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Fasting

Winning Combination

“But this kind of demon is cast out only through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

Some things just belong together. Macaroni and cheese, a hammer and nail, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, a right uppercut and a left jab—they just go together.

In the spiritual realm, fasting and prayer go together. We see fasting and prayer used together repeatedly in the Scriptures:

  • “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer” (Ezra 8:23).
  • “Jehoshaphat was terrified…and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting” (2 Chronicles 20:3).
  • “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).
  • “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day (Luke 2:37).

When people really seek God, they pray AND they fast. We see it in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And we hear it from the mouth of Jesus.

Jesus affirmed the value of the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. In Matthew 17, we read about a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus. The son had seizures and often threw himself into the fire or into the river. Many commentaries on this story suggest the son had epilepsy and was also tormented by an evil, suicidal spirit.

The father brought the son to the disciples, but the disciples couldn’t cure him. The father then went straight to Jesus. He asked Jesus for compassion, healing, and deliverance, and Jesus took action: “Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was instantly healed!” (Matthew 17:18). In an instant, the boy was miraculously delivered from the demon and completely healed from the seizures. Incredible!

But why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon? Why couldn’t they bring healing to the boy?

The disciples asked the same question of Jesus. Jesus said they needed faith, but faith wasn’t all they needed. Jesus also told the disciples that some spiritual battles are won only through prayer and fasting.

In boxing, a right uppercut, left hook combo is a winning combination that can defeat an opponent. When we’re facing fierce spiritual warfare, fasting and prayer is the winning combination we need to defeat our enemy. Fasting and prayer is a one-two punch that brings breakthrough and victory.

This isn’t a time to play Christian on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week. There’s too much at stake. It’s time to fight for our marriages, our children, freedom from addictions, financial breakthrough, physical healing, and these battles are won through prayer and fasting.

Do you desperately need resolution to a seemingly impossible situation? Involve God in your situation with the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. When you face daunting battles, remember Jesus’s words to his disciples. He said with faith, fasting, and prayer, “nothing will be impossible for you.”

Dear God, you are gracious and compassionate. You are rich in love and kindness. I need you in my life today. I need your peace, deliverance, and breakthrough in my life and in my family. You are Lord over every situation. You are all powerful. Cover me with your presence. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17:14-21

The FWC devotionals are moving to a five day per week format, Monday through Friday. Look for the next devotion on Monday, August 17. Have a great weekend!

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Fasting

Fasting from the Heart

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

What’s easier to live with—a mechanical dog or a real live beagle? Both can walk, bark, wag their tails, do tricks, and shake hands. But a real live beagle has to be fed, taken outside for walks, and cleaned up after. A mechanical dog is way easier, but it’s not a dog.

Just as a mechanical dog isn’t a dog, mechanically going through the motions of fasting isn’t a fast. Fasting should not be routine. Fasting should break up our routines, allowing us to focus on God and hear his heart. If we aren’t fasting from our hearts, we aren’t fasting—we’re just dieting.

In Isaiah 58:4-5, God called out people who weren’t fasting from their hearts. Their fasting was a charade, a religious routine, and an outward display to impress people with how religious they were. Here’s what God told them:

“What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the windIs this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?

God saw right through the people in Isaiah’s day and he sees right through us today. Does fasting make us cranky, irritable, and mean? Do we just go through the motions of fasting, adhering to the, “rules,” but not seeking God from the heart? Do we just happen to drop a comment about our fast, hoping everyone will be impressed by how religious we are? If that’s what we call fasting, our fast isn’t one that pleases God.

What does a fast that pleases God look like? God answers that question in Isaiah 58:6-7. God is pleased when our hearts move toward him. He intends our fasting to produce justice, mercy, compassion, and generosity. He wants our hearts to be touched by the needs of the world around us, and for us to take actions to meet those needs.

Fasting can’t be about following rules or impressing people; it must be about pleasing God. And it can’t be mechanical or routine. It has to be from our hearts.

During your fast, passionately open your heart to God. Pour out your worship and pour out your needs in prayer. Immerse yourself in his word. When you do this, God promises: “Yahweh will always guide you where to go and what to do. He will fill you with refreshment even when you are in a dry, difficult place. He will continually restore strength to you, so you will flourish like a well-watered garden and like an ever-flowing trustworthy spring of blessing” (Isaiah 58:11-12).

Guidance, refreshing, restoration, fruitfulness, and blessings are the rewards of fasting from the heart. I’ll take a big helping of all of it. How about you?

Dear God, thank you for giving me life and for all your blessings. I could never repay you for all you have done. Help me seek you with a whole heart. Let my prayer, worship, fasting, and giving be done passionately, from my heart, not routinely or to impress people. Fill me with justice, mercy, compassion, and generosity. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Fasting

Who’s the Boss?

