Note: This is an important blog for all who do ministry, whether you are lifers or volunteers.
But, first a familiar story. Young Joseph had a couple of dreams. The dreams were from God. Like many dreamers, in his youthful enthusiasm, Joseph offended friends and family as he arrogantly promoted his dream.
Because of the dream, Joseph’s brothers hated him. They threatened to kill him. But, in an act of brotherly compassion, they decided to spare his life and sell him into slavery instead. His Egyptian slave-master unjustly threw him in prison.
Joseph’s dream had officially become a nightmare.
What do you do when The Dream feels like a nightmare? Here’s what Joseph did: he helped others live their dreams, while he waited on his.
The story continues. While in prison, Joseph’s cellmates had dreams. He interpreted their dreams, with one request: “when all goes well with you, REMEMBER ME and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” (Gen 40:14) Sounds like a reasonable request to me.
The last verse in Genesis 40 is all too familiar for those of us in ministry. “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Gen 40:23) Have you ever been forgotten by those you serve? If you have been in ministry more than two weeks, you have.
Two years later, Pharaoh has a couple of dreams (the third set of double dreams that mark Joseph’s life). Pharaoh is distraught and seeks an interpretation. Chief Cupbearer suddenly remembers his former cellmate who helped his dream become reality. Chief finally puts in a good word for Joseph. Pharaoh summons Joseph and the rest is history. But Joseph had to endure two extra years of prison because he was forgotten by the man he had helped.
What should we do when we help people in their time of need, and they forget us in our time of need? GET OVER IT, GET YOUR EYES ON JESUS, AND KEEP MINISTERING!
Powerful prayer meetings yesterday at the Every Nation Churches North American office (9am & 4pm), at Bethel Brentwood (noon), and at Bethel Franklin (7pm). Special thanks to my friends John Rohrer and Bruce Fidler for ministering at Bethel Franklin last night.
Here’s another vintage fasting blog I dug from deep in the archives…
“I’ve been set free! This book has set me free!”
This was the first sign of life Roberto had shown since our pastor had encouraged our church to join the multi-denominational nation-wide three days of prayer and fasting for the upcoming 1980 elections. He enthusiastically waved a small book above his head: “Steve, you have to read this book! It set me free!”
The book was about fasting, written by a well-known faith teacher. “How could a book about fasting invoke such an enthusiastic response, especially from Roberto?” I silently muttered. “At least he’ll stop acting like he’s going to starve to death during our fast.”
“Look, man.” He opened the book and held it right in my face. I wondered what was in it that had “set him free.”
“I used to think fasting was important,” he explained to me, “until I read this book. Now I’m free!”
Now I got it. He was freed from fasting. The premise of the book was that fasting was an Old Testament way of getting God’s attention. That was law. This is grace. All we do now is “speak the word of faith.” No need to travail. No need to persevere. Forget Luke 11 and the principle of asking, seeking, and knocking. Forget Luke 18 and the parable of the persistent widow. No need for extended times of intercession. “Just use your faith and confess the word, brother, and all your mountains will move.”
Well, I’ve been set free, too. Not by Roberto’s book, but by the truth of God’s Word. Not free from fasting, but free to fast. Set free from the “stomach god” that Paul mentioned in Philippians 3:19.
Here’s what Jesus said about fasting:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Notice the word in this passage: when. Jesus seems to assume His followers would fast. He didn’t say: “If you guys ever happen to fast…” He said: “When you fast…”
Thousands of Every Nation people start each year with a week of prayer, fasting, and consecration. During the fast, many churches have morning, noon, and nightly prayer meetings each day. God’s Word promises a reward to those who fast. The following are a few of the rewards people reported during a recent week of fasting.
“Today, I received the largest purchase order in the history of my business.”
“Before, I couldn’t open my mouth all the way. Now my jaw is completely healed!”
“Someone called my wife and said that God had spoken to them to pay the whole amount of our Couple’s Retreat registration. Then, the next morning another person said God told them to give my wife some cash.”
“All my life I’ve been afraid of small, dark, enclosed places. Tonight, I was the last one to leave the library on my campus. Normally, I would be terrified in that situation. No more! I’ve been delivered from claustrophobia.”
“I’m in the process of raising my support to be a missionary overseas, and last night, someone I didn’t even know approached me after the prayer meeting and said he would pay for my whole airfare.”
These are just a few of the tangible rewards people received during our fast. There were many more physical healings and financial provisions. More than that, there were countless spiritual breakthroughs. May we all declare war on the “stomach god” and, unlike Roberto, be set free to fast.
FINE PRINT BELOW:
1. This is an edited version of an Evangelicals Today article written fifteen years ago and posted as a blog in 2004.
2. We encourage only healthy adults to fast. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should not fast. If you have any medical condition, you should check with your doctor before fasting. If you are a minor, you should only fast with parental permission.
