right motives, when we fast not for men, but for God, and when we pray, worship Him, and read His Word, our efforts will be rewarded. As Pastor Eric has stated previously, if fasting is not accompanied by prayer, worship, and Bible reading, it is merely a diet.
Read Matthew 4:4
According to Pastor Eric, fasting is feasting on God. By abstaining from food for this spiritual purpose, we are expressing our desire to have a greater relationship with the Lord and for Him to have a greater relationship with us. Increasing the presence of God in our lives requires decreasing our own desires. According to the flesh, what we need most in life is food, but what we really need is God. We are to feast on the Lord. In His statement that bread cannot satisfy our souls and that obedience to God’s Word is what we need, Jesus was on a 40-day fast. Refraining from food for spiritual purposes is viewed with a certain degree of ignorance today.
Read Matthew 6:1-4
The following are three points that Jesus made in the above passage.
First of all, He says,
When you do a kindness to someone in need…
In other words, we are expected to help those who cannot help themselves. We will provide assistance to the needy. Moreover, as Christians, we are known throughout the world for our willingness to assist people in crisis situations such as earthquakes, famines, and poverty. Furthermore, believers are often the driving force behind large organizations that provide assistance to those in need.
Secondly, Jesus instructs us not to sound the trumpet when we give. In the Bible, trumpets are often used to draw attention to or gather a group of people, or to announce an upcoming event. Because this does not constitute a special event, there is no need to make an announcement.
Giving to the needy should be a habit, something we do on a regular basis and not just once in a lifetime. It is not necessary to make any special announcements, because as followers of Jesus Christ, this is something we are instructed to do. Our mission is to provide assistance to those who are unable to help themselves, in any way we can. It is a fundamental aspect of our faith. It is referred to as ‘faith that works’. There should be no reason for it to be rare or exceptional, as it is a normal occurrence. As such, when we provide for the poor, we should not make a big show of it.
Read Matthew 6:3
Thirdly, Jesus states that if we perform kindness in secret, we will receive a reward. To put it another way, we are not to do it for the sake of being noticed by others, but in order to be seen by God. If we act with this motive, then He will reward us. Furthermore, He advises us not to tell our left hand what our right hand is doing. In light of this, Pastor Eric suggests that the Lord even wants us to forget the good things we do in order to avoid becoming self-righteous. Practicing kindness is as natural as breathing.
As Christians, we are commanded to assist those in need, and that is what we do. The purpose of our actions is not to achieve rewards, but rather to fulfill Christ’s command to love people through our words and actions. We are to practice our generosity discreetly and be content with the fact that our generosity is known only to God.
We may not always be able to bless others anonymously, and that is fine.
The goal here is not to do it to gain the attention of people. We do not want to attract attention, but if someone finds out, it is not a problem. Our motive is what matters. We are not doing it with the intention of being seen by others.
We will now explore the three aspects of Jesus’ teaching on prayer.
Read Matthew 6:5-6
The above passage states, “And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you.”
The following are three points Jesus made in the above passage in regard to prayer.
He stated, “When you pray”, not “if you pray”. Therefore, Jesus expects the Church to pray. Some people claim to have the gift of prayer or intercession, but according to Pastor Eric, such claims are nonsense. We are all called to pray. It’s a discipline, not a gift. The invitation is open to all. We’ve been invited to engage in prayer, and Jesus expects the entire Church to pray, not just pastors, apostles, and church leaders.
Most Christians aspire to emulate Jesus and embody His character, namely to love as He did, to possess His kindness, to walk in humility, to be compassionate, and to serve as He served. We also endeavour to walk in Truth and in righteousness and expose the hypocrites as He did. Yet, how often do we hear people say that they wish to pray in a manner similar to that of Jesus? Christ spent a great deal of time in prayer. It was His custom to rise early in the morning to pray. It was not uncommon for Him to spend the entire night praying before making an important decision. Christ not only prayed extensively but also taught the importance of prayer. Prayer provides solutions to many of the problems we face today. It is common for us to say, “Well, I tried everything and it did not work, so I’ll try praying.” In fact, this is the exact opposite of what we should do. We should turn to prayer first. Pastor Eric is not suggesting that we disregard our responsibilities, but he believes that prayer is of utmost importance.
Read Luke 11:1
As a side note, we are launching The Prayer Academy tomorrow, Monday, January 9th. It consists of 21 video sessions of 15 minutes each. Signing up will enable you to receive a 15-minute tutorial on how to pray. It will beneficial to everyone who struggles with prayer. Similarly, those who already have a prayer life and feel that there is still room for growth can also benefit from The Prayer Academy. In these sessions, we will explore various forms, techniques, and principles of prayer. The primary focus of these lessons will be on Jesus’ prayers, specifically how He prayed and how we can emulate His prayers. According to Pastor Eric, learning to pray is a vital part of spiritual development.
Luke 11:1 states that
one of His disciples approached Him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his followers.
According to Pastor Eric, learning to pray is vital to our spiritual development. It is therefore necessary for someone to provide us with instruction. It is Jesus’ desire to teach us, and it is the Holy Spirit’s purpose to assist us in our weakness. Do we intend to develop our prayer life this year? If so, The Prayer Academy will be of assistance to us.
