THE WALK OF DISCIPLINE II
I must be honest – I have not fasted a whole lot in my life. I am guilty of loving to eat and have my own problems trying to deal with it. I also struggle with spending time in prayer. I pray and talk with God on the way to work and going home. I talk with Him while I am at work and try to go to bed early so that I can be quiet in His presence and listen to Him but I do not have a two or three hour specific time each day. For those who do – I am inspired to rise to this level of commitment. I personally believe that we are to STAY in constant communion as we WALK in prayer consciousness. Whatever the quantity of time we choose to surrender to Him, our prayers must become a personal discipline that we place at the top of our priority list or our fast-paced life will cause us to forget the needs of others. Last year I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to go on a seven-day denial of meat, bread, potatoes and sweets. For this particular week, I only ate fruit, vegetables and drank water and fruit juice. I am not boasting of my sacrifice but rather just testifying to you the spiritual encouragement and refreshing this time of seeking God gave me. This may not seem like much of a sacrifice to some but you must understand the amount of rich foods I consume regularly. Fasting done with the right intention and with the humble desire to draw closer to His presence will always be spiritually rewarding and a true blessing to clear our mind and rest our body. Of course, this is not the only kind of discipline we can choose to do because actually the Christian WALK is an entire LIFE of discipline! Fasting is just an example of how we are to live in a “state” of order and control. We are not to be extremist that is strict one minute and let our hair down the next because it exposes the instability of our heart with an imbalance and immaturity of our mind. So, how do we abide in His discipline? We can buy all the books and listen to the video programs telling us how to incorporate Godly principals into our schedule but what we need is more of God Himself! We must be careful that we do not become like the Pharisees who took discipline to a completely insane level of legalism. They became more absorbed in the “science” of living according to the law than trying to connect and know God spiritually. I read an anonymous statement the other day that said the Christian life is not for everyone. It did sound strange at first but the more I thought about it the more I began to grasp its meaning. Salvation is for “whosoever will” but most people will NEVER accept Him. There is such a huge difference between being religious and being a disciple that it is obvious that many church attendees have never had or never will have a burning desire to be a “true” Christian. It is because the followers of Christ must ALLOW themselves to be stripped completely, broken into pieces, melted with fervent heat, molded into God’s image and polished to the brightness of His glory. The masses are completely confused because when they heard the invitation for salvation they were told to accept Christ as their Savior and He would make everything wonderful. They were not informed intentionally about what their requirements and accountabilities would be. They may not admit it publicly but deep within their conscience, their rebellion secretly professes to have never “signed up” to be a living sacrifice or live a life of strict discipline. This lack of holiness is why many churches do lot’s of “activities” but have very little anointing.
I heard an interview with a pastor the other day on Christian radio. The host was asking him about his church and he went on to tell about his programs, the size of the church, and he tried to describe his “style” of ministry and so on. After it was over I realized that he had not mentioned anything about the anointing, the Holy Spirit, changed lives, miracles, healings, visions, the power and glory of God, casting out devils, discipleship, weeping, fasting or even reaching out to the community. It seemed the church was focusing on itself and how hard they were laboring to be a success. Sadly, this is the typical, average, “normal” condition of modern lukewarm religion. The reason why the presence of God is not manifested is obvious: the people have not invested their personal time in prayer and intimate worship. If the members have been calloused by the sins of the world, they will not desire the holy of holies but rather are more comfortable with a light, pleasant, religious service. If the atmospheres in churches like these are no different from going to the grocery store, then something is terribly wrong! If God’s power and anointing has been exchanged for entertainment and if Holy Ghost preaching has been traded for politically correct lectures and socially acceptable stories – then where is God? What part does the Lord have in a church where man leads it, designs it and controls it? God is looking for men and women who desire to know what spiritual discipline really means and who has the faith to step forward and say – I will do it! Not because they are trying to impress anyone but because they love Jesus with ALL their heart, their mind and their strength. In the Christian world there are popular subjects to talk about that can stimulate a crowd to stand on their feet and shout the house down. And, on the other hand there are topics that pastors will keep on the shelf because the majority would be offended and not be able to receive it. I believe that fasting is one of such examples because in general most people are not interested in anything that causes a disruption in their daily routine or that could cause suffering. That is why many churches avoid the deeper spiritual “walk” and settle for potluck dinners every week. It is no secret that people love to eat and sadly in many assemblies instead of being built around God’s Word and the desire to grow spiritually the church is built around fellowship where the only “gain” is found on the bathroom scales. Our lives have become so spoiled with the luxury of eating, that food has evolved from the category of “survival” to the plateau of exciting entertainment. For many, food has become one of our favorite pastimes and is the high point of the day. There is so much sadness and depression in the world that some, (even Christians) have adopted food as a way to drown their anxieties and depression, similar to the alcoholic and drug addict lifestyle.
We understand the general meaning of “fasting” to be the deliberate abstaining of food (and) or drink for spiritual purposes. I also believe that we can declare abstinence from other things that we love and enjoy for the purpose of sacrificing our flesh to enhance our relationship with God. The first part of the New Year is a good time to establish our commitment to Christ and start the calendar with a strong statement of dedication and loyalty to His Name and His Word. But fasting can be exercised anytime of the year and is an awesome way to generate power into our prayers of faith. Also it is a form of discipline to train our heart to be more of a giver and compassionate to those in need. Let us begin in Mathew chapter six and verse one, where Christ gives His instructions on several specific aspects of the disciplined life we have been talking about. “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to a beggar, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity. I tell you in all earnestness, they have received all the reward they will ever get.” (verses 1- 2 TLB) Verse 9, “But when you pray, go away to yourself, all alone and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly and your Father who knows your secrets will reward you.” Verses 32, “So, don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But, your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and He will give them to you if you give Him FIRST PLACE in your life and live as He wants you to.”
It is very common for those who think about being disciplined to believe that when the New Year comes around that it is a magical time to instantly become strict and organized to get everything in their life on track. What sort of New Year’s Resolution should a Christian make? The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make? Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, first Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to material things. This is not the central focus of what God’s visions are about. The Lord does want to bless us but usually our benefits and pleasures are the side item while HIS plans and destiny for us are the main spiritual meaning and focus. Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?
Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has a chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution. So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom with HOW to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Yes and Amen!
There have been many brave soldiers since the beginning of time to walk out on a battlefield and declare to heaven and earth, that they are willing to die for what they know to be true. Unfortunately God does not give credit for those who believe in a lie. Having faith in a false god or a false belief system does not earn favor with THE GOD of the heaven and earth. Sincerity does not earn special credit because there is an absolute truth and many who are “sincerely” wrong. Sincerity also does not TAKE THE PLACE of discipline. The Lord does not move just because we ask Him to. He cannot turn against His own perfection because that would be compromising and confusing. We must listen to HIS voice and pray according to HIS destiny for the miracle to be performed in His perfect way and at the perfect time. He usually moves when He sees us taking the initiative to help ourselves. In other words, He is more inclined to help those who are working hard toward the vision instead of those lying on the couch waiting for Him to do it all. We must start somewhere and believe that along with our effort that God is going to empower us with His spiritual discipline and open doors of favor and blessing to help us accomplish HIS will.