Fasting together: Rebuild and Restore (For all of my regulars, yes, the blog is a fright and under construction but will be fixed very, very soon! Thank you for your patience.)
Happy New Year! Ringing in the New Year with The Sweetheart who has been so very sick this weekend. Boo. But 2018 can only get better! Today, we begin our Fasting in January series and we must start at the beginning. I am sharing the introduction from my book, The Daniel Fast, A Devotional, just because we need to get some basics down on the first day. I will blog every day with devotions, tips and even Daniel Fast recipes if you are following that fast. Obviously it is the focus but the devotions and encouragement are for any fast, no matter how long or short! Remember, there are no rules, just commit to sacrifice and see what God will do.
How many times do we go to bed with the worries of the day on our minds; wondering how we are going to fix all of the problems in the world?
- Will the bills get paid?
- How long before our company shuts down?
- Is the cancer going to return?
- Will our children get back together?
- Is that divorce going to become final this year?
Night after night we toss and turn, trying our best not to let the sin of worry overtake us.
We are all guilty of it; we are human.
Back a few years ago, I had struggled with this and could not shake it. Many things were troubling me. I was trying to fix them all in my own mind but couldn’t and it was getting me down. I finally decided enough was enough and, in desperation, I finally did something I had always wanted, and needed, to do.
I went on an extended fast.
You might say that the Bible says our fasting should be a secret. No. Jesus said when you fast to not be like the Pharisees who want others to know they are fasting. They walked around with long, drawn looks on their faces and said things like, “Woe is me! I am fasting!” They wanted to appear more holy, godlier and more spiritual than others. That is not the purpose.
However, if we do not share our experiences, how will we learn? How will we grow? How will we bless one another?
This fast was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life but also one of the most victorious and liberating spiritual battles the Lord has ever helped me win.
His Word says some things only come about by prayer and fasting. “And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could we not cast him out? So he said to them, This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:28, 29 NKJV.
The devil was tormenting me. Satan had been whispering in my ear for way too long, and unfortunately, I had been giving him credit by believing what he was saying.
Worry is one of his most successful tactics. It rates right up there with fear. The wringing of your hands type of worry is his specialty.
But fasting puts Satan IN HIS PLACE.
The Bible says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 KJV.
He has to obey when you quote the Word, obey the Word and live out the Word!
When you add fasting into the mix, you are breaking YOU. You are humbling YOU. The chains begin to fall; he has no power left. You begin to hear God’s voice, His whispers. You understand His Word, feel His power, and trust His promises.
The one single passage of scripture that jumped out to me while I was on this fast was the fasting message we might be familiar with in Isaiah. Finally, after all of these years, I understood what the Lord was saying here, and it is so beautiful.
First, the Word. It’s a little lengthy, but stay with me. It’s worth it.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
‘In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:3-11 NKJV.
The Jews had the proper form for their fasting, but they were messing up everything else that went with it. They were finding pleasure in their fasting time instead of using it to draw closer to God. They were “driving hard all of their workers”, meaning that even though on fast days there was no work done, on the day before and the day after they worked them even that much harder to make up for it.
They were quarreling and fighting, and their fasting was making them irritable with one another…a good sign they were NOT spending time with their Maker.
They were “hiding from their own flesh”; they were not helping their own. They were being selfish during fasting time. This is another “Woe is me” attitude about fasting: avoiding helping others because you are suffering.
Verse nine says they were oppressing one another by placing yokes, or unnecessary burdens, upon their brothers and sisters. They were also pointing fingers at each other, spreading rumors and lies about their fellow Christians.
Again, they had the method right, but their hearts were in bad, bad shape. They were upset that the Lord had not noticed that they were in sackcloth and ashes. They had fasted, but He had not noticed.
So the Lord speaks and tells them they have it all wrong. He says, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen?”
And here is where I have always looked at it differently:
“To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free…”
I would hear this part preached and taught and get all excited that God was going to do this for me.
But look at what He says next…
“And that you break every yoke?”
That WE break every yoke? I thought He was going to do that? He can and He will, but here He says WE are to break every yoke!
The fast that the Lord is pleased with is when we loose those bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens we have placed on one another, let the oppressed go free and break every yoke!
What else does He say?
We are to share our bread with the hungry, bring the poor to our house, cover the naked that have no clothing, and not ignore those that need our help. Also, stop pointing our fingers and spreading vicious rumors. Those are pretty important.
That is the fast that God has chosen.
He says that when we do those things something will happen:
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:8-12 KJV.
Look at all of those precious promises! Your health will spring forth, righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your reward. If you call on the Lord, He will answer, He will always be your guide. Another version says that you will be “known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”
All of this when you choose the right fast: God’s fast!
When your heart is in the right place.
When you are doing it unto the Lord and not to be seen.
When you are breaking yokes and setting people free by forgiving, restoring, clothing and feeding then …
God will also restore you.