This past summer I was a part of a video-led Bible study. I really enjoyed viewing the lessons and participating in the book accompaniment. Each day there were lessons that corresponded with the video message and unique challenges meant for personal growth. One day, the author of the study challenged us to participate in a period of fasting for one day.
To be clear, I do not have any previous experience in fasting but I have spent much time studying the discipline. When a book was the thing challenging me to participate, I found myself reacting with mixed emotions. First, I thought this could be my time. Here I am, an adult Christian, and I have never participated in a spiritual discipline such as fasting. Perhaps I should comply? Then, I felt myself almost offended that a faceless author would request such a behavior from me without even knowing my circumstances. All in all, I was torn. Torn between obligation and obedience.
Mark 2: 18
The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees made a practice of fasting. Some people confronted Jesus: "Why do the followers of John and the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but your followers don't?" – The Message
Mark 2: 18-22 is specific teaching on fasting. Jesus was questioned about his disciples and their lack of the spiritual discipline. Twice a week fasting was a major expression of orthodox in the day of Christ. The Pharisees were simply showing their devotion to the ceremonial law. Jesus said there was no need to fast as long as He was with them. Fasting, typically, came in times of sorrow or great stress. Jesus brought with Him great joy, not sorrow. When the Son of God departed from the world by murderous hands, fasting found a place in spiritual obedience.
From my personal perspective, to observe such a sacrament of spiritual obedience for the wrong motives would make someone no different from the Pharisees: Simply partaking in obedience for the sake of human approval or attention. If I had read the challenge from my Bible study author and felt convicted to express my obedience to Jesus Christ by fasting, then my actions would have been blessed.
Just like all things in relations to Christ Jesus: it is the motives that matter.