I refuse to neglect my appearance as I make sacrifices.
I will not seek the sympathies of people, but the rewards of God.
Focus of the Month: “You have heard it said…”
Feeling like I needed to prop my eyes open with toothpicks, I struggled to get out the door. Had I become that dependent on my morning coffee? How could I muster the strength to complete the morning’s obligations with positive energy, without whining about no caffeine and no breakfast? Won’t others notice my droopy eyes and lack of drive? Will my mere appearance give away my abstaining?
Fasting… It’s a physical discipline for spiritual development. Some purposes of fasting include: to minister to the Lord in repentance and worship; to build our faith and receive direction from God; to lay hands on and minister to others; and to simply discipline ourselves to be spirit-led as opposed to being led by the desires of our flesh.
Jesus taught about fasting in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
Because fasting requires us to deny our flesh of its desires, others may observe areas of lack in us. So how do we keep our fasting from being noticed by others? After all, if we are denying our flesh, many times we want to shout it to everyone around about our discomfort, our deprivation, our sacrifice… We subconsciously think the sympathies of people from grumbling about our deficiencies brings us comfort.
Jesus, however, instructs that if we grumble, complain, and neglect our appearance, our only reward for fasting is exactly that – the sympathies of people. In that case, our sacrifice and discipline achieves nothing more. Jesus teaches us to keep our fasting secret and our appearance clean and fresh. In other words, no complaining; wash and moisturize your face; smile and interact as you normally would; engage in and fulfill your obligations.
There’s no need to whine and complain. That steals our reward! Instead, as we discipline our flesh through fasting, we must bring into captivity every thought and word to the obedience of Christ by only thinking and speaking good things in addition to keeping our appearance as if we were not fasting at all. The promise? Our Father who sees in secret will reward us. Our fasting will then fulfill its purpose.
Its challenging to keep appearances when we are making sacrifices in our own bodies. But know this: people look upon our faces; but God looks upon our hearts. When you fast, let people see a face full of life and peace and light, while God is faithful to see the cries of your heart. Keep your appearance as you fast and know God will answer you, lead you, and comfort you.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture References: Daniel 9:1-5; Matthew 17:20-21; Acts 13:1-3; Matthew 6:16-18; 1 Corinthians 9:25-27; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Samuel 16:7