It’s not a very popular subject: fasting. How many say, yes, Lord, alleluia, fasting. Yes, I’m going to do it! It’s not something that lends itself to that kind of enthusiasm and yet it is a very powerful thing. It’s sort of a spiritual steroids, if you will. That’s what fasting is, and yet the comparison that occurred to me when I was thinking about that just a few minutes ago, is not really complete because steroids smacks of cosmetics, kind of doing things, taking the shortcut to strength and performance. While actually fasting is a legitimate way of seeking strength, and of seeking spiritual muscularity, is that a word? If it isn’t one of you, experts, correct me later on. But, it is a wonderful way to obtain that energy, that power that we need as believers.
So these people have inspired us to fast and pray during this time. There’s a lot of fasting and praying going on in the city of Boston right now, and I think all over the nation. I hear, over and over, that God is doing something during this time. You know, it’s eerie, what is happening in the United States right now, in terms of revival beginning to burst forth, as we have awaited for such a long time and I am one of those individuals that is convinced that we have entered into revival.
Now, revival is a land that is lengthy to travel through and we are, I think, at the very beginning of it, and it will become increasingly stronger and stronger as time goes by. But, I am already proclaiming revival in Massachusetts and I believe…… somebody say Amen at least, if you don’t believe it, just encourage me a little bit here. I really believe that God is about to move in a very powerful way. And I am proclaiming revival, not only because I believe it, but because also we proclaim things in the name of Jesus and as we prophesize things, God honors the proclamations of his people.
I think that God wants to do something mighty in Massachusetts and all that is happening; these people coming to strengthen us and the movement of intercession that is gaining steam all over Massachusetts and all kinds of other things that are happening, I believe are an answer to so many intercessors who have been praying over the years for God to move in a powerful way. And I believe that 2006 is a year of blessing, 2006 is a year of transformation, 2006 is a year of shifting as has been declared by many of the prophets that move at a national level.
I think mighty, powerful things are happening this year and we shall see greater manifestations of God’s power in the coming months. And so we need to get ready for that. And fasting is a wonderful way to bring about God’s glory. And God willing, at the end of the time that I have with you, I’m going to suggest a couple of resources that you can use for your own efforts at fasting and if you haven’t done it before, I hope perhaps to encourage you a bit by the end of this evening to pursue fasting, not only as a one-time thing, but almost as a style of life, something that you intersperse with all the other things of your life. And I want to encourage you to look with me at the Book of Joel.
God willing, I will also have an opportunity to look at several passages as we look a bit into the deep, deep well that is fasting. But in Joel, the Book of Joel, I’m going to read from different segments of it, particularly chapters 1 and 2. But I think here we see, what I would call, a paradigm of what fasting is all about. And this passage, it became clear to me this afternoon, can be interpreted on two levels. One level would be the collective interpretation, which is really what we have here, a nation in crisis and a prescription that God gives that nation to come out of that crisis. So, there’s a collective dimension to this passage. But, it is clear to me as well that there is as well an individual interpretation and there’s kind of a chronology here, there’s a sequence of a process that takes place when people engage in fasting, when individuals engage in fasting, when nations engage in fasting, when the church collectively or a congregation or a group of Christians, of believers come together for a collective fast.
The same thing happens really, the same structure is prevalent in both cases, whether it’s individual or collective level. So, I want you to take a look at this and then we’ll just jump, because fasting is such a big, big topic that it is hard to exhaust, of course, in just one presentation. But, we’ll see little smatterings of insight as we go through.
In chapter 1, beginning with verse 10 we have the presentation of a crisis. We have here a crisis as being exposed that is taking place in Israel. There is a persecution in the air, there has been corruption and God has sent his judgment on the land and so there is sterility, there is suffering, there is negativity all over. And so, you get a very, very dark scenario presented in chapter 1, verse 10 says: “the fields are ruined, the ground is dried up, the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail you vine growers, grieve for the wheat and the barley because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered, the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree, all the trees of the field are dried up. Surely, the joy of mankind is withered away”.
So, as you see, it’s a very dark, very negative scenario that is being presented to us. All the symbols of fruitfulness of the land, the pomegranate, the fig tree that the Bible uses as signs of joy and rejoicing and life coming to the land, are totally dried up and destroyed. Sterility is in the air, hunger is in the air. And that is just a symbol of what is happening at the level of the nation in the spiritual realm as well as the emotional realm. There is depression all over the place.
