WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Last Sunday we saw that Paul and Barnabas were sent out by their Christian brothers and sisters to take the gospel to the Gentiles. We saw that after they had been praying and fasting about what they should do next, that is when the Holy Spirit led them to go to Cyprus. It was only after they had prayed and fasted before God that they felt led to go. Last Sunday I said we would possibly look at this more today and that is what we are going to do. I am pretty sure most all of us in our own way pray on a regular basis to God as we feel led, but I wonder how many have felt led to use fasting as a way to find peace or answers to big problems or questions we have? I do not want you to raise your hands or anything like that, but how many have or do use fasting as a way to seek God? In the verses we read this morning, we see Jesus said not “if you fast” but “when you fast.” Jesus clearly believed it would be part of what God’s people would do as they would seek God’s wisdom and answers to things we would deal with during our lives. In the Bible, fasting is mentioned over 70 times in scripture, so clearly it is something that is mentioned more than a little in the Bible. By the same token, prayer or praying is mentioned almost 400 times in scripture, so obviously the prayer life of God’s people is emphasized far more than the need for fasting. So, what should we in the church today do? I will ask again and do not want you to truly signal, but how many of you have done fasting in the past? For those of you who have, and maybe it is all of you, why did you do it?
I will admit I fasted on especially one occasion, but it was a long time ago. In fact, it was when I was doing the 3-year course (with Mary Jessup from Decatur Church of the Brethren) to grow spiritually that I felt led to do this. I was hauling to St. Louis a week at a time, leaving on Monday and coming home on Friday. The Lord led me to seek answers to what the Lord would want me to do and I felt led to fast for three days. For me, the most difficult day was the first day. I believe if we commit to fasting, there should be a real purpose for it. Why would we fast? What is the purpose of it? As we read in Acts 13 last week, the apostles were looking for direction. There is a reference to prayer and fasting in Mark 9 regarding a boy who is said to have an evil spirit living in him. We see in both Acts and Mark there is a specific purpose for fasting.
So once again, what about us in the church today? Does God want and expect us to use fasting now? To go back to our scripture in Matthew, Jesus clearly says “when you fast” not “if you fast.” I cannot speak for anyone here, maybe all of you have had fasting as part of your relationship with the Lord. I, however, must admit I have not used fasting for a long time. While I believe the Lord wants us to use fasting, no one should fast because a minister, a Sunday school teacher, a wife, a husband, a son, a daughter, or anyone else says you should. Each person should only do things as the Lord through the Holy Spirit directs them. That being said, what has this congregation been doing in regard to prayer and fasting? If that has not been part of our walk with the Lord at all, maybe that is what is holding us back. Maybe as individual Christians and as the church, we need to commit to seeking the Lord on a more regular basis with both prayer and fasting. Fasting is not like giving up something for Lent. It is not a diet plan, although the Lord may use it to help us keep our bodies more in check. I am convinced fasting is most effective when used to seek specific answers to questions or problems we just cannot seem to get a handle on.
I believe God sees a determined focus by his people to seek his guidance, wisdom, and our understanding, and it mobilizes God’s power in ways that simply will not happen otherwise. In Mark 9, Jesus told his disciples you will only find this answer through prayer and fasting. Is God going to beat us over the head if we do not fast? Of course not! However, I believe fasting is one more tool the Lord has given his people to win battles over Satan in a variety of ways and situations. Fasting is not a one size fits all thing either. The Lord may lead you to fast for one meal, one day or maybe more. It may not even be about food. The Lord may direct you to purposely give up something else that you either enjoy or feel is important to you for a period of time. There should be a plan, though, to use the time you would normally use for that activity to seek direction or answers from the Lord for whatever it may be. We should never do any spiritual activity just for the sake of doing it or because someone told us we should. As is true of everything, our relationship with the Lord is a personal journey. Yes, the church should be an important part of our journey, yet it still comes down to us individually and the Lord, which leads us back to what the sermon title asks—WHAT SHOULD WE DO? The answer is –whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to do. God only wants the best for us. Part of that is the strongest, deepest relationship we can have with God, using everything he puts at our disposal is always going to be in our best interest. For those of us who have fasted in the past, did we see answers or direction we were seeking? If the Lord is leading you to fast again, maybe we should consider partnering with others to seek answers for our lives or for our church. All God is asking us to do is seek him with all our hearts. Gods wants to help us face whatever challenges we face. He just wants to remind us to use everything he has made available to us. We will find victory when we use those tools God has provided us.
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