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Who—or what—is really in control of your life?

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

Back in 1984, a new sitcom premiered, based on Angela, an advertising executive who is divorced with a son. Angela hires Tony to be her housekeeper. Tony is an ex-baseball player and is widowed with a daughter. Tony and his daughter move from Brooklyn into Angela’s fancy house in Connecticut and the hilarity ensues.

The question in the title was clever and intriguing. Who really was the boss? Was it Angela, who made the money and paid the bills? Or was it Tony, who ran the household and took care of the kids? (I think Mona was the real boss, but that’s just me.)

Even if you’ve never seen the sitcom, the question is still important. Who’s the boss? Who is the boss in our lives? Who’s really in charge?

Paul warns us in Philippians 3 about people who show by their actions that they aren’t really serving Jesus. When he describes these people, one of the characteristics he gives is that, “their god is their belly.” That’s a strange-sounding statement, but there’s a whole bunch of truth packed in there.

Have you ever decided in the morning not to eat that Cheesy Gordita Crunch today, but to go home and have a salad? Have you ever turned the car into Taco Bell in spite of your morning decision? C’mon—’fess up! We’ve all done something like that. We all know what it’s like to be ruled by our bellies.

Y’all, this goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. What was it that tripped up Adam and Eve? It wasn’t stealing or murder. It was wanting so badly to eat something that they would give up everything to have it. (See Genesis 3:1-7.)

Adam and Eve weren’t the only ones tripped up by their bellies. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of bean soup. (See Genesis 27:27-34.) The Israelites wanted to return to slavery in Egypt because they missed the yummy food they had there (Numbers 11:4-7).

The desire to eat goes deep—real deep. After all, hunger ensures the survival of the human race. If we don’t get hungry, we don’t eat. If we go long enough without eating, we die. Eating is a strong drive. Fasting puts that drive in its proper place. When we fast, we choose not be ruled by our bellies. Fasting says that Jehovah God is our God, and we will be ruled by no other, not even our own appetites.

Fasting is hard. It’s inconvenient, too. As soon as we decide to fast, a co-worker brings in homemade cupcakes and Taco Bell has a buy one, get one free on Cheesy Gordita Crunch tacos. Fasting isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s hard and it’s inconvenient, but it definitively settles the question of, “Who’s the boss?” Is it our bellies? Or is it the Spirit of God dwelling within us?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Help me serve you with my whole heart. I choose you to be the Lord of my life. I want you to be in control. I submit to your leading and your direction. Give me strength as I fast and pray today. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Philippians 3:17-21

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Fasting

Battlefield Strategy

“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3)

Sometimes the mess we’re facing is so daunting and so confusing that we really don’t know what to do next. What does this lab result mean for my future? How will I ever get back to work with this economy? All three kids are throwing up—what do I do with that? There are times when we face too many problems at the same time and every path we consider seems to lead to despair and defeat.

In 2 Chronicles, chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat found himself in just such a situation.

Even though Jehoshaphat was serving God, disaster threatened in the form of two powerful enemy armies on their way to attack and destroy the nation of Judah.

Jehospaphat was terrified.

But he didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He didn’t order his warriors to ready their weapons and oil up the chariots.

His first action was to pray. His second action was to call the nation to a fast.

Prayer and fasting are the best possible actions to take when we are facing an attack, a battle, or a decision and we don’t know what to do. Fasting and prayer bring direction and guidance. We stand in the gap for our children and grandchildren through prayer and fasting.

And we impact our communities and nation through prayer and fasting. I love that in this time of extreme challenges in our country, churches throughout the nation are calling their people to pray, fast, and seek God, just like Jehoshaphat.

Oh, yes, what happened to Jehoshaphat? Did the enemy destroy Judah?

Judah was most definitely NOT destroyed by the enemy armies. On the contrary, they didn’t even fight. They actually sang their way to victory! As the singers began to praise, the enemy starting fighting among themselves until not one of them was left to attack Judah. True story.

It’s really cool that the Bible tells us the words to the song they sang, a song of faith birthed through prayer and fasting: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever!”

When we’re facing a battle, what should our battlefield strategy be? How about this: First, pray. Second, fast. And, finally, sing praise to the Lord for his faithful love endures forever!

Lord, thank you for being a God who battles for me. Though I see so many problems, both in my life and in my nation, I know you are in control. Honor my prayer and fasting as I seek your power and wisdom for the needs of my country, my community, and my family. I praise you, Lord, now and forever. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

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Fasting

Step Boldly into Your Calling

“Then Jesus, armed with the Holy Spirit’s power, returned to Galilee and his fame spread throughout the region. He taught in the synagogues and they glorified him.” (Luke 4:14-15)

Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness. At the end of the fast, Satan tried to lure him into sin, but Jesus stood strong. Luke 4:14 tells us Jesus left the wilderness armed with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Jesus headed to his hometown, Nazareth. The people in Nazareth were familiar with Jesus and his family. They knew Jesus when he was a baby, when he got in trouble with his parents, and when he argued with his brother. They had watched as he grew up.

