Fasting

“Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” -John 12:25-26.

 

The new year is fast approaching and once again begins another time to look back and reflect and forward focus. In preparing myself mentally and spiritually for our upcoming fasting season, I found some encouragement for my soul in the above verse and figured it would be a good one to share for a devotional to help others who may be feeling the same way this time of year. I’ll allow myself to be a bit vulnerable and share that though I’m planning on fasting, I’m fearful because it will be a struggle for me. I am going to be facing some suffering and trying times. But, just the very fact that I’m fearful about it tells me I absolutely MUST lay my vice down and trade it in for my Savior. I have to do some rearranging, prepping, reprioritizing, praying. It’s not an easy thing. And…it shouldn’t befriends. If we aren’t willing to give God the hard things (whatever that may look like for you), then what are we really giving up? What are we really gaining? If it’s not easy then that tells me it’s RIGHT! I want to commit wholeheartedly and fear is a dead giveaway that I’ve become much too comfortable in this area and big time change needs to occur. Fear is likely to ensue when any type of change is on the horizon, but I do not have to partner with it and let it control me. Boy that’s easy to say when I’m still in the prepping mode. But once that first day of fasting comes, well, that’s where I’ll see just how strong my reliance on Christ really is, and it’s proven to need some work in the past. The good news is, it’s not in my strength, but His and I don’t have to go searching for some supernatural powers or strength to get me through. I already possess that as a child of God. His resources are always full and able to help me endure in my weakest of moments just by saying His name, “JESUS”!

 

It’s evident in John 12:25-26 that Jesus is basically telling us we have a choice. Do what you want, but here’s your options. You either follow me or you don’t. What you chose will have eternal consequences or eternal rewards and if you chose the right one, it will definitely be a good thing for you but not only that, I will be with you when you say “YES” to me! By knowing Jesus’ character and His immense love for us, we don’t have to even wonder which one He’d have us choose. That’s already clear all throughout His word. Without a doubt, He’d say, “Choose to follow me!” Actually, He DOES say that over and over and over again all throughout scripture. I’d bet, even if we choose not to follow a rigid New Year’s resolution, some, if not all of us will at least ponder where, how, and/or what we can do or change in our lives to better ourselves even if we don’t follow through with it. It’s simple human nature isn’t it, to naturally assess where we are in life at the beginning of the year? When we pull back the dusty cover that has shadowed those hard areas of our lives for far too long, when the light comes in and we see all the dust spiraling in the air and floating to settle on the ground we are awakened to the fact that it’s time for change to ensue, much past time for some of us. Don’t cover that area back up because you feel fear creeping in and it looks too daunting of a task to you. Don’t let it sit one more year. Allow God to uncover you in that hard area you’ve been pondering giving to Him. He will restore it, He will make it shine and your testimony from it will help others uncover their hard areas too as He beautifully and carefully weaves you into newness.  

 

What do you hear God speaking to you in this season? Are you even letting Him speak to you? Or are you trying to block it out because maybe you feel like you’ve just stepped out of a year that was filled with way too much change already? The out of control type of change, change that you would have never asked or hoped for, not the good kind of change but the life altering, take your breath away, “I’ll never be the same” kind of change. The thought of even considering making an intentional on purpose change stresses you out to no end because you’re still processing it all from the past year. It overwhelms you as you realize with the ringing in of 2019 that nothing is going to go away, it could possibly get worse before it gets any better. Maybe the thought of facing a New Year makes you want to curl under a rock and wait until after everyone else has fallen off their wagons before you come out. So, what…a couple weeks you should be good right? That’s completely understandable, not just to me but especially to Jesus. Think about all the changes He went through. Whether it was leaving His spiritual body in Heaven to come to Earth in human form, or coming to be a loving and kind teacher and servant but then tossed and whipped and treated like a criminal just to die at the hands of those He was there to save. Now if that’s not change, I don’t know what is. Sure, He had the upper hand, He knew about it before it happened, but knowing of the immense suffering He’d face, HE STILL CHOSE IT!!!! He chose the awful, ugly and painful so that we, as we sit here today, can freely chose to not chose him at all…if we wish.

 

Jesus said YES! He said I will take the cup, I will do my Father’s will. John 12:27-28 clearly explains that there is purpose for which He came, and there is purpose for us too. The ultimate purpose being to glorify our Father in Heaven and when we decide to not pursue Him and allow ourselves to miss an opportunity to sacrifice our worldly pleasures in exchange for His tremendous blessings then we aren’t just hurting ourselves but we are hurting the purpose of God within us. We are suffocating the fire of the Holy Spirit as we let that dusty cover lay. It can be scary, difficult, daunting, but He understands! Jesus’ humanness showed in asking His Father to save Him from His coming torment, but ultimately He knew He HAD to go through with His ordained suffering and He so loving and willfully did. What love!  As Christians, most of us are aware some way or another that we need to either spend more time with God, change how we spend time with God and/or allow God control in areas where we ourselves have held the reigns for much too long. And most certainly, when we choose to join forces with Him we are aware that the path it takes us down could possibly bring us to a season of suffering. That’s where fear can come in, as I allow myself to suffer at the feet of Jesus by laying down what my flesh wants so badly to hang on to. But we must remind ourselves that fear is a liar! Fear knows and sees the greatness that lies on the other side of our suffering or struggle. It’s a deterrent to keep us from stepping out in faith and if we could see it too, we’d laugh hysterically in the face of fear. Know that it is there and laugh your way through! Recognize fear as a deterrent and step right over it. Are you prepared to say YES to the change, just as Jesus did, in spite of knowing that His will will almost always takes you down a path of pruning that will leave you feeling vulnerable? Exposed? Uncertain in the season? As Christians, we know we will face suffering and struggle, it’s just a matter of time. They hated Him, so they will hate us too. They persecuted Him so they will persecute us too. He was alienated, so too will we be. Let me encourage you though, as I’ve had to encourage myself, that in preparing for a fasting season, we must remember Romans 8:17…”if we share in Christ’s suffering, we will also share His glory.” That verse alone makes the unknown future worth it all, does it not?

 

The key take away I’d like you to get from this though is not that fasting equals suffering, but instead that the suffering we allow ourselves to go through for the glory of God will push us into new levels of faith and blessings with our Heavenly Father, and you shouldn’t let fear keep you fenced out from that. When we intentionally choose Him this New Year, whether it be for the first time ever, or whether it be in a more intimate and rightly prioritized setting, we aren’t being pushed off a cliff to do so. No! We are actually being gently coaxed by Our Heavenly Father. His hand is out stretched just waiting for you to grab hold. Even right now as you read this, and you’ve been questioning or pondering if you should consider just doing it. Maybe you’ve never fasted before, maybe you are unsure of what it will mean for you specifically. He wants to take your hand and help you along, He wants to take what you have to put down so you can you can freely follow Him. We can’t do that with baggage stored under dusty covers. Trade your hard stuff, your yucky stuff, that thing or those things that are choking the lifeblood out of you for the treasures He has stored up for you. Ask yourself what that looks like in your life? Choose to not partner with fear and don’t let fasting become “just a good idea” with no effort to follow through. I encourage you while there’s still time to pray and prepare to consider dying to self this new year. We cannot possibly imagine what’s on the horizon for us when we make that decision. Things so great we can’t even fathom! And don’t fall for the lie that you have nothing to trade in. It will keep you from much excitement and blessing!

 

May His grace and peace be with each of us as we make conscious and prayerful efforts to fight the good fight of faith!

 

By. Leah Parkin

December 28, 2018