The second point Jesus made with regard to prayer is not to sound the trumpet. The trumpet is symbolic of attention. There is no mention of the word ‘trumpet’ in Matthew 6:5-6, but Jesus does mention hypocrites who like to pray in synagogues and on street corners, seeking the attention and the approval of men. We are reminded once again by these verses that prayer is not something special, but rather part of our everyday lives. Therefore, we should refer to it more frequently in our daily conversations.
Read Matthew 6:6
Jesus’ third point is to pray privately. Prayers made in secret will be rewarded by our heavenly Father. Matthew 6:6 states,
But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you.
Again, we should not pray for the sake of being seen by others, but rather for the sake of being seen by God, who rewards those who pray in secret. This discipline is similar to the first.
Read Matthew 6:16-18
Immediately following this, Pastor Eric quoted Matthew 6:16-18 which states, “And now about fasting. When you fast, declining your food for a spiritual purpose, don’t do it publicly, as the hypocrites do, who try to look wan and disheveled so people will feel sorry for them. Truly, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, put on festive clothing, so that no one will suspect you are hungry, except your Father who knows every secret. And he will reward you.”
In this passage, Jesus specifies three things: “…when you fast…” Not “if you fast”. Fasting is expected of all believers, not just pastors, church leaders, and apostles. We are all expected to abstain from food for this spiritual purpose.
He also says to not “… look wan and disheveled…” In other words, when we fast, we are not to appear pale and fatigued. Fasting in the Bible takes on many forms, and mourning is one of them. Our bodies go into mourning when we abstain from food. Nevertheless, He instructs us to wash our faces, smile brightly, and wear festive clothing in order to conceal the fact that we have been without food. Fasting is not for public display.
Finally, Jesus states, “And he will reward us.” A fast should be undertaken with the expectation that something positive is about to occur…that a reward is forthcoming.
In the words of Derek Prince,
If you fast in the right way, with the right motives, God will reward you openly. But if you fail to fast, bear in mind that you’re depriving yourself of the reward because God cannot give you the reward if you don’t meet His conditions.
Read Isaiah 58
Isaiah 58 demonstrates that abstaining from food for the right reasons yields positive results. It highlights many blessings and rewards.
Read Hebrews 11:6
The writer of Hebrews states that
…God rewards those who keep on searching for Him.
Believe it or not, fasting is a means of searching earnestly for God.
Fasting is widely misunderstood among believers. Pastor Eric has encountered many Christians who are capable of arguing doctrines and presenting statistics, but are ignorant of the entire concept of fasting. He believes that part of the problem is due to a lack of teaching on this topic in North American churches. While fasting for spiritual reasons may be unfamiliar to many, it should be regarded as a normal discipline, similar to prayer, generosity, and Bible reading.
There are numerous references to the power of fasting in God’s Word. Many biblical figures refrained from eating for spiritual purposes, including Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, and Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible contains several examples of kings who led God’s people in fasting. Fasting was prevalent in biblical times. There are references to this practice in the book of Acts. Historical books also mention that the early Church practiced corporate fasting twice a week.
It is said that John Wesley, who led a mighty move of God in the Methodist Church, would not ordain a man unless he fasted Wednesdays and Fridays until at least 4:00 p.m. While abstaining from food for this spiritual reason is a normal Christian practice, its impact is often underestimated. According to Pastor Eric, certain practices may be considered a discipline at first, but we are eventually drawn to them. Our goal initially is to grow spiritually, but as we progress, we begin to crave them.
A practical guide on how to fast effectively, written by Dr. Bill Bright, can be found on our website. A number of questions are addressed, including: What is fasting? What is its purpose? How does fasting affect us? How and why do we fast? Is there a recommended length and frequency of fasting? What is the proper way to break a fast? What should we consume while fasting? Are there any restrictions on the type of work that may be performed while fasting? Is it permissible to engage in certain types of exercise while fasting?
For those of us who cannot abstain from food for medical reasons, Pastor Eric recommends fasting something else. Pregnant women, however, are highly discouraged from going without food during pregnancy. When we begin fasting for the first time, he recommends a gradual approach and then increasing our discipline over time.
Fasting food and water is recorded in the Bible; however, Pastor Eric strongly advises against going without water unless that is what we truly desire. In the event we do this, we are not to do it for more than one day. Abstaining from solid foods is what we are calling you to do.
Read Psalm 35:13
The purpose of this fast is to feast on God, to feast on His Word, to feast on His presence, and to humble ourselves before Him. As David states in Psalm 35:13, going without food for spiritual purposes produces humility. Fasting assists in properly aligning our appetites. We begin to crave the Lord, His presence, His Word, and His Kingdom. The result is a realignment of our purposes, priorities, and focus.
Fasting is not a hunger strike intended to manipulate God. It is also not intended for the purpose of losing weight. In order to effectively engage in this discipline, prayer, worship, and Bible study are essential.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:5
Marriages involving not only abstinence from food but also marital relations are to be negotiated with the spouse. First Corinthians 7:5 states that both should agree.