And as antidote to that situation, actually it’s interesting and it’s very ironic that what is offered would seem like, you know, more of the same. I mean, if you hear, the land is dried up and there’s depression all over the place, you would say, well, turn on the music and through a party or rejoice by faith in the Lord, or whatever. You know, something positive. But look what the prescription, on verse 13:
“Put on sackcloth, oh priest, and mourn, wale you who minister before the altar, come spend the night in sackcloth, yee who ministered before my God, for the grain offerings and drink offerings I withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly, summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord, your God and cry out to the Lord”.
It’s interesting because many times I have prayed for example, in Isaiah chapter 54, that when we are depressed, when we are in situations of difficulty, we should use praise and worship and faithful declarations as a kind of a prophetic antidote to negativity and that that has power. And you see in Isaiah 54 precisely points to the power of praying. Prayer, joyful prayer of worship to the Lord.
And I in my own life, and I think many of you can certainly agree with me that often we should not wait until things get better to worship the Lord and to praise Him and to express gratitude, because in doing so, many times that sacrificial praise, has a very strong power to dispel darkness and depression and it’s a way of affirming God’s will and presence in our life. It does precisely the opposite and brings the blessing into our lives.
But here, ironically, it says, no, wail, cry, humble yourself, I mean, put on sackcloth, on and on and on… so that we can see that there are times when, yes, the answer is to praise the Lord and to worship, but depending on what the nature of the problem is. There are times when maybe we’re called to do the opposite, to cry, to humble ourselves, to come before the Lord and become utterly desperate before the presence of God and say ‘Father, we need you’, and to look deep inside our own evil or in our own unworthiness and our own weakness and ineptitude and cry out to the Lord. There are times when that is necessary.
And this is a time evidently when that is the case, because the prophet is calling the people of Israel in the light of that dire situation, to cry, to humble themselves, to fast and to wait upon the Lord in that kind of modality. Why is that? Well, evidently Israel was in sin. Israel had gone astray, it had left the Lord, it was spiritually dry and fasting in this case, and the humbling of the self and the expression of sadness and brokenness before God, was precisely what was necessary to correct that attitude of disobedience and arrogance and resistance to God’s will. And fasting was a way of expressing that physically, outwardly.
And so I think there is the key to understanding. Fasting is a very powerful resource that God has given us in times of crisis, in times of need, in times when nothing else works. That’s why I say, fasting in scripture is seen time and time again as taken as a megaphone, a microphone and giving more torque to our prayer, to our petition before the Lord, because there’s a situation of need, of deficiency and we need to kind of underscore, and put in ball face our petitions before the Lord.
That’s what fasting is really. It is a way of giving more torque, of giving more momentum, more power, more emphasis to what we are bringing before the Lord. And you can see that throughout all of scriptures, key figures in scripture fasted in times of exceptionality and I say that, for example, in the case of Moses, it wasn’t really that he had a need, but he was going to spend 40 days before the presence of the Lord and he’d better be in good spiritual form. So he fasted, 40 days as he was before the Lord in the mountain he didn’t eat anything, because there was a special moment of intimacy with God, and that intimacy could have killed him and so he needed to fast.
Ezra, when he was bringing some of the captives from exile, back into Jerusalem and he had to traverse a very hostile territory, full of thieves and criminals and so on, and they were taking all kind of possessions and civilians and had no protection, he fasted, he put the people into a fast before they left, in order to invoke God’s blessing on his life.
Anna, Samuel’s mom, was sterile and the Bible tells us that she did not eat for a while and came before the Lord and cried out and showed so much despair that Ely, the priest, thought that she was drunk, but she just poured out her soul and did not eat for a while. God saw her clamor and blessed her, not only with a powerful, powerful prophet, with Samuel, but also with other children. That opened her womb. And you could go on and on.
