This morning, we’re going to be entering a season of prayer and fasting together as a church. I sense that there are so many things that Jesus desires to do in and through our church and in this community, but that there are some things that we need to work on and change before He is able to do so.
Our elders are reading through the book, “The Unstuck Church” which is all about equipping churches to experience sustained health. Our goal as a church is simply to be who God calls us to be and to fulfill the vision that He’s given us to “Gather, Grow, and Go.” Please keep our leadership team in prayer to clearly hear God’s direction for our church as well as the wisdom and strength to take us where He leads.
Another reason for this call to prayer and fasting together is due to the prolonged season of challenges that so many in our church family are facing. Lingering health issues, financial lack, and several other stressful situations have been wearing out so many of us. Of course, we know the true source of these issues come from our enemy. Satan is defeated, but he’ll take every chance he has to try and convince us otherwise.
Though we don’t know for sure why God is permitting this season that many are in, we stand on the truth that we do know for sure and that is that we have the authority over the enemy and, though we may lose some battles, we will win the war! The victory is coming for those who stand firm and trust in Jesus alone to bring this season to an end. With that in mind, there is a strong Biblical basis, along with current testimonies, that reveal that prayer and fasting are often the key to breakthrough in all of these areas.
When His disciples faced a battle that they could not win, Jesus said that sometimes prayer and fasting are the tools necessary to overcome the attacks that we find ourselves in. Our leadership here feels strongly that the Spirit is leading us corporately as a church to pick up these weapons of warfare for a season.
Since we’re calling a fast, I thought that it was naturally important to have a talk on what fasting is all about. After all, if we’re not fasting, does that mean that we’re slowing? 🙂
Last week, we learned about how God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom of words, but of power and action. We were challenged because so much of our church services today contradict His Kingdom because they consist primarily not of action, but of words.
To fast is for certain a Kingdom action. To fast is to intentionally abstain from something. Traditionally, we fast from all food and drink water only. In fact, if your physician requests that you fast, this is exactly what they are requesting of you. Although fasting is a Kingdom action, it is important that we understand the purpose behind why we’re doing what we’re doing. We don’t want to fast for the wrong reason or miss out in any way what God has for us.
We fast as a church not as a hunger strike to get God’s attention, but to focus our attention. We fast not to manipulate God’s will to conform to ours, but rather to seek after God’s will for us. Fasting is intended not to change God in any way, but to change us; to change our hearts and minds. We intentionally choose to give up something important to us to seek after the One who far exceeds anything that we could ever fast from. Fasting removes our dependence on the things of this world that distract us and forces us to depend on Jesus alone.
Since food is so readily and easily available to us, it is common to fast from other things that are more distracting and consuming of our time such as TV or our cell phones or Facebook. As we fast as a church, we’re requesting that everyone take a day or more this week and fast the things that consume most of your time unnecessarily and that we spend that time instead with Jesus. Whether food or anything else, we’re asking everyone to take time to fast this week and to intentionally pursue God. We’re encouraging everyone to spend time intentionally listening to His voice, praying, reading the scriptures, and worshiping.
We’re also requesting that everyone comes a bit early to church next week as we are going to end our fast by praying together corporately starting at 9:30. We want to be a people who passionately seek after God and His will for us. We want to follow His lead to become a strong and healthy representation of Jesus is here in our community. We want to be a church willing to lay down and take up anything that Jesus calls us to. We want to be a church ready to break the mold all in obedience to what Jesus, the head of the church, calls us into.
To be this type of church begins with prayer, to ask His will and to hear it. This gives us the path to follow. To be this type of church begins also with fasting. Fasting gives us the heart that is willing to obey and to do so with joy. Fasting allows the refining fire of Jesus to burn away the desires of our flesh until the desires of the Holy Spirit within us are no longer hindered by our own will. The act of fasting is found all through The Bible and not only did Jesus fast, but He also taught us how to fast.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Fasting is not an act done publicly where we whine and complain about not having what we choose to fast, but rather a private act where we move by the Spirit anointed and cleaned. After all, it is entirely possible to be doing what God calls us to do, but to do so wrongly. This is where our heart, attitude, and motive comes into play. We do what we do out of a love for Jesus and what He has done for us instead of to be seen by and rewarded by other people.
When God’s people fasted, doing what God called them to do, it actually enraged Him. He called it rebellion. God said His own people who were doing what He called them to do was an act of rebellion. Why? Because they were fasting with the wrong motive and for the wrong reasons. God sees our heart and knows why we do what we do and that is what matters most to Him. That is what separates a sheep from a goat and a disciple of Jesus from a disciple of the world; our heart and our intent behind why we do what we do.
God not only called them out on their hypocrisy, but also gave us a blueprint to follow whenever we choose to fast. In this way, fasting will become a powerfully transforming act for us and not a begrudging burden to do so. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of action and this is no different when it comes to fasting!
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.