Scripture: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
Thought for Today: “Developing A Spiritual Depth”
The lifestyle of prayer and fasting was and still remains part of traditional Jewish faith. For example, Yom Kippur is another name for the Day of Atonement and part of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. As one of the most important days of the Jewish year, prayer and fasting is practiced as a means of repentance. What this tells us is that prayer and fasting was as important to the spirituality of the Jew as any other discipline. It was used to challenge the depth of a person’s spiritual strength and evaluate where they found their treasure. That is why Jesus would say, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21).
Jesus said, “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face”… because its not about appearances, but deepening your believing heart. (Mt 6:17).
Its how Jesus would have defined maturity. We see the Son of God grow in strength and favor with God and man as He maintained a sensitivity to the voice of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We must adopt the same disciplines if we want to deepen our spirit and impact our world.
A lifestyle of Prayer and Fasting does 3 things well…
- Deepens our roots in the discipline of faith (Acts 10:30)
- Deepens our strength in the battles we endure (2 Cor 10:3-6)
- Deepens our discernment in the spiritual realm (Acts 13:2)
Let’s take this thought one step further. A church’s greatest treasure is its deep people. I know recent church growth manuals emphasize seekers, young people and programs, but more than any other issue… depth matters! A healthy church is a growing church, yet if there is no core of deep people, its in trouble no matter how big it becomes.
Deep people do not just happen; they are cultivated and nurtured by a lifestyle of commitment to maturity. Spiritual depth is nurtured with the oversight of the Holy Spirit… from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:17-18). Maturity must be understood much like a farmer would understand his crop. Unless the seeds of faith are planted deeply, fertilized and nurtured, those seeds will not produce the type of harvest desired. Good farmers define their harvest by its fruitful plants not by its beautiful field. A strong harvest relies upon deep roots and strong plants.
Prayer and Fasting deepens the believing heart… deeper people means larger Kingdom impact. Its time that we lift up out eyes and begin to see the harvest (Jn 4:35).
Scripture: “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
Thought for Today: “Releasing Suddenlies”
Every person I know needs a breakthrough in some area of their life. I am no exception. I need breakthroughs all the time. I find myself stuck or tempted, confused or confined and in need of wisdom and revelation. The challenge for most of us is that getting a breakthrough means changing how we see. I often hear people say, ”You might have to get serious about spiritual disciplines if you want to see any impact in your life”. What I would like to propose is that the key to getting your breakthrough is more about striving for rest, than fighting for your life (Heb 4:9). Jesus said, “Come to Me… and I will give you rest. Take My yoke… learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls.” The key is to stop relying on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5-10)
What I have seen repeatedly through the years in Scripture, personal experience and the testimony of others, is that prayer and fasting produces great spiritual results. Yet those results were tied to trusting God. When we give ourselves to intense seasons of seeking, we must lean on Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of God’s Word. God is always up to something and your breakthrough is on His mind… in fact, He wants it more than you do!
I want to encourage you to stop leaning on your own understanding. You might never discover how problems or difficulties will be resolved in your life. Try to enter a season of rest. Go to the Throne of Grace and let God love you. Let His mercy pour out upon your heart and just soak it in… stay there and begin to enjoy His Presence. Let Him wash away your worry, cleanse you of all fear and wrestling. Now simply direct your trust toward Him… speak it out. Tell Him that you love the way He meets your needs and praise Him in this moment in the midst of all that is going on around you.
Suddenlies will Begin:
Then… what was offering no impact, suddenly does. What was making no difference, suddenly will. That unwanted situation or mountain that stood in the way, suddenly is removed. The relationship that was broken, suddenly gets restored. The pain in your body, suddenly is healed. The job that hadn’t come through, suddenly opens up. Suddenlies are God’s specialty!
The Reward of Seeking: Believe that God is the “Rewarder” of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6)
Its the anointing that breaks the yoke (Isa 10:27), but it must settle in on us. Its God’s power that releases the suddenlies in our lives (Acts 2:2). Those miracles, the breakthroughs and the revelation of purpose, did not show up simply because we got the words right in our prayers last night. It was because God moved on our behalf. We sought Him in a season of prayer and fasting – yes, but it was God who showed up, brought the breakthrough and the suddenly you needed.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16)
Thought for Today: “Welcoming the Crucible”
God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps 44:21). In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves. Yet we still feel a bit vulnerable yielding our lives to change. We ask God to use us and we know changes are coming, but being in the crucible of spiritual discipline can feel uncomfortable even to the most mature Christian.
When God tests and tries our heart, there are always things that firmly resist, because they have become our safety net. We have relied upon ourselves and trusted in own strength at times when we could not see clearly. The Apostle Paul tells us that many have exchanged the Truth of God for lies by serving and the worship of things that offer no real peace (Rom 1:25). He reminds us that we have all gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). These issues represent the baggage of idolatry and must be rooted out for us to enjoy the freedom found in Christ.
As much as we would like to believe we can change, transformation is not really something we can do for ourselves. It takes the power of the One who knows us best. We can change habits and shift our focus, but it is God who changes the human heart. When we step into the crucible of prayer and fasting, we make the most important move toward God’s best for our lives. The refining process frees us from sinful behavior, renews our thinking and enables us to discern the will of God more clearly (Rom 12:1-2).