Daniel needed an answer from God about the future of his people and he knew that the time was up, those seventy years, were very near and so Daniel came before the Lord and he fasted and prayed on two occasions in chapters 9 and 10 of Daniel, we see that he reduced his food consumption to just the bare food, nothing delicate, nothing delicious, just vegetables. For 21 days, on that second fast, he clamored before the Lord for an answer, he wanted a revelation, he wanted understanding. God, what are you up to? What are your plans for the people of Israel? We know that we need to get things right with you. And so, he fasted and he humbled himself and he threw ashes on his head. So, it was a way of underscoring. God, I need you, I need revelation from you. And so he fasted.
Saul, when he was confronted by God on the road to Damascus, by Jesus rather, fasted for 3 days, didn’t eat, didn’t drink water. It was an extreme fast because his whole world had been thrown upside down. Everything that he believed as a Pharisee who persecuted the church and persecuted the followers of Jesus, all of a sudden, his whole pharisaic training was thrown to the garbage because he encountered the Lord of Lords and now he had to reinvent himself, and so he fasted as well.
Nehemiah, when he saw the walls, when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were all broken up and that the city was in disgrace, he fasted as well. So we see that in extreme situations, in situations of great need, people fasted. Key men and women of God fasted because they needed God to do something for them.
But also in the New Testament we see that, and also in the Old, by the way, that fasting is not just something for extreme situations, which it is, and for extreme needs that we may have in our life, for healing for example, for the breaking of yokes, for the breaking of dependencies whether they’d be sexual or addictions to various substances or even spiritual oppression, fasting is a very powerful weapon, a very powerful resource for all those things.
But also fasting can be, kind of, a religious practice, a spiritual practice that we use to keep our strength, our spiritual power up. Much as an athlete keeps a regimen of exercise in order to keep himself or herself in good training conditions, and every once in a while might just go into some extra time of exercising in order to get himself together for some competition or something like that. And Jesus himself, in his famous passage on fasting, in Mathew, chapter 6, spoke about the importance of fasting as a practice, which is so important and I want to get that into our radar, the fact that we should use fasting as a spiritual discipline as it has been called.
In chapter 6, in verse 15, Jesus says “when you fast”, you see and it has been emphasized many times that Jesus didn’t say “if you fast”, but “when you fast”, and of course Jesus was moving in the whole pharisaic realm, in the Jewish world in which people fasted twice a week and it was a very religious kind of thing, it was a routine. It was a very social thing. It was an exterior kind of practice used by many to kind of show off their spirituality and be part of a culture, and Jesus as always was trying to get things back to their proper meaning, what really these things meant, whether it was the law, or the keeping of the Sabbath, and in this case fasting.
And He said “forget about the form, forget about that idolatry to religion and go back to the essence. What is the essential meaning of fasting. And so He begins by saying “when you fast, so believers understand that, that we are expected to fast, not in order to gain any favor in the sense of our salvation from God, or gain God’s approval or anything like that, because that is only done through Jesus Christ and his blood, but we know that once we are saved, once we have the Holy Spirit in us, there are certain things that we can do to increase our spiritual health, our vitality, our understanding. You see, we do that within the grace of God.
If we do fasting as something out of guilt, because other people are doing it, or because my mentor says that I should do it, you know, or because the church is declaring a fast and what the heck, I might as well do it. That’s the wrong reason to fast. But, the fact is that we must, we should fast because it is good, just like there are other elements that I think are good for spiritual vitality like praying in tongues, for example. I don’t prescribe that as everybody has to do it or it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as some Pentecostals believe, but I do believe, and throughout history and in scripture we have been taught and we have confirmed that praying in tongues does increase our spiritual vitality. And it is a beautiful practice as well.
It is these elements that help us to become stronger in the spirit. Disciplines like prayer, and service and communion with the people of God and reading the word, that increase our spiritual vitality and one of the most powerful resources is precisely, fasting.
So Jesus said “when you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting”. And then in 17 it says “but when you fast put oil on your head, etc, etc.”.
So, it is clear that for Jesus it was an important thing. It’s not just something for the Old Testament or for medieval people who are trying to live a life of works. Jesus himself recommended it, not only did He recommend it, but He himself practiced it. We know very well that before he began His public ministry, it says that the spirit took him into the desert for 40 days. The son of God fasted
Now, why did Jesus fast? We don’t know for sure, but this afternoon as I reflected on that I came up with 3 possibilities that we can use also in our own lives: 1. it says that Satan came and tempted him.