Read Matthew 9:14-15
Not only does the Lord instruct us to fast, but He also provides us with guidance and inspiration to do so. In addition to providing us with numerous benefits, abstaining from food for this reason is also one of the most powerful weapons that God employs to further His purposes and enhance our lives.
Read Mark 9:29
Fasting is also an effective and powerful weapon. Mark 9 describes a boy who was possessed by an evil spirit that rendered him mute. Attempts were made by the spirit to drown him and set him ablaze. While this was occurring, Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. Despite their best efforts, the other disciples failed to expel the demon from the boy. The spirit was, however, permanently exorcised by Jesus upon His descent from the Mount of Transfiguration. Having been reprimanded by Christ for their lack of faith, the disciples asked Him why they were unable to expel the evil entity. In response to their inquiry, Christ replied: “This kind of spirit can only be forced out by prayer and fasting.”
Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, 20-25
As recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:1-4,
Later on the armies of the kings of Moab, Ammon, and of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. Word reached Jehoshaphat that ‘a vast army is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea from Syria. It is already at Hazazon-tamar’ (also called Engedi). Jehoshaphat was badly shaken by this news and determined to beg for help from the Lord; so he announced that all the people of Judah should go without food for a time, in penitence and intercession before God. People from all across the nation came to Jerusalem to plead unitedly with him.
Afterward, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to them and assured them that everything would be all right.
Then, a few verses later, we learn that, Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and called them to attention. ‘Listen to me, O people of Judah and Jerusalem’’ he said. ‘Believe in the Lord your God and you shall have success! Believe his prophets and everything will be all right!
After consultation with the leaders of the people, he determined that there should be a choir leading the march, clothed in sanctified garments and singing the song ‘His Loving-Kindness Is Forever’ as they walked along praising and thanking the Lord! And at the moment they began to sing and to praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to begin fighting among themselves, and they destroyed each other! For the Ammonites and Moabites turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. And when they had finished that job, they turned against each other! So, when the army of Judah arrived at the watchtower that looks out over the wilderness, as far as they could look there were dead bodies lying on the ground—not a single one of the enemy had escaped. King Jehoshaphat and his people went out to plunder the bodies and came away loaded with money, garments, and jewels stripped from the corpses—so much that it took them three days to cart it all away!” Throughout their time of turmoil, God was at the forefront of their thinking. They placed their trust in Him, praised Him, and believed He was going to see them through.
As shown in the passage above, it took them three days to collect the maximum amount of spoil. Not only did they not engage in combat with their enemies, but they also captured all of their plunder. As they prayed, worshipped the Lord, and fasted, God defended them. Despite the fact that we might be facing an enemy, Pastor Eric assures us that the Lord has our back and we will reap His blessings as we pray, fast, and worship Him. We will recover what the enemy has stolen. As Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah proclaimed the fast and sought God, the Lord fought on their behalf. The power of fasting in the hands of a believer should not be underestimated. Practicing this discipline is essential since the benefits can only be revealed through this form of abnegation and prayer. Until we earnestly seek the Lord through fasting, we cannot bring about the changes required in our lives.
Read Acts 13:2
Our fasts also serve as a means of gaining clarity. Our understanding is enhanced when we fast. When we commit ourselves earnestly to the Lord, it gives us a greater sense of discernment, clarity, and focus. Fasting, according to Pastor Eric, helps us, as a Church, to regain focus and realign ourselves toward our purpose.
Read Acts 6:2-4
Pastor Eric shared a dream that he had. He dreamt that we were on a boat and that people were drowning in the sea. They were shouting, “Help me! Help me!”, as we gave them each a cup of coffee. They were not in need of coffee, but a lifeboat! They needed someone to throw them a line. That is our mission. Whenever we fast, it is for people to come to know Jesus. The message and love of Jesus Christ are to be proclaimed, communicated, and shared with others. As an instrument through which God brings people to Himself, the Church is entrusted with the task of saving souls. It is for this reason that we fast. We deny ourselves food for a spiritual purpose to reclaim what has been stolen by the enemy.
In Acts 6:2, Christ-followers in Jerusalem were upset. They felt that the church was not providing charity equally to widows. The Hellenist widows who were neglected, complained. This was brought to the apostles’ attention. The Bible mentions the importance of helping widows and orphans. How did the apostles respond?
The twelve apostles called the whole group of followers together and said, ‘It is not right for us to stop our work of teaching God’s word in order to serve tables. So, brothers and sisters, choose seven of your own men who are good, full of the Spirit, and full of wisdom. We will put them in charge of this work. Then we can continue to pray and to teach the word of God.
The apostles preferred preaching the gospel to administering a feeding program. Serving at tables did not take precedence over the ministry of the Word. They assigned seven men to distribute the food fairly to the widows in order to meet their needs.
Read Acts 6:7
As a result, “the Word of God continued to spread. The group of followers in Jerusalem increased, and a great number of the Jewish priests believed and obeyed.”
When the Church stops waiting on tables and begins spreading the Word of God, disciples are made. Believers increase in number and disciples multiply. It is imperative that we continue to preach, evangelize, pray, and fast. Our efforts are not in vain.
Watch the video here.