A couple of years ago in our church we did a sermon series on the Old Testament tabernacle. Leading up to the message on the table of showbread, I did something I had never done before—I fasted from food for several days. I fasted because I wanted to experience the truth that “man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). I wanted to deny myself something I love, food, for the God I love more. As I fasted, I followed Jesus’ teaching about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18.
Jesus gave a negative command: “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance” (v.16). Then He gave a positive command about putting oil on your head and washing your face (v.17). The two commands taken together meant that they should not draw attention to themselves. Jesus was teaching that this was a private act of sacrificial worship that should not provide any room for religious pride. Finally, He gave a promise: Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (v.18).
Although fasting isn’t required, in giving up something we love, we may have a deeper experience of the God we love. He rewards us with Himself.