On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue. Jesus stood up to read, the normal procedure for reading at the synagogue. The rabbi handed him the scroll of Isaiah to read to the congregation—also, normal. Jesus knew exactly the Scripture he wanted to read: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” The people must have sensed something different about this reading, because all eyes were fixed on Jesus.

It was normal for a teacher to stand up to read and sit back down to teach. As the people watched, Jesus followed the normal protocol. He rolled up the scroll. He handed it back to the rabbi. He sat down. The people were on the edges of their seats, wondering what Jesus would say about what he just read to them.

Imagine how stunned they were when Jesus said, “These Scriptures came true today right in front of you.” And, just like that, normal flew out the window. Things would never be normal again.

Can’t you just imagine their thoughts? “Oh, snap! Did Jesus just claim he was the Messiah? Mary’s boy?

No one expected those words to come out of Jesus’s mouth. What they didn’t realize was that Mary and Joseph’s “boy” had just spent 40 days and nights fasting and praying in the wilderness. Because of this, he wrestled with Satan and won, he was armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, and he was ready to tell everyone who he was and what he was called to do. Game on!

The Messiah, the chosen one sent by God, the anointed redeemer of mankind publicly revealed his calling and purpose—when? Yes…right after he fasted!

Friend, we’re not the Messiah but we are purposefully called and powerfully anointed. God deliberately put us in this particular place at this precise time for a specific purpose. Fasting and prayer puts us in tune with God’s purpose for our lives. It empowers and strengthens us to walk boldly into that which God has called us to do.

Dear Father, I humble myself before you. I want to draw closer to you. Give me power and strength as I fast and pray. Help me be more concerned about your plan for my life than about my own plans or desires. Direct my steps. Help me to boldly live out the purpose and calling you have for my life. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Fasting

Why Should I Fast?

“It was then the devil said to him, ‘If you are really the Son of God, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread for you.” (Luke 4:3)

Why do Christians fast? What makes fasting and prayer so vitally important? Fasting brings many benefits into our lives. Today, let’s talk about one of them: Fasting brings victory over temptation.

Right after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness. He fasted and prayed there for 40 days. When Jesus finished his 40-day fast, the Bible says he was “very hungry.” That sounds like an understatement to me. I’m sure he was completely famished, and also physically weak and fatigued. It was at this precise moment Satan chose to tempt Jesus.

Satan’s logic seems flawless. He must have thought, “Jesus is the Son of God, but he’s just spent 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness without any company or anything to eat. I bet I can tempt him to misuse his power to fill his belly with bread.”

Satan may have had good logic, but he had a poor understanding of the spiritual strength that results from fasting. Jesus said, I will not,” and he supported his answer by quoting Scripture to Satan.

Satan didn’t give up after his first failure. He tried twice more. Those three temptations tested Jesus’s flesh (“turn these stones into bread”), his ego (“perform an impressive miracle”), and his materialism (“I’ll give you kingdoms and wealth”). Jesus refused all three of Satan’s temptations by using Scripture and by the spiritual strength he received during his fast.

We find ourselves battling against these same three types of temptation today. We’re tempted to give into our body’s appetites and desires. We’re drawn into sin because of our pride, ego, and desire to look important. And we’re still tempted to put money, power, and wealth ahead of God’s kingdom.

Romans 7:19 describes our situation perfectly: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” We can all identify with this dilemma. We know to do good, we want to do good, but we still sometimes end up doing the very thing we know we should not do. In our own strength, we are no match for temptation.

How do we say, “I will not,” to temptation? We pray, and we fast.

Luke 4:14 says after Jesus fasted, he was “…armed with the Holy Spirit’s power…” Jesus spent the extra time in prayer and submitted his body to the discipline of fasting. As a result, he was armed with the power of the Holy Spirit. He was ready for the fight. Jesus understood the power that results from devoting ourselves to fasting and prayer. He’s our model, our example. Just as fasting brought power to Jesus, fasting gives us the power to shout an emphatic, “I will not!” to temptation. And that’s a really good reason to fast.

Dear God, thank you for this day. Use it for your glory. Lord, direct my heart as I consider fasting. I know there are deeper spiritual levels for me to reach and greater spiritual power for me to access. Help me understand the role of fasting in my journey. Let me honor you in everything I do. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Luke 4:1-15