Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In a little classroom after a powerful church service, the leaders gathered at the pastor’s request. I knew what was coming, it had been stirring in me for a couple weeks. He called a time of fasting and praying. Ugh! The moment the words came pouring out of his mouth, my stomach responded. Suddenly, all I could think of was my next meal. It’s funny how our flesh reacts to discipline. It doesn’t matter how many times diet, exercise and yes, even fasting and praying has yielded positive results – our flesh hates discipline on every level. Spending time with the Lord, I have heard over and over again – it’s time to give up comfort, convenience and control. It’s time to press harder and reach farther than ever before. Not that I have already attained it…not that I am already perfected…but I press on…
What’s all the fuss? I mean really isn’t fasting Old Testament living. Is it religious? What’s the point of self-denial? Discipline is the heart of discipleship that yields results in us and through us. I used to go to the gym three or four times a week. My physical condition was better than even my youth. Why did I stop? Responsibilities took the time. I moved away from the convenient location of my gym membership. I became overwhelmed by work and church. No matter how positively my life was impacted or what my excuse, I gave in to comfort and became complacent about my health. Excuses limit our life. I am too busy for anything means that you have decided to spend your time and are not satisfied with how it is portioned. Everyone has the exact same amount of time and the freedom to use it by our choosing. Responsibilities is the yoke that is chosen. Taking on too much is a human choice not God-given calling. Who He calls He equips! So here I am the day before the fast begins arguing with myself – truly flesh and spirit are debating.
I am sharing the details not to point to anything good in me. I am not telling you to fast or not to fast simply what fasting can produce in a life yielded to God by faith. I have successfully accomplished times of fasting and then others when I have failed miserably in my flesh. When I sat down this morning, it was with mixed emotions. Isn’t that what faith is sometimes? We want what God has promised but do not want to do what He says to have it. Faith is not pretending but believing God with our natural life including all conditions and circumstances. The fine line believe confession and confidence is achieved by silencing one of the two. Fasting kills our flesh and enable our spirit to regain control.
One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…
Experience is a form of education. It conditions the mind as far as expectation. Even living a Christian life, our expectation is constantly being molded and shaped by experience. It is important to evaluate our expectation and live in expectancy. God wants to accomplish more than we can think or ask in our life. He does this through faith. Faith occurs when we stop trying to do something by our own efforts and trust someone else to do it for us. Faith is the one attitude that is exactly the opposite of trusting ourselves. Faith is not pretending but living in confident belief of God’s Power in our life and that He is willing to do the impossible for us.
I have experienced miracles firsthand. The unexplainable and undeniable move of God completely independent of anything I could have accomplished on my own or that which anyone else could have exacted in my life. Just as important as forgetting the past including shame, regret, failure and frustrations, we must not attempt to reproduce yesterday’s move of God in the present. Religion is the art of repetitiveness. A relationship with Jesus Christ is Resurrection Power and New Life as a new creation. He wants to do something new and different every single time. Experience is like a recipe made over and over producing the same thing. God is not looking for sacrifices of old, or fasting in the form of routine. He is looking for a rending of the human heart so He can produce new life and new glory in His People.
Lukewarm living takes over when church becomes a service. When our religious routine loses its willingness to do whatever it takes for God to move in our midst. My life is better knowing Christ. Preachers encourage me in the Word of God. The Word of God washes over me and refreshes me each day. His Spirit works in me to renew my thoughts and motivation. Prayer keeps me connected to Jesus and the Father. But still, like any relationship, we must work to avoid monotony that leads to disregard for the precious ember and burning passion that brings love to life. Living not by “you know that I love you” in the realm of “I am going to make sure you KNOW that I love you”. Dead church does represent the Kingdom because His Kingdom is a remnant of living breathing bodies pursing Him day by day by faith and trust in the God of the Impossible and His Viable Interest in us as His Children.
Reaching forward to those things which are ahead…
Joel 2:12-13 (NKJV) “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”
Living in waves of amazing grace, it is easy to become complacent. Our life is better than we hoped for but not all that God has promised. We settle in the place of comfort afraid to test the limits of God with radical obedience. What if there is an end to His Love? What if grace has a capacity? What if God is not the God of the Impossible? What if hope only an elusive dream? Why push it? When the end comes, will Jesus know me? I wonder if in taking advantage of His Grace, we miss the open door of opportunity marked obedience. Obedience to Christ is more than just doing, serving and ministering. Full obedience is giving Him our life. All of it including every facet of our being, living, doing, working and loving. We do not HAVE TO but do it because we want to. Freedom will never require anything of us that we are not willing to give or liberty is lost. Fasting and praying rends our heart and allows God to inspect the contents removing those things that keep us from fulfillment.