Now when you look at that passage, I’ve heard interpreters sort of suggest that Satan’s temptation at the end of Jesus’ fast, when He was hungry. I think for example, when you read particularly in the Book of Luke, what he suggests is that the temptation was part of the whole fast and part of that whole time in the desert. And I believe that one of the reasons why Jesus may have fasted, was to strengthen himself against a very powerful, direct, concentrated, onslaught of Satan himself. It was a confrontation of two powers and the son of God was also a perfect man, needed that special strength that fasting gives. That’s one possibility.
The other possibility was, he was beginning a definitive ministry and so He needed to consecrate himself. It was a way of saying ‘Father, through this fast, I am declaring my total submission to your will and I will do whatever you ask of me’.
And I believe that a third one, that I wouldn’t insist as much on, but it is a little more shaky is that, because of that mystery of Jesus being both man and God, he did have the power of God in him of course, inherently, because He was God himself, but that mystery of the incarnation that I’ve always asked myself, and some day I hope that I’ll be able to ask the Lord ‘hey, give us the load down, how did this really happen, when did Jesus really become? Did he know? I mean, we are told for example, in the beginning as a boy, He knew that He was the son of God and that He had a special relationship with the Father. But there’s all kinds of mysteries, the Bible doesn’t give us all the details. How did Jesus divinity unfold completely in the public realm? I mean, people in his village, didn’t know that He was the son of God. So, did this moment, kind of unleash and uncork, just released that full divine manifestation of Jesus’ divinity and that fast was a way of Him going into a particular time of intimacy with God and then that being loosened so that He could enter into his ministry?
And I really think that these 3 things are ways we can use fasting as well. Because on the level of satanic oppression there is something very powerful about fasting. When we are dealing with temptation in our lives, with certain kind of bondages as I said before, whether we’re trying to get away from a lifestyle that is beyond our capacity to control. Whether it is some sexual dependency or an addiction of some sort, or demonic oppression in our lives, fasting is known to have a very great capacity to break bondage and to release dependencies in us.
And so I suggest if any of us is struggling with any kind of dependency on those levels, I have learned that fasting is a very powerful way of slowly loosening the yoke and the ropes of dependency and of bondage in our lives, the demonic hold on the mind, on the emotions, on the body, generational curses are broken through that powerful medium which is fasting.
But also, as we seek into consecrate our life as Jesus was, consecrating his life into a new ministry, fasting is a wonderful way of beginning a time of ministry or of service, or of simply saying ‘Lord, I give you my life, I give you my soul’, as that song said at the beginning. It is a way of consecrating ourselves.
So for example we see in the Book of Acts, chapter 13, when a group of prophets and elders got together to pray and worship the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke and it said “put aside Paul and Barnabas for the ministry that I have appointed them to, and then he says that before he sent them off, they anointed them, both hands on them and they prayed and fasted as a way of sending fully energized, consecrated that moment into ministry.
And I would say that there’s another resource about fasting. Fasting is a way of helping us to gain consciousness and seriousness about something that we’re bringing before the Lord. Fasting is not only directed to God, but it is also directed to us so that many times we can fast to underscore within our own psyche, within our own consciousness, the seriousness of something that we have been made aware of.
So, for example, if there is sinfulness in our life, taking time to fast is a way of saying to ourselves ‘Lord, I do know that I have broken your laws. I do understand that I am stepping outside of your will and I need to get back’, and as you spend time humbling yourself before the Lord , that absence of food serves to…… it’s like a ceremony that tells you ‘this is serious’, and so it sears into your consciousness the importance of some aspect of life, whether it’s going into ministry, or again, your condition before the Lord or your consecration before the Lord.
So, fasting has a psychological dimension which is, when you spend time fasting, what are you doing? You know, you’re continually saying, what am I doing? Am I crazy? All this absence of food, why am I doing it? You’re continually being driven to gain aware of who you are, why you are fasting, because you are giving more importance to the things of the spirit. So it’s an object lesson that you’re involved in, 24 hours a day, that is telling you ‘I am a man, a woman of the spirit. I live for the spirit, there is a realm that I consider absolutely important and it is more important even that the physical realm.
