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Remember The Poor 2/5

Remember the poor 2/5

‘They [the Jerusalem church leaders] asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do’ (Galatians 2:10)

(These notes of sermons/studies originally commissioned by World Vision are not copyright. They may be adapted by preachers or small group leaders and used with or without acknowledgment).

Shalom! Rowland Croucher



‘Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline… That is why I run straight for the finishing-line… I harden my body… and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.’ 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

# A young mother in a Brazilian favela had no food to give her children. So she did what she has done before, many times. She took some newspaper, rolled it into little ‘cookies’, soaked them in sweetened warm water, and gave them to the kids. They’ll provide no nutrition, but something in their stomachs may stop them from crying from hunger in the night…

# Any who have visited churches in Korea are fascinated – and humbled – by those Christians’ daily dawn prayer meetings, and their commitment to regular fasting. Thousands of Korean Christians have devoted up to forty days and nights to prayer and fasting, drinking only fresh water during that whole period! These people apparently believe that if you seek the Lord earnestly, you’ll be prepared to pay a high price!

The recent growth of interest in Spirituality in all churches has focussed on this particular discipline. In a world where one quarter of the people die early through malnourishment, and another quarter through over-eating (!), we are again called to re-examine our lifestyles. Right now 20 million people in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia face starvation.

FASTING is abstaining from eating, or another legitimate activity, for religious purposes. Jews fasted on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11), and for other special reasons such as mourning (1 Samuel 31:13), after defeat in battle (1 Samuel 7:6), as a sign of repentance or remorse (2 Samuel 12:15-23, Joel 2:12-13), and to accompany intercession (Nehemiah 1,4).

Jesus fasted during his wilderness preparation for ministry (Matthew 4:1-2, Luke 4:1-2), but said only two things about fasting in his teaching in the gospels: it was an act of private devotion to God, and was appropriate once he left his followers (Matthew 6:16-18, 9:14-15; cf. Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). The apostolic church apparently observed fasts during times of solemn commitment (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23).

Fasting is ‘praying with the body’, an affirmation of one’s hunger for God and his will, an act of spiritual discipline, and an assertion of the goodness of God in creation, which one appreciates better in abstention; it ‘expresses penitence for the rejection and crucifixion of Christ by the human race; it is a following of Jesus on his way of fasting; it is one element in mortification; the acceptance of death of self in the death of Christ, and thereby an act of faith in the resurrection.’ (1)

Fasting has its dangers, when misused for selfish ends. The Bible notes such abuses as fasting as a means of getting things from God (manipulation or magic); it can be a substitute for genuine repentance and be formalistic; it can be masochistic — an exaggerated self-denial; psychological evidence shows fasting can sometimes lead to self-induced visions which may not be helpful. (2)

So, in summary, there are no biblical laws that command regular fasting, but, as Martin Luther said, ‘It was not Christ’s intention to reject or despise fasting… it was his intention to restore proper fasting.’ It is clear that Christ both upheld the discipline of fasting and anticipated that his followers would do it. (3)

Fasting, as Arthur Wallis says in his book God’s Chosen Fast, is a way of teaching our bodies to be our servants rather than our masters! In the World Vision Forty-hour famine, fasting with prayer is a also a way of identifying with those in our world who have no choice today but to fast involuntarily!

Further Reading: Richard Foster. Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978; Arthur Wallis. God’s Chosen Fast. CLC, 1986; Joseph F. Wemmer. Fasting in the New Testament. New York: Paulist Press, 1982.

1. David Tripp, ‘Fasting’ in Wakefield, Gordon S. (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, London: SCM, 1983, p.148.
2. R.D. Linder, ‘Fasting’, in Elwell, (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984, pp.406-407.
3. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, H & S, 1980, chapter 4.
I heard Richard Foster give a lecture at Fuller Seminary on fasting where he suggested fasting from such entities as the telephone, billboards, television and other things — any deprivation that may get our means and ends into perspective for a while.


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