“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 from and break every yoke? 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? 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."- Isaiah 58:6-8
Have you ever been engaged on a specific TOPIC that you wished you had more time to research, ponder, further develop, or discuss? Whether in a conversation, a news article, a subject in school, a television documentary, or even in a church service, there are topics brought up and addressed that seem to be just scratching the surface. Well, this past Sunday's message on Fasting had me feeling like there was so much more than could have been communicated, expressed, and detailed.
As we have consistently communicated over the entire month of January in this series, Mercy Gifts, we want each spiritual discipline focused on to release the richest blessing in each of our lives. In order for this to take root and bear fruit, my desire is that the each Sunday message be INSPIRATIONAL (spiritual minded and Biblical founded), MOTIVATIONAL (emotionally charged), and PRACTICAL (Daily Walked out). So with that being the heartbeat of this series, I wanted to provide some practical steps you can take to begin making fasting a part of your worship expression and faith walk. First and foremost, as we think back on Sunday's message, one of the things that was pivotal to our understanding on this topic is that our fasting is meant to produce some KEY RESULTS. The results of our fasting is not to show others how spiritual we are, to prove that we have passed the school of self-discipline, or as I put it on Sunday that my hunger causes me to hallucinate that my alarm clock is an ice cream truck or my daughter's stuffed animals are actually chocolate bunnies! Our fasting (and any spiritual discipline for that matter) is meant to 1) Connect us to God; 2) Release life-giving answers; and 3) Impact others. Those are faith results, powerful results, and God pleasing results!
During the message Pastors Scott Bland and Othniel Hinckson shared testimonies on their own experiences when fasting. Scott mentioned how he senses the Lord presence in a powerful way and that God always seems to speak amazing truths and answers into his heart during these times. Scott also spoke an important truth: that fasting by itself will not produce the fullest work if it is not coupled with time in the Word, prayer, and worship. Othniel shared how God has taught him that fasting is not about just receiving what he is asking for, but it is about having a true encounter with the Lord and allowing Him to work "the unexpected" in our lives. Although, both shared different accounts and lessons from their fasting experience, both seemed to express the ultimate desire to know, follow, and serve Jesus with every fiber of their being.
Since this past Sunday, I have had two other leaders input on this topic with fasting. I found both experiences and examples to be so practical and profitable, that I wanted to pass it on to the church. First, there is a couple who shared that one of the things they do whenever they fast from food (for one or more days) is that they take COMMUNION together each day. They shared how this act of remembrance keeps them focused on the Lord. That their time of fasting is a worship act and not just a withholding of food. They also stressed the benefit that the bread and juice serves as providing some physical nourishment which serves as a wonderful reminder of the need of His substance, strength, and sacrifice in our lives. A woman in the church shared that due to some physical challenges and work demands, she is unable to fast from food, but rather chooses not to eat at restaurants. She then takes the money saved from eating out to distribute it to people in need or ministries that serve to share the gospel.
With the start of 2017 and during this very exciting new season for our church family, this is a great time to begin the practice of fasting to experience connecting with God in a way that makes us fully submitted, strengthened, and satisfied. Whether it is one meal a day, one day a week, or one thing in this season, consider these areas in releasing the greatest results during these sacred times:
1) At specific points in the day when you would be eating a meal take time to read God's Word, spend time in prayer, or spend time doing a good deed for someone else.
2) At times when your craving is the highest or your body feels the weakest, make an immediate confession of your hunger for the Lord and your need for His help.
3) Take the money you would have spent on food to share it with those in need or give to help advance the Good News of the kingdom.
4) During the fast keep asking the Lord to reveal His heart, His will, and His answer for the breakthrough, need, or person you are fasting for.
5) Be sure to not start a fast or stay in a fast due to any feeling of religious duty or a religious spirit. Fast because you are seeking God, hungry for God, and committing yourself to God.