So, as you fast it is a way of bonding, if you will, with the truths of scripture, and with your identity as a believer, your internal dimension, your spiritual dimension, because you’re continually being forced to consider that and even as I speak to you, the smell of some food downstairs are wafting into my nose, and it is forcing me to say, why am I fasting? Yes, this is an English service, but it’s a Latino church, so the smell of food, we don’t have incense but we have rice and beans, wafting into the service.
The thing is this, that sometimes fasting will be for our own benefit, just as a marriage ceremony is a way of telling the two people that are getting married before a group of people in a very solemn way ‘hey, you guys are yoked forever, whether you like it or not’, so it adds to the seriousness of something and so fasting has that quality as well.
And as I said, the other reason why Jesus was fasting as a way of, perhaps, of releasing, not that he didn’t have it, but it was a way of kind of releasing totally his messianic call and his messianic identity and entering fully into that public dimension of his ministry. And I believe that fasting, not I believe, I mean, we have seen that I think hundreds and hundreds of thousands of believers throughout history can tell you this, and even today, and many people in our own church, perhaps even right here, fasting is a way to release power in our lives, to release supernatural power in our lives, to bring what charismatic, that beautiful charismatic word ‘anointing’, to release the anointing in our lives.
And if you want to serve the Lord effectively, if you are in some sort of teaching ministry, or preaching ministry, or in some kind of supervisory role in a group or serving the Lord somehow, or you just want the power of God to flow more freely in your life as you pray for people. I mean, we’re all priests, we know that and priestesses, and kings before the Lord, the priests or the believers, we are all called to impose hands on people, to pray for people, to declare deliverance of people who are oppressed by the enemy. And so we need fasting as a way of unleashing the power of God in our lives.
This is not words, people. This is simply the fact that God doesn’t do everything for us. Even in salvation you have to say ‘Jesus, I receive you and I repent of my sins’, you have to confess the Lord, even there the Lord doesn’t do absolutely everything. But when you’re within the economy of salvation there’s a lot of things that you need to do in order to have a strong powerful Christian life. So, fasting releases the anointing of God in our lives. If you want to have a powerful, effective life as a Christian, practice fasting. I can tell you from personal experience, when I take time to fast and when I do it on a regular basis, once a week for example or something like that, my God, I feel a different kind of intensity, as I preach, as I read the word of God, as I minister. And I believe that I see it even in the vitality of the congregation as things begin to, kind of, come up to another level.
Now, why is that? Because God works through structures of authority and hierarchy and I am the senior pastor of this congregation and so there is a certain amount of authority that I have and depending on how my life is before the Lord, that vitality or lack thereof, would translate into the congregation that I minister to.
So, for me it is a responsibility, it’s not even an option, because there are so many things that wear you down and drain you and so many concerns in ministry that they can sterilize you very easily and many times when I’m feeling that my energy level, the spiritual realm is waning and going down and decreasing, time to get my act together and to go and dig deeper into the Lord and to take time to fast and pray and immediately I see the level of anointing in my life, and in my church rise. It’s amazing! You get more clarity. You get more discernment. God begins to speak more clearly. He doesn’t begin to speak more clearly, I think, your antenna are tuned up, they’re refined and you can penetrate more easily into the spiritual realm, your connection with the realm of the spirit is so much more profound and clear and fluid.
Now, why is that? What is the essential mechanism of fasting? I mean, can we break it down to the common denominator? What is the primal law that undergirds the mystery of fasting? I believe that is the following: we can understand it when we look at the basic controversy, I think, at the root of God’s relationship within human being, which is that the spirit, the war of the spirit and the flesh. The human being was always seeking to assert himself and to assert his independence and his ability to conduct his life according to how he perceives it and to do things as he or she decides and wills. That was at the root of Eve’s disobedience. It’s that rebelliousness, and all of it is at the root of it is this body, this flesh, this attachment to the natural realm, to the physical realm, the instinct of self preservation, self affirmation, will that wars with God’s desire that we be completely yielded to Him, submitted to Him, which is the spiritual side.
So Jesus said, the spirit is always willing, but the flesh is weak. And the apostle Paul spoke of that struggle between the flesh, between the body, what he called the body, which simply a metaphor for the carnal, the biological, the material warring against the spirit and each of these two entities seeking to win and the spirit wanting to do God’s will, and the flesh wanting to do its will and remaining rooted on the material, the temporal, the realm of time and space.
