Fasting That Pleases God

Matthew 6:16-18


A. You don’t hear much about fasting these days

1. In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to
the “Golden Arches” and an assortment of “Pizza Temples”

2. Fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times

B. But the Scriptures have much to say about fasting…

1. There is more teaching in the New Testament on
fasting than repentance and confession!

2. Jesus taught more on fasting than on baptism and the
Lord’s Supper!

3. Yet some question whether fasting is something for
Christians today

C. In His sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught concerning
“Fasting That Pleases God”…

1. In connection with other acts of righteousness like
charity and prayer

2. In calling His disciples to exceed the righteousness of
the scribes and Pharisees

D. In this study, we will examine Matthew 6:16-18, and
consider what Jesus had to say about “Fasting That Pleases
God.” But in so doing, let’s begin by answering a few



1. The example and teaching of Jesus

a. He fasted during his forty day period of temptation in
the wilderness  – Luke 4:1-2

b. In His teaching on the subject of fasting:

1) He assumed His disciples would fast – He said “when”
not “if” – Matthew 6:16-17

2) He said they would fast when He was gone –
Matthew 9:14-15

3) He taught:

a) How to fast so as to incur God’s good pleasure –
Matthew 6: 16-18

b) When done properly, fasting would incur God’s
good pleasure – Matthew 6:18b

c) There were occasions when prayer needed to be
joined with fasting –  Matthew 17:20-21

2. The examples of fasting in the early church

a. The brethren at Antioch – Acts 13:1-3

1) Fasting in their service to the Lord

2) Fasting and praying as they send out Paul and

b. The churches in Galatia – Acts 14:21-23

1) Done in EVERY church

2) When appointing elders

3. The examples of Paul fasting as a minister

a. He listed fasting among things which proved him as a
minister of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23-28) – “in fastings

b. We are commanded to imitate him, even as he imitated
Christ? – 1 Corinthians 11:1 (and both fasted in
their service to God!)

4. At the very least, we can say that it is not
inappropriate for Christians to fast today.

a. Unless we have medical reasons not to fast, we have
very good examples to motivate us TO fast!

b. But to be sure that we fast for the right reason, we
should answer another question…


1. People often fast today for various reasons:

a. Some do it solely for health reasons

b. Others do it only in times of grief and sorrow

c. Still others do it as a way to gain self-control

d. But these are not reasons Christians should fast in their
service to God – Colossians 2:20-23

2. Christians should fast when seeking divine help

a. In the Old Testament; people of God fasted…

1) In times of war, or at the threat of it (Israel)

2) When loved ones were sick (David)

3) When seeking God’s forgiveness (Ahab, Daniel)

4) When seeking God’s protection (Ezra)

b. In the New Testament; fasting occurred…

1) When dealing with temptations (Jesus)

2) When serving the Lord (the church at Antioch)

3) When beginning a work for the Lord (again at

4) When selecting and appointing elders (in Galatia)

c. Such fasting should be done in conjunction with

1) For fasting, when done properly…

a) Humbles the soul – Psalm 35:13

b) Chastens the soul – Psalm 69:10

2) The prayers of the humble are more likely to be heard!
–  Ezra 8:21-23

3. This being true, this should help us to answer the next
question specifically…


1. Whenever we desire God’s help

a. These may be occasions on an individual level

1) When faced with difficult temptations

2) When faced with the serious illness of a loved one

b. These occasions might be on a congregational level

1) As when appointing elders

2) As when sending out missionaries

2. Whenever situations call for persistent prayer

a. Such would be an occasion for fasting joined with

b. Are we taught that God is more likely to answer
our prayers…

1) If we are persistent? (Lk 18:1-8)

2) If we fast in the proper way? (Mt 6:17-18)

3. So whenever there is a matter requiring much prayer,
fasting in conjunction with such prayer would be
appropriate. Finally, let’s take a look at…


1. Not to be seen of men

a. Not as practiced by the hypocrites of Jesus’ day

1) Doing so with a “sad countenance”

2) Doing so with “disfigured faces” (perhaps by applying

3) The only good such fasting might do them is win the
praise of men, but certainly not of God! (Mt. 6:16)

b. Rather, our fasting is to be seen of God

1) To be done without any outward appearance of fasting
(Mt 6:17)

a) Therefore, it should include “anointing your head”

b) Also, “washing your face” – i.e., what people would
normally do to as part of their daily ablutions

2) By doing this, only God will see your fasting and He
will reward you openly (perhaps by answering prayers
offered while fasting) (Mt 6:18)

2. Not as some regular ritual

a. This point Jesus made in Matthew 9:14-15

b. It should be done only when the occasion calls for it
(such as situations where you would already be spending
much time in prayer)

3. Not without true repentance

a. Isaiah 58:3-9

b. All the praying, all the fasting, is of no avail if it is not
accompanied with penitent obedience on our part


A. There is much more that could be said on the subject of
fasting, but I hope this suffices to stimulate our thinking on a
subject which has often been neglected in both study and

B. Implied in Jesus’ teachings is that His disciples would
fast, and so it is important that we know what is involved
in “Fasting That Pleases God”

C. Now as useful as fasting might be, praying and fasting
alone cannot save a person who is lost.

About from the Preachers PC

Gospel Preacher for the Park Heights church of Christ in Hamilton, TX. I stand for and defend the truth of God's word. All other degrees and diplomas mean very little in comparison.
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