God Loves and Receives Us:
Transformation happens in the safe place of His Presence, where the Holy Spirit gains access to those things that hinder our progress. God knows what is best for us and He always acts in our best interest by treating us as sons and daughters (Heb 12:4-11). We are reminded that when we are chastened by God, it is because He loves us and receives us as a father cherishes and loves his child. Remind yourself today that God loves and receives you as His very own son or daughter.
“Why do you spend money on what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me and eat what is good and let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isa 55:2)
Thought for Today: “Becoming Armed and Dangerous”
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we have been given supernatural tools for warring against spiritual forces (Eph. 6:13-18). He first says, “put on the whole armor of God so that you can stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11). We find ourselves wrestling with principalities and powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. I believe we can be armed and dangerous. We can be equipped, shod and gird about with the most impressive sounding weapons God has in His arsenal, but it all works through prayer and fasting. Praying, watching and persevering with all kinds of prayers.
Not by Human Might:
We are ambassadors of Christ with amazing potential to do exploits and achieve the impossible things Jesus did, but it only happens with the help of the Holy Spirit (Zech 4:6). You see, we are battling invisible forces. Spiritual enemies that cannot be seen with our natural eyes. We can see the effects, but never get to the source of the real battle unless we are trained through prayer and fasting.
The Apostle’s Boldness:
Notice how the Apostle Paul writes these words to the Church in Ephesus while he was in prison, saying “I am an ambassador in chains”. He is making the point that his warfare is not fought in the flesh, but in the spiritual realm (Eph 3:10). His boldness was based upon an awareness that God’s grace was flowing through his life (Eph 3:8). Being armed does not necessarily make us dangerous to the devil, unless we are trained in the use of the weapons of our warfare… trained in prayer and sharpened by fasting.
Its all about knowing who you represent! God has chosen you, called you by name and He will work in and through you… but your standard of training is up to you. Jesus was always calling His disciples up higher! He lived with them and taught as one holding the authority, but in a new season, new skills are needed. In John 15 a new season was about to begin. They would no longer be called “servants”. They would begin to discover what their Master was doing (Jn 15:15). As servants, they followed according to commands, but as “friends” they would follow the “heart” of their Master. Jesus was now shifting the relationship, deepening the responsibility and trusting that they would begin to live from what they understood – heart to heart. Friends discover the secrets that give them an advantage in how they walk together. Jesus wanted His disciples to achieve victory in every area of their spiritual journey. Knowing the heart of God is a key to real spiritual trained and impact in the spiritual battles we face. When we know the heart of our friend Jesus, we are able to carry our delegated authority into any challenge. One of the greatest spiritual truths is that your authority gets established through your intimacy with God.
Representing Heaven on Earth:
Becoming a dangerous threat to the devil means you will need some serious alignment with heaven. You are an ambassador for the Kingdom of God… you must represent heaven on earth in a way that makes the devil nervous and demons flee. That is what prayer and fasting will produce in you… the capacity to be armed and dangerous.
Submit to God (through prayer), resist the devil (through fasting) and he will flee from you (Jms 4:7).
Scripture: “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened. (Jonah 3:5-10)
Thought for Today: “Saving a City”
The Book of Jonah is so often described as the story of a selfish prophet, but it is also the story about a repentant city. Nineveh was on God’s mind for all the wrong reasons. It was a great city; but God was about to release judgement upon it, because of its sinful behavior. The story gets vague for those of us who are so far removed in time and distance, but there is no overlooking the fact that God was interested enough in this Gentile region, to send a prophet. We have no knowledge of the message Jonah carried, but the response of the city is powerful. They contended for their lives through prayer and fasting.
They Believed God!
We could speculate all we want about the sin of a city, throw stones and cast blame, but if there is a believing people, there is always hope. Believing God’s Word stands against all the natural instincts the sinful heart finds reasonable. Yet, God would say “Come let us reason together, though your sin is as scarlet” believe Me “they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18-20). “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.”
The believing heart, the willing and obedient heart, is transformed when there is hope… and God offers hope to all men, everywhere. Any man, family, city or nation that believes God at His Word and will contend for the life found in Christ, shall be saved!
Proclaiming a Fast!
Nothing uncovers rebellion, like the activity of fasting. When we choose to repent of our sin through setting aside our legitimate appetites of the flesh and seek God; its like the city of Nineveh putting on sackcloth. We feel the guilt and shame… evidence of a heart that has gone astray. We see our rebellion for what it is and uncover its effect upon our family and community.
Yet, we also uncover something more beautiful, the spiritual emptiness that a loving God can fill. Fasting awakens our spiritual hunger, opening the heart to a fresh, clean, satisfying breeze of the breath of heaven.
Keys of Authority:
This is the greatest challenge to the Kingdom of God. Closed doors hinder the advancement of God’s heart into a city or nation. Can a believing people contend for the transformation of a city? Nineveh’s salvation is the story of a king, a throne, a robe and a decree… a transfer of authority.
- Nineveh’s king held the keys of authority.
- He arises from his throne! His seat of authority.
- He lays aside his robe, the covering of superiority and commits to sackcloth and ashes.
- He relinquishes his ruler-ship and publishes a decree that all the city would cry mightily unto God, perhaps He would relent from the violence in His hands.
Amazing! The idea that a city can be saved in a day… is true! If that city will hand over the keys of authority.
The Saving of a City:
My favorite statement in the book of Jonah: “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented” (Jonah 3:10). This city contended for its life through prayer and fasting. They were heard in heaven and God saved the city of Nineveh.