And fasting strikes at the very heart of that controversy. And fasting hits right at the center of the desire for self preservation and food is the very symbol of our body, our existence. Without food we die, food is not just the biological part, but food is something that has acquired such power, such symbolic hold on every aspect of our lives and it is linked in so many ways to everything, you know, of the human part and food also has spiritual implications, as we see in scripture many times. So that when you weaken your body through fasting, when you withhold food, you are saying to yourself, to God and to the demonic entities ‘I place more importance on the spirit than on the flesh’. You are declaring that symbolically and effectively. As you become weaker in the flesh, what happens? Your spirit becomes stronger. Two opponents, one is weakened, the other gains a stronger hold.
And this is why Paul also, in Second Corinthians, chapter 12, spoke of when I am weak, then I strong. And if when I am weak, then I am strong, then I will rejoice in all of the humblings and all of the failures, and all of the difficulties of life because they make me stronger. That is the essential paradox of the Christian life; the fact that when we weaken ourselves at the physical realm, at the mental realm, when we are withholding those nutrients that are so necessary for our physical preservation, because as a spiritual act, we are saying to the Lord ‘Father, I am making myself weak in the belief that as I do that, your power will be able to manifest itself more freely within me.’
Isn’t this what happened to Daniel when he chose not to eat of the food of the table of the king because it had been consecrated to idols? He told the steward, he said ‘you know, just hold off, we’re just going to eat a vegetarian diet, we won’t have anything of the banquet, of the table, of the king. This guy was only able to see in the realm of the reason, he said ‘you’re crazy, they’ll cut my head off as you become decrepit and weak and ashen and so on. And Daniel said ‘no, let’s try it’. And what is the story? Ten days after, Daniel and his companions were a lot healthier and what else? They had spiritual intelligence and apparently also their intellect even was heightened, because they had made themselves weak physically, they became strong spiritually. And in that case also, God gave them a supernatural blessing as well, because He gave them lucidity and that is something ….. throughout history have always said that fasting produces.
I’ll tell you a story very quickly. When I was doing my doctoral dissertation I think I shared with Adam and Camile, I had spent about 4 years out of the university because God had called me into the ministry, and I stopped going to classes for 3+ years, almost 4 years I didn’t step in a classroom. I had done all of my orals and written examinations and all of my courses and all of the teaching requirements were out of the way and then I went fully into the ministry, because God had called me into the pastoring and I lost touch completely with the academic world.
Imagine 3+ years without doing anything academic, and totally being immersed in pastoring a Latino congregation, mind you. It came to a point where, 3+ years later, in despair I said ‘my God, all this time that I’ve invested, all the money that has been invested in this education and I am so close, and all I have is just my dissertation and a Latin requirement that I needed to fulfill.
And you know, by that time everything had flown out of my mind, my advisor that I had acquired at the very beginning of my dissertation process, had left to Columbia University and there was nobody who could really deal with the topic that I was doing in my department and here I am trying to, out of despair, I decided to connect myself and try to get this dissertation done. God allowed me to engage finally and to start doing it. Mysteriously, all of a sudden, I developed a total aversion, not an aversion, it was just…. I don’t know what the word would be, a rejection of meat.
Now, here’s a guy that between a steak and a fish or a vegetable, there was no competition. I had tried to become a vegetarian years and years ago and it lasted about 3 days and then I gorged myself on meat and made up for every day that I hadn’t eaten meat before that. I never had been able, I just wanted to do it out of esthetic reasons, because I was……… that whole monastic, mystical lifestyle, but I didn’t have the will power. And all of a sudden I find myself detesting meat and not being able to eat even out of a spoon that has been put into any kind of sauce that had meat. And for almost 2 years, God had me on a vegetarian diet and I did my dissertation without an academic advisor. I wrote the whole thing in about 6 months, 500+ pages. I’m not saying this to boast, but simply because it is for the glory of God.
While I was doing fully my pastoral work I never stopped doing anything on my pastoral work. I never had the benefit of an academic advisor. I handed in the dissertation. Minor corrections were suggested and it was approved very, very positively. I believe to this day that God put me into a supernatural time of fasting because he saw my despair, because I clamored to Him.
