Many of my friends have begun the year with a fast of some sort. What a great way to clear the slate and honor God with your heart and your body. Last week I began to hear this verse in my spirit:
Matthew 15:8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
I knew exactly what the Lord was saying because I had been there so many times before myself. I had struggled with eating and my weight all of my life, so when I would try to fast for a spiritual purpose unto God, my own flesh and self-image would get easily mixed into the fast. If I was fasting a particular way (i.e., Daniel fast, only liquids, etc.) my thoughts would get consumed with what to cook, what to drink, when to eat or drink it, planning ahead, how much weight I could potentially lose while supposedly fasting for my soul, etc. The list is endless. As I would near the end of my fasts, I would have guilt and condemnation that more of my fast was focused on myself than on spending more time with God or being in His word, hearing His direction for my life and so on.
Right from the pulpit yesterday morning one of our Pastor’s confirmed that word. I felt as though this post should be an encouragement today for any of you who are in this place. Let’s remind ourselves of what Isaiah 58 says about fasting. I have included the full chapter from The Message version because it’s too amazing not to post all of it!
Isaiah 58 The Message (MSG)
Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground
58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
3-5 “Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!
One of the things I learned from one of Lisa Bevere’s books over a decade ago was to share your food with the hungry when you are fasting. I bet we all know of at least one family who could be blessed with the food we would have normally eaten during our fasts.
If you started on January 1st and are doing a 21 day Daniel fast, you are almost finished! If, like me in the past, you have failed miserably with the God honoring side of your fast, it’s not too late. Take today, tomorrow and the 21st and make it the best Jesus honoring, chain breaking, yoke destroying three days that you possibly can! Remember how much Jesus did in three days:
John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Remember that Jesus was crucified, buried, received the keys to death and Hades and rose again. A lot can happen in three days!
Whatever you are fasting, my prayer for you today is that you will have much success, honor God and learn some things about yourself along the way.