Patient endurance during trial seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again.
In God's word we see so many examples of this sort of sanctifying preparation. When God's people begin to boldly call out to Him for mercy and deliverance, He will often wait to see if they really want what they are asking for. There is often a time of repentance, cleansing and a faith building time of testing or tribulation before God shows up in all his redemptive glory. We are a quick fix people but we do not serve a quick fix God...we persevere in fasting, praying, and working out our faith.
I don't usually share much about fasting (or nothing at all) because it is such a personal thing but I think it's something that Christians don't talk about, or teach about enough. So I will make myself transparent for a moment, not to boast in the flesh, but to boast in my Savior.
For years I had no idea why on earth someone would do such a thing. I love food. I love eating. I love eating at regular half hour intervals. I'm a natural grazer. I was entirely convinced I would perish if I went without food for more than a day...or suffer a fate worse than death. I certainly never expected it to ever be I time I would cherish.
As my knowledge of scripture increases so did my realization that it is something that we are called to do. It's right up there with giving, serving, and praying. In the New Testament it doesn't come out so much as a command but as a precedent set by Jesus, the apostles, and the early church. New works of God, through his people, began with periods of prayer and fasting. One example is Paul and Barnabas being sent out to proclaim salvation to the gentiles. (Acts 13:1-3) Again and again fasting and prayer is mentioned throughout the old and the new covenant as preparation for God to do something incredible among them.
I want God to do incredible things among us.
In the last couple years I've ventured into this "new to me" spiritual discipline...mostly out of desperate circumstances that drove me to my knees like never before. I believe from experience that it changes things. I have witnessed irreparably severed relationships being restored, sins hidden in darkness uncovered, chains bound for decades broken, and victims vindicated through no power of their own. God does the impossible when His people seek Him in persevering prayer.
I'm not ritualistic about fasting, it is not some sort of religious duty to cringe and bear through. I do it as the Spirit leads. A full fast generally lasts 1-3 days for me. As I write these words Tuesday evening I am finished up day 3. I am as physically empty as it gets. Day three feels complete to me. Three days Jonah was in the whale, three days Jesus was in the tomb....three days I spent calling on God's mercy and power (not that my praying stops at the end of three days).
I empty myself because I'm desperate for more of Jesus. I want to see the glory of God more than I want food in my belly. I don't want to feel satiated in the flesh, when my spirit longs for more.
I desire his voice, his will, and his provision to be spoken to my soul. I feel hungry, but my physical hunger is eclipsed by my spiritual hunger and I am filled. With each pang of hunger I am reminded of how completely unsatisfied I am with just a little bit of God, just a small enough dose to claim him as my own and yet live my life as I please. We ,as a church, have become too content with a smallish faith in a smallish god made in our own image. I want more. I want to see Jesus in all His glory.
I hunger for the glory of God to be restored in His Church. I hunger for His praises to go up from among the nations of the world. I hunger for my King Jesus to come. I don't want to become content, satiated, numbed into complacency. (Matthew 9:14-15)
"Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me" Psalms 51:10
Prayers and fasting do not twist the arm of Jesus, manipulate the Holy Spirit or attempt to coerce, through hunger strike, the favor of God. I abhor it to be a checklist of self righteous religion, or a source of pride in self denial. That is the fasting that God has said he despises.
My prayers, while I'm fasting, persist in worship without ceasing crying out day and night like the watchmen on the city gates who give no rest (Isaiah 62). I intercede. I labor to stand in the gap for the weak, the oppressed and the fatherless. I confess, repent and humble myself before my Lord. As I seek Him in my emptiness, in my absolute weakness, in my nothingness....I see Him for who He is and I see myself in comparison so much more clearly. In His greatness and my smallness, I find peace and comfort. As my heart aligns with His, I see my own circumstances with a new perspective.
I learn to worship through the storm, I sing His praises while in chains, as I wait for His mighty deliverance.
We have access, as adopted children of God, to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. So often we don't have because we don't ask. We have access, by the blood of Jesus, to the throne, to the Holy of Holies. (1 John 5:14) That's where I want to be filled.
As I kneel at His feet and bend to His sovereign will, I am freed to release my own.
"It is very apparent from the word of God that God often tries the faith and patience of his people when they are crying out to him for some great and important mercy. He tries their patience by withholding the mercy they seek for a season. Not only so but at first he may cause an increase of dark appearances...and yet He without fail, at last, prospers those who continue urgently in prayer with all perseverance and will not let him go until he blesses them." Jonathon Edwards