I remember one Saturday morning I was washing dishes in the kitchen of our house and I said ‘God, only a miracle can get me out of this jam’, and I told my wife. I said ‘Meche, at this point I know that only a supernatural intervention of God will allow me to finish the dissertation’. And I could tell you how God intervened with such powerful ways during that times.
Now, mysteriously, I graduated and a few months after that aversion to meat just disappeared. I’ve never gone back to eating meat as I did earlier because that’s one thing that happens, you lose that dependence on meat that is so addictive at times. But, God, what happened was that during that time I enjoyed such a lucidity of mind, such clarity of mind, and such energy that I was able to spend hours and hours working and then I would go to 4 o’clock in the morning, sometimes sleep 3 hours, and I went back and I continued and it was just a very productive time in my life. That’s what fasting can do.
It’s a way of releasing all kinds of things. You see, when your flesh, when your biological drive is more submitted or weakened by fasting and by regimen, a life of periodic fasting, the spirit, all the spiritual faculties, the intellectual faculties have a greater capacity to express themselves. This thick wall of carnality, the biological drive is thinned so that the spirit inside can express itself more easily, and the spirit of God can also come in and work its effect in our lives.
So this is all, this is all within that realm of fasting. I’m going to stop here. I didn’t even get into the passage of …. And that’s fine, it’s not necessary, because what I wanted to….. some point in the future. The reason why I’m talking about fasting is because we are in a time, I think when the church of Jesus Christ needs to be fasting so that God will bring on what He wants to do in history. This is a carouse time in human history.
It is a time when God wants to pour his spirit on this nation. It is a time of dire need just as we see in the Book of Joel. Things cannot get worse in Massachusetts and God many times waits precisely for things to get to that point, before he intervenes. And God’s people have a calling now to bring on God’s glory.
God is not going to do it all. He wants to be invited to intervene. He wants to be ushered into the realm of history, space and time, because He acts that way. And so the church has a calling right now to invite God, to declare certain things here on earth so that God will have a channel through which to manifest what He wants to do at this time in this nation.
And so what Joel says, when you see that things are really terrible and difficult and there’s no way out, fast and pray and humble yourselves. In chapter 2, verse 13 “rend your heart and not your garments, return the Lord, your God”, it says “blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly, gather the people, consecrate the assembly, let them say ‘spare your people, oh Lord, do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the people, where is there God?”.
The church is precisely in that situation today. We are an object of scorn and when we are not an object of scorn is because people are indifferent towards us, we don’t make a difference. The church has lost respect, has lost dignity in society and truly we are in shame when we look at the state of this nation right now. Roxbury is full of churches and yet it is a time of great criminality and violence all over the place. We know what is happening in the social realm here in Massachusetts and truly the church is in a state of disrepair, just like the walls that lead Nehemiah to cry out to the Lord and to fast and to pray.
The church of Jesus Christ, God is saying to the church ‘my people, fast and pray, call a solemn assembly, let the priests, it says, let priests who minister before the Lord weep between the temple porch and the altar’ because this is not just for the laic people, we should be leading the charge and getting our act together, our life together, purifying ourselves. The church should be doing the same thing, preparing itself with that great of God and I want to encourage you tonight to take some time and take this opportunity, because there are so many people praying and fasting here and there’s a fast that has been declared between the 1 of March and the 9 of April. You don’t have to do those 40 days of fasting, but if you have never done fasting I want to suggest start small and contract a pact with the Lord that you’re going to take some time the next 5 weeks that are left of this fast to begin that practice or to join your brothers and sisters in this time of prayer and fasting, in this strategic time.
And I tell you that not only will God’s will be established because a channel just it is in our own life when we fast for our own life, but a collective communication channel will be opened up between heaven and earth as we create the critical mass that is necessary of prayer and fasting. The result will be, and I finish with this, what we see in that wonderful chapter, and I suggest that you read it with enough time.
It says that “then the Lord, 2:18, will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people”, because God wants that. He’s just waiting for us to invite him appropriately and the Lord will reply to them ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and oil enough to satisfy you fully’. I always see grain as a symbol of God’s word, bread, wine as a symbol of joy and oil as a symbol of God’s anointing, …..enough to satisfy you fully. Never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land.’ The north was always the source of Israel’s calamities. Satan is the source of the church’s calamities and God is saying ‘I will submit the demonic and they will never again have a hope on the church’.
