Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

Courage from God – Esther 4:12-16

And If I Perish, I Perish

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Powerful Privilege

Queen Esther had overcome, beyond even her own expectations, to win the heart of the king, and become queen.  She held great sway over the king, for she had stolen his heart.  The words of her uncle, Mordecai, must have seemed bitter, for he assured her that in the light of the decree of Haman, the Agagite, that the Jews were to be destroyed, that she and her family would also be utterly destroyed.  Power and privilege are of no use when you have already received your death penalty notice.

Destined for Deliverance

But God had placed Esther in a position of high authority to be used by Him to save His people.  God cannot ignore His covenants, and He had promised Abraham that his seed would be as many as the stars in the sky.  God would certainly keep His promise, even if Esther, her father’s family, and all people of Hebrew descent that were found through Haman’s decree, approved by the king, killed every Jew they could find.  God always has a remnant.  And God would raise up someone else to deliver His people.

When we fail to do what God has prepared for us to do, God has a backup plan, and a backup plan for that.  But He knows exactly how we will react, and what we will do, for He has seen the end from the beginning.  Like taking a snapshot of a battlefield, and carefully watching how everything plays out, God already knows what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will do it.  He has already planned for every contingency.

Powerful Preparation

And Esther, in preparation for her role to intercede on behalf of her people by approaching the king, was taking a very great risk.  Anyone who approached the king unbidden who was not then approved by the king would be put to death.  Esther recognized the danger to her life, and took the necessary precautions that she knew to take:  She had Mordecai tell the people to humble themselves with fasting and prayer on her behalf, when she did as well.  And in humbling herself before the Lord, He would lift up her head.

Capable Courage

It takes great courage to face death head on, doing what is right, unsure of the outcome.  Esther modeled courage for us, and resigned herself in trust to the One who can be trusted in all things to help the helpless.  Her response to Mordecai of “and if I perish, I perish” should be the cry of our hearts as well when faced with any difficulty.  Courage is the ultimate test and show of our faith.  We can be courageous, because we believe that God is completely and totally trustworthy, both in life and in death.

Total Trust

We are to trust that the King of kings and Lord of lords will work out everything to His glory and deliver us in life, and if not life, in death.  We need to take heart and trust God, for in all things, god can be trusted.  Knowing in our hearts that God can be trusted and then acting on it is the ultimate test of faith, and shows courage.  We need to be courageous in all that we do, operating without fear, so that the enemies of God will be afraid, knowing that our conviction in the truth is unshakeable because God is who He says He is, and will bear us up no matter the circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with difficulty, possibly even death, do we respond with courage born by trust in God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You gave Your One and Only Son the courage to face the cross of crucifixion for us.  You have, throughout Your word, shown Yourself to be faithful and true in all things.  Give me courage today to do what is right, especially in the face of opposition that threatens to destroy my reputation, career, family, and especially my life.  Help me to overcome all resistance by remembering Your faithfulness.  And help me to continue to be faithful, even if it means that I go to my death, for You will resurrect me as You have Your Son.  Help me to do all that You desire me to do, in life even to the point of death, that I may hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Return to the Lord – Joel 2:12-17

We Need a National Call to Repentance

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'”

Regretful Return

God asks that Christians return to Him in mourning, fasting and prayer:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Revival in the Church has been a recurring theme throughout the last two thousand years.  Just as Israel returned to God after He disciplined them, they quickly turned from God again and again.  We have a tendency to do the same.  In UNITY, the body of Christ should gather as God’s people and mourn, fast, and pray to God for His deliverance from the evil that has beset us.  And while we are doing that, we need to remember that the justified shall live by faith.

How must we appear to God when we cannot even put aside our differences and get the local bodies of believers to come out in unison and seek the One we call upon for our deliverance together?  Can we not designate a call to repentance?  Are our egos and pride so great that brothers in Christ cannot come together?  How sad must our God be with us.

Compassionate Care

God IS gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and when we return to Him, He relents from sending calamity.  We are told here that God may even be gracious and restore some of what He has taken so that we may be able to give offerings to Him.

In the time that this passage was written, the locusts had destroyed the crops, and the people were facing great hardship.  God needs to get our attention, and what better way than taking away that which He has already provided?  We are God’s children, and we are disciplined like children.  But God relents because of His Mercy and Grace.  We should always remember that.

Sacred Session

In this passage, everyone is asked to gather, regardless of their station or circumstances.  Even the newlyweds are to interrupt their nuptial bliss to participate.  This is not just the church regulars, but all who are called according to God’s name are to gather at the assembly.

And once the assembly is gathered, we are to be consecrated to the Lord.  We are to shed our desires for the things of this world and seek the One who created all things and desires for us to be with Him eternally in the next.  We are to put on Christ; let us remember our calling and do as we are directed.  Is it not disobedience that causes this issue in the first place?  Does God, when His people are doing His will, not protect and proper them?  For what purpose would God, if His people are living according His will, send in their enemies to overtake and destroy His people?  To bring them closer to Him?  If so, where is the evidence in the Bible?