3. I am having visions of Five Guys fries visiting me at night.
Those who know me know that I hate fasting, but I do it anyway.
For as long as I can remember, our church in Manila has started the year with a week of prayer, fasting, and consecration. For me, that week is always the best of times and the worst of times. Looking back, I have to admit that I probably instituted a church-wide week of fasting because that is the only way I could force myself to participate in that spiritual discipline. Left to myself, I would rather visit Five Guys three times a day than skip meals and pray three times a day. But, my church community makes me a better Christian.
Today is day III of our 2013 week of prayer, fasting, and consecration. Many Every Nation churches around the world are having morning, noon, and evening prayer meetings this week. I am already hearing twitter reports of answered prayer and breakthrough, as Every Nation people from London to Manila to Nashville are humbling themselves and getting hungry (for God!).
I am also hearing some questions. Rather than attempting to make up answers myself, I will simply refer you to one of the best fasting cites available, which includes the following info:
- Why fast
- How to fast safely
- How long
- How to prepare
- How to make your spiritual experience the best it can be
- What physical benefits to expect
- How to finish your fast
I hope that helps as you seek God during this week of fasting, prayer, and consecration.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their REWARD in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will REWARD you. –Jesus in Matthew 6
Jesus said that our heavenly Father rewards fasting. Following are seven rewards of fasting:
1. Fasting turns back God’s wrath and judgment.
Moses recorded that God was angry enough to destroy Aaron and the children of Israel because of their gold cow idol (Dt 9:18-20). But, as we know, God’s wrath was turned back after Moses fasted and prayed. There has been much said and written the past few years about God’s wrath and judgment on different nations. I’m convinced that Christians can turn back God’s judgment through fasting and prayer. Of course that will never happen unless God’s people get more concerned about the next generation than their next meal
2. Fasting releases prophetic strategies for victory.
The Moabites, Amonites, and several other hostile nations were arrayed against Israel. (See 2 Chr 20:1-30.) King Jehoshaphat called for a fast. You know you are in a desperate situation when a guy nicknamed J-PHAT calls for a fast. During the fast, a prophetic word was given that laid out God’s strategy for their battle. “No swords. No shields. No spears. Get your tambourines ready, we’re going to war!” I’m sure there were some battle-hardened warriors who thought that word was way off. After all, “We’ve never fought a battle like that before.” As always, God knew best. If we are willing to skip a few meals, we may receive prophetic strategies to influence our cities for God’s glory. They may be new and untried strategies, but if they are from God, we can be confident they will work.
3. Fasting activates people and provision for God’s work.
Nehemiah’s building project was preceded by corporate fasting. Would it have been as successful without the fasting? I don’t think so. In 1984, God opened the door for our fledglingManila church to have its own (rented) building in Manila’s crowded University-Belt as we fasted and prayed. Each time our church has expanded to a new building to own or rent, a vital part of our fund-raising strategy has been prayer and fasting.
4. Fasting releases wisdom and favor.
Daniel and his friends went on a partial fast (vegetables and water only). At the end of the fast, they were compared with the rest of the young men of Babylon. The results are recorded in Daniel 1:20. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. Would you like to be ten times better than your competitors? Just lay off the pizza for a few days and seek God wholeheartedly.
5. Fasting clarifies and redirects callings and ministries.
Paul, Barnabas, and a few other Antioch church leaders were me eting together, and while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: set apart for me Barnabas . . .(Acts 13:1-3). While they were fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke. Would He have spoken this new direction even if they had not fasted? Probably. The real question is: Would they have been sensitive enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak if they had not fasted? Maybe. Maybe not. Are you seeking God for a new direction in your life or ministry? Good time to fast.
6. Fasting breaks demonic strongholds.
On one occasion, the disciples unsuccessfully attempted to cast out a demon. When they asked Jesus why they had failed, He responded: this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matt 17:21). This seems to indicate that there are certain demonic situations that, for one reason or another, can only be defeated through fasting. Isaiah said that true fasting will loose chains . . . untie the cords of yoke . . . set the oppressed free and break every yoke (Is 58:6). Have you ever encountered a stubborn demonic situation? Maybe it’s the kind that only goes out by prayer and fasting.
7. Fasting increases spiritual power.
Luke records that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and that He was led by the Spirit. After His forty day fast, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:1,14). How many Christians do you know who are full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit, but do not walk in the power of the Spirit? Need more power? Spiritual power is one of the rewards of fasting.
This blog was originally an article called “Freedom from the Stomach God” written for Evangelicals Today magazine. A few years ago I wrote several fasting blogs on my “accidental missionary” site. The first was called “I Hate Fasting.”
(Note: We encourage only healthy adults to fast. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should not fast. If you have any medical condition, you should check with your doctor before fasting.)