When you fast, when you pray, again, the whole of the demonic in your life, in my life, is broken and we experience the freedom that God has called us to enjoy as believers. So I want to ask you tonight, join with me and to make a commitment and to continue exploring the great mysteries of fasting.
I was looking at a couple of resources on the Internet and I googled Bill Bright on fasting. Bill Bright was the founder of campus Crusade and he wrote a lot of stuff on fasting towards the end of his life and his ministry was transformed by his own admission, by some fasts, by some 40 days fasts that he did. So he, the last part of his life he wrote a lot on fasting, because he discovered the power that there was in fasting. And so if you put in Bill Bright on fasting, you’ll get a lot of resources there, such as “7 basic steps to successful fasting and prayer”. It’s just a very short, very concise manual on how to fast successfully. And also there’s one on fasting for 40 days. There’s a couple of books, one by Derek Prince that I find very powerful and it’s called “Shaping history through prayer and fasting”, and also a classic by Arthur Wallace called “God’s chosen fast”.
So Arthur Wallace, Derek Prince, Bill Bright, these are very powerful resources for fasting. So you can continue, I do suggest that you continue exploring these wonderful, wonderful resources.
We have talked about many times, two weeks ago or three I preached about power that we want to be a church that is distinguished by the fact that we understand that the Christian life is not just about intellect and about theology, and about teaching, that’s all great, that’s wonderful. I believe in that. But it is about power. It is about receiving power and moving in the power of God, learning how to move in supernatural power.
God’s people are languishing because they have lost that supernatural mentality, because everything is simply moving in the mechanical, the programs, the teaching, and we have forgotten that the mystery of the Christian faith is truly about power. It’s about yoking yourself to the power of Jesus, remain in me and I in you and you will bare much fruit. It’s not about filling your mind with knowledge, that’s great. But, if there’s no power, then it’s all just a husk, just a shack. You need the fuel, you need the power and God has provided certain instruments to increase that power in you. As you practice it, the power rises in you. It is up to you. You will be saved, yes, by grace, but you will effective by personal responsibility, by practice of the resources that God has provided for your life.
Let us stand for a moment and perhaps the Holy Spirit has spoken to you and you feel the Lord calling you to take some time to fast. So why don’t you right now say to the Lord ‘Lord, yes, I will, I will. Now, show me how long, show me how to do it.’
There’s all kinds of things, I don’t have time to give it to you tonight, but all kinds of ways that you can do it, without becoming something agonizing. If it’s agonizing you’re missing it. You’ve got to adjust something. If you are suffering and just going hungry, that’s not it. God wants you to have intimacy with Him, to grow closer to Him and so that’s what fasting is all about. It’s not about words, it’s not about suffering for God. No, it is about using that instrument to achieve a certain result of being brought closer to God, of yielding your life to Him, of making yourself more penetrable, more open to the work of the spirit in your life.
So, I urge you, I encourage you to explore more that whole ministry of fasting in your life and to incorporate it as a life long wonderfully energizing spiritual practice, for the rest of your life.
Father, we embrace your call tonight. We embrace your call, Father, and we declare that you are more wonderful, more pleasing to us than any pleasure that this world has to give, including food and intellectual satisfaction, and all the other things that we so treasure. And tonight we declare our deep hunger for you. We want more of you, Lord. More of you. Make us deep, deep wells. These wide vessels, deep vessels upon which you can throw your water and your oil and your blessing, your anointing, your wine, Father.
Teach us how to gauche out all the excess that is in us, that impedes you from being able to bring down your anointing into our lives. We yield our bodies to you tonight. We yield our minds to you. We yield our emotions to you. We yield our pleasures to you, Lord. We yield the things that we treasure to you and we just want you, we want to enjoy you, Father. We want intimacy with you. We want to get to know you better, Lord. We want to hear your voice. We want you to speak to us. We want to be able to enter into that deep zone of intimacy with you, Father, forgive us because we are so bound to this world that we neglect those resources that you have provided in your word to bring us closer to you. Teach us how to do that. May your word go deep into the sensibility of your people tonight, Father. And thank you for your grace and thank you for your love. In Jesus name, in Jesus name. Amen. Amen.