And lest we forget, He reminds us several times:

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

Ardent Appeal

Once we have gathered and have been consecrated, we need to make our impassioned plea to God to spare us lest the nations say, “Where is your God?”  He will not tolerate sin among His people.  He is long-suffering, and waits patiently for us to turn from our sin.  But we should not mistake His patience for a seal of approval.  Let us not give God any reason to display His displeasure at us.

We need to individually and corporately seek out the Lord in tears of repentance, crying out for mercy.  If some of our brothers or sisters won’t join in, we need to pray for them as well, for are we not a royal priesthood?  Where is our longing to be free from sin, united in Christ, seeking the lost sheep, and protecting the flock?  What has happened to harden our hearts so much that we are disconnected from each other and from God?  Let us cry out to Him and beg Him for mercy.  If you hear a voice saying that it is too late, that is not from God;  evaluate everything based on His word, not on your emotions

And the God of mercy will relent and restore what He has taken.  Do not despise His discipline, for all discipline is unpleasant at the time it takes place.  But it will yield a great harvest of righteousness when it has been completed.  Let us seek the Lord for our sanctification and dedicate ourselves to our God in holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Why aren’t we able (or willing) to be united with all of the body of Christ in national prayer, fasting, and repentance in accordance with the will of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a Holy God, and You cannot tolerate sin.  Place within the hearts of Your people a desire to return to You.  Begin a revival within Your church, and help me to change my heart attitudes to match Yours.  Please help our leaders to unite together and work for unity within the body.  And remember me as I seek Your face, humbling myself in prayer and fasting, desiring that I would be sanctified and live righteously before you.  This I ask and pray in mighty Name of Jesus, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Praying to God – Luke 18:1-8

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We live in an instantaneous culture.  Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com.  We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.

Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father.  Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  That should sober us up and give us pause.

This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive.   In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this.  First, it is an imperative command.  We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion.  Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do.  A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”.  This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”

George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved.  It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them.  The last was saved just after George died.  Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!

We can pray for anything that we want.  God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else.  But even in that, James tells us something interesting:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God.  We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh).  When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.

Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer.  What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:

A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them!  We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.

When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires.  After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us.  The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price.  He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].

So, let’s ask the question:  In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us.  You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You.  Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name.  Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory.  Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Mark 9:29

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].

Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted.  Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church.  We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day.  People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.

In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son.  They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him.  Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).  So what made this so difficult?  Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.

It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible.  It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out.  Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship).  However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems.  The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God.  Paul said he beat his body into submission.

One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting.  The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc.  When we fast, the flesh initially protests.  But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat.  As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.

Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often.  When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting.  He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him.  Jesus is our role model.  We should walk as He walked.  And He fasted.  Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God.  Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.

Are you lacking power in your spiritual life?  Do you require answers in order to move on?  Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God?  Be obedient to God’s word, and fast.  Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You.  Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word.  Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way.  Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting.  Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name.  This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Surrender to God – Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

We are given three instructions for discipleship:

  • Deny yourself – Stop acting like the universe revolves around you, see to the needs of others, live according to the Spirit √
  • Take up your cross daily – Bear up under the burdens (responsibilities) of your faith and the responsibilities you have accepted either willingly or as a result of your actions √
  • Follow me – Wait!  What?

How can we follow if we don’t see where the other person is going?  In order to follow Christ, we must walk in His footsteps.  The Greek word for this is akolouthei.  It is an imperative command.  We are expected (commanded) to do it.  The meaning is to walk alongside someone, in lockstep, hips next to each other.  We are to do what Jesus did:

  • Yield every aspect of our lives to the Holy Spirit, regardless of our estimation of our ability to do it by ourselves
  • Depend completely upon God to provide for our every need
  • Spend regular time communicating with our Father in Heaven in prayer
  • Getting direction from God for our daily activities
  • Fast and pray regularly to draw close to our Father in Heaven
  • Study God’s Word to be an approved workman
  • Request that God reveal His calling in our lives, and fulfill that calling, even if it means going to our death

There are others, but this is a good starting point.  To follow Jesus does not mean to walk ahead of Him.  When we do that, we can’t see where He is going, and may miss a critical turn or stop. To walk behind Him at a distance is to miss what He is doing and not being a part of what He has planned.  It is only by akolouthei that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, for the right reasons, that the outcome would glorify God.

So, let’s ask the question: where am I in my akolouthei?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come before You to spend time with You today.  Please see to all the needs of Your servant.  Grant me strength to do what You have called me to do today.  Reveal Your will for me as I offer my body as a living sacrifice to You, that I will be able to fulfill it with Your strength, guidance, and discernment.  Help me to walk alongside You as You work in the world today.  Show me where You are working so that I may join You and use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has provided to me to glorify Your Name.  May all praise, glory, honor, strength, and dominion be Yours and Yours alone, forever and ever.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?