Last night God told me that I was to begin a period of fasting and praying.  I have been reading a book called “The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie W. Floyd.  This book opened my eyes  for the first time to the power and importance of fasting.  God has been revealing to me, over the past few months, the power of prayer.  I believe that combining these two disciplines will result in amazing growth in my life. 

As I was reading this book, it struck me that in America we don’t suffer.  We have “hard times” but the most we endure when it comes to physical suffering is getting temporarily ill.  Even then, we are surrounded by drugs and medication to alleviate our discomfort.  Why is this important, you ask?  I am beginning to understand that the main reason that American Christians don’t experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives is because we never suffer. 

In America we lack for nothing.  All of our basic needs are met and we live in the overflow of abundance.  Most of the world is not like this.  To encounter God we must be broken of self-sufficiency, of being satisfied, content, and not hungry.  It is in physical suffering that we are broken and humbled, emptied, and poured out.  Our hearts are exposed and our priorities become aligned with God’s.  It is only when we come to the end of our strength that we can be filled with His strength.  The Bible says that God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18). 

As I was in the midst of contemplating the far-reaching implications of this, my brother Mike called and shared a story from the book he is reading, “The Heavenly Man“, about Brother Yun in China.  The story drops in as Yun has been arrested for sharing the message of Jesus Christ and he is in a van being driven across China.  He is handcuffed and the handcuffs are cutting into his arms as the van bounces along the road.  The pain is excruciating.  It is more than he can bear.  He believes he is going to lose consciousness.  The handcuffs cut into his arms and expose the bone.  He is in tremendous pain and is loosing blood.  He prays to God, “Jesus, this pain is more than I can bear.  Why are you letting me suffer like this.” 

The reply from God is that Brother Yun must suffer so that that he can draw near to God and receive the glory that is his reward.  I couldn’t believe the timeliness of Mike sharing  this story with me.  As I got off the phone a verse came to my mind.  I knew I had learned it years ago.  I went and found it.

 “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” ~ Romans 8:17

What suffering do I share in?  What discomfort in my American life?  I have freedom to share Christ freely.  I am blessed with financial resources and comforts most of the world can literally not imagine.  Do you realize only 8% of the people in the world have a car?  Over 1 billion people in the world don’t even have clean drinking water.  I can take less than 10 steps from where I’ve sitting right now, turn a spout and I have clean, purified, sanitary, tested, safe, water.  In fact, that’s not even good enough for me.  I want it refrigerated.  I like my water to go through a filter first so it “tastes better”. 

“So, what’s your point”, you ask.  “Is that a bad thing”?  No, God has blessed this nation.  But, it has made us forget our true love.  Just like the children of Israel, we forget Him in our times of prosperity. 

But, what God is revealing to me is that it is more than that.  We need to separate ourselves from all these distractions and refocus on Him.  We need the discomfort and pain.  I know of no other way to experience “suffering” in this rich, fat, bloated, country than by deep, serious fasting.  God is telling me tonight that I must be willing to fast until I can no longer do it in my own strength.  Then I must rely on God’s power and continue.  It is this threshold that must be crossed for the blessings to flow.  The greater the pain and sacrifice the more I must rely on His strength, and the greater His reward.  I must share in Christ’s sufferings. 

I know that this is God’s call to me.  Please do not think that I am saying everyone should do this.  You should only fast as you are called and directed to by God.  I know the road ahead is going to be tough.  But, I am also excited because of what I am confident the Lord will be faithful to do.  The author of this book I’m reading says:

“Fasting and prayer have been the gateway through which God has done supernatural things in my life, my family’s life, and in my ministry.  I will go on record as saying I know of nothing more powerful in my Christian experience.”

“Our culture conditions us to obey our every desire, which results in powerless bondage.  But God conditions us to obey His every desire, which leads us to freedom.  That freedom releases God’s Holy Spirit through us.” 

To truly experience God’s power in our lives we must, “renounce the natural to invoke the supernatural”!  In America we want our cake, or pie, our cars, our bank accounts, our houses, our jobs, our stocks and bonds and retirement funds, our steak, our mashed potatoes with gravy, more than we are willing to feast on the riches of our Heavenly Father.  We can’t have it both ways.  The toys have to go, along with everything else that creates this barrier.  Our desires and strength must be cast at the feet of Jesus.  As the author says, “We don’t need God’s supernatural power as an add-on to our own.  That’s the spiritual equivalent of mixing oil and water.”

I want to wrap this up with these comments by Dr. Ronnie Floyd:

“I honestly feel this enormous, almost indescribable freedom cannot fully be grasped in any other way.  It is fervent prayer and fasting that reaches into the heart of God, motivates us to adjust to what God is doing, moves heaven to action, and changes what we see and do on earth.”

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“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” ~ Galatians 4:8-11

I stumbled on this passage tonight.  In it, Paul is warning to the Galatians about returning to the practice of obey the laws and rules demanded by their previous religion and the worship of false gods.  But, as I was reading it God impressed something on my heart.  In the day when those words were written the culture around the Galatian Christians was worshipping all of these false gods.  What was happening was that these Christians were returning to their old ways.  They were beginning to look more like the culture around them and less like Jesus Christ. 

As I read this tonight, God didn’t speak to me about worshipping false gods, he spoke to me about thinking and returning to my old self.  He gently reminded me that I should look different than the culture around me.  Before I was a slave to a lot of things: work, stress, anxiety, lust, laziness, selfishness, pride, and materialism.  But now I know God, or at least he knows me.  Why do I continue to embrace these miserable principles?  Do I want to be enslaved to them again? 

Jesus Christ is victorious over all of those things that I let enslave me!  His power, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, is in me!  If I live in Christ I have victory in these things.  I must claim it.  Praise God. 

Jesus, I claim your victory over my sinful inclinations, over stress and anxiety.  May I live through your power tomorrow, for your purpose.  Amen.

“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. . . So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” ~ Romans 6:4-7, 11