Joel 2:28-29 (NKJV) “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; our sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
Joel 2:32 (NKJV) And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
A remnant is a small part or quantity. God is looking for a place and people to literally pour out His Spirit to. Will it be me? Will it be you? There is only a remnant of believers who will experience such an outpouring. It comes at the price of self. We must be moved out of the way in order to make room for Christ to expand and be expressed in our life. He must increase and I must decrease. Fasting is the vehicle of miracles. It is the place where faith is exercised and used in order to be strengthened and renewed. It is the place of dreams and visions becoming a reality as in our personal weakness – God’s Power is manifested. In those days…meaning it hadn’t happened yet. We are the remnant church. Those who continually seek to know Him more and exchange comfort, convenience and control to drain the depths of complacency giving way to an outpouring of God’s Spirit in us and through us. We must reach for it. Press toward it. Strain our flesh to obtain it. We must answer the call to fast and pray like never before.
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 4:16-21 (NKJV) Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Faith is the art of heavenly acquisition. Pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ requires faith. The thing about faith is it is likened to a mustard seed. Seed holds potential. Seed reproduces. Seed is filled with perpetual life. If we put a seed in the ground, it must grow, develop and mature to reach its full potential. It must endure many seasons. A seed’s potential is not evident in its present form. It must be planted deep in the ground and hidden in darkness for the work to begin. There is a process. If the seed never makes it through the hard layers of fear, doubt and insecurity into our heart, it cannot grow and reach its full potential. We must rend our hearts in order for the potential of faith evident in God’s Word to become the reality of our life. Faith is absolutely essential in the fulfillment of God’s People. Not sometimes faith, yesterday’s faith but the perpetual planting and harvesting of new and greater faith in God.
Abraham is the father of faith. God who “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” is ready. What is dead? What is dormant? There is a difference. The dead things in us must go so that God can awaken that which has only been dormant. Impossible things are possible by faith in Jesus Christ. All those dead dreams and lost visions are not gone forever just submerged in the comfort, convenience and control. Once complacency becomes confidence in the God who brings dead things to life and speaks invisible things into reality suddenly your natural will become supernatural. It is going to take some effort on your part to haul your flesh to the altar binding it with strong faith. Is it time to call a fast? I wonder…may I ask you a question? What are you trusting and believing the Lord to do in you, through you and for you? Can you do it yourself? If not, fasting and praying brings the impossible to endless possibilities by faith! We must be fully convinced that God will do what He promised and is able to perform it.
I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NKJV) And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
I often joke with people if you see me running you should run to because something must be chasing me. I am not a runner though I would love to run a marathon one day. I think the Princess Run at Walt Disney World would be so much fun. Trekking along in tiaras and tutus, call me crazy. Anyway, I cannot imagine finally entering a marathon, running the course, and finding no reward at the finish line. Just a line to cross without any cheering or medals essentially no victory or glory. Nothing to celebrate, just getting in the car and heading home. When we compete it is for a prize, the thought of disqualification is bad enough but if there is nothing to gain why do it?
Am I comfortable? Am I holding on to convenience? Am I maintaining control in my life? Am I confident in Christ or my own ability? Am I fighting the good fight of faith or simply beating the air? Am I a true disciple or just following a crowd of Christians? Am I complacent? Lukewarm? I would like to answer a resounding “NO” to all these things but I am not sure. The only way to be confident in our hope is to fully accept God’s Grace, Mercy and Love by faith. Faith that is not reliant on what we see but who we know. If there is no passion in my praise, worship and obedience to Christ, then I am in danger of being disqualified. This love affair is not ordinary but extraordinary. To be successful, I must endure to the end. Am I holding on by a thread?
Tomorrow begins this new journey with new expectation. Subjecting my flesh to discomfort, inconvenience and surrendering control of my entire life to Jesus Christ all over again. Confident hope and complete faith marked by total trust requires a challenge or test. I am called to God so must strive and reach for Him daily to achieve it. Is God calling you to fast and pray? If your first response is absolutely not or no way – you might consider it as your flesh speaks out against it. I encourage you to try it. It doesn’t have to radical just ask the Lord to reveal something to you to give up and fill that time with prayer and create expectancy by releasing all of yesterday’s expectations and experiences to fully embrace fulfillment in Christ.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT) Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”