Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Calls For a Fast

Is it time to sharpen your ax?
It happens to all of us in ministry . . . we just don’t seem to be as effective as we once were.  We become like a dull ax. 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the 1st four sharpening the ax.”  Lincoln knew two things:

1)  a dull ax makes for far more work
2)  a dull ax can be much more dangerous than a well-sharpened one.  It can glance off the wood and cause you to cut your leg!

Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.”

A few years ago, I broke down.  Totally lost all hope.  I’d received some devastating news.  An ongoing trial in my life had suddenly become much worse.  To tell you the truth, I’m still in the middle of the trial, and I’m not at liberty to share it yet. Trust me when I say it is the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. Not only did I want to give up, but I also wanted to go to my room, shut the door, and never come out again. 

Overcome with despair, I knew I needed to do something desperate to get back to an internal place of faith and victory. I needed to sharpen my ax!  Fasting immediately came to mind. I knew the situation I faced would require more than a one day fast.  I saw a God-set up in my schedule: my husband was leaving the next day for a men’s yearly snowboarding trip and the kids were in school. Seizing the opportunity, I called my work and asked for the next three days off.  My boss knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t ask for time off at the last minute if it weren’t serious.

Do you hate fasting?  Can’t fast?  Maybe you get a migraine when you fast, etc?  I’ll bet you are tempted to stop reading, but please hear me out . . .

I’m not here to give you ONE MORE THING on your spiritual “to do” list.  No pressure from me!  Whenever I feel God calling me to do a fast, I usually do it kicking and screaming!  It’s just that fasting is a real life solution that works.  Know this: God will empower you to start and complete your fast. Remember, Jesus also expects us to fast.  He didn’t say IF you fast, He said, “WHEN you fast . . .” (Matt. 6:16) Jesus understands the difficulties, because he fasted 40 days.  But, Jesus told us that some demonic strongholds are only broken by prayer and fasting. (Matt. 17:21)

As I get older, I’m more convinced that fasting is not so much a God-please-see-my-sacrifice-and-answer-my-prayer-this-instant fix, but it’s about getting back my spiritual mojo.  Renewing my faith for the long haul.  Staying strong.  Getting the focus back on my BIG GOD instead of my big problems.

Here’s a few tips for your adventure in fasting:

Listen to the Holy Spirit for a word from the Lord. Spend some of your fasting time just listening to the Holy Spirit.  I guarantee that He will give you a takeaway word--something you will be able to stand on when the situation looks hopeless.  I received a word from the Lord, “This will end well.”  My faith shot up!  I can endure just about any dark story if I know it will have a positive ending.  That word continues to see me through low points along my journey.

Learn from others during your fast. During my fast, I read Jentezen Franklin’s book, The Fasting Edge*, Ruth Bell Graham’s book, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them**, and the words of Jesus in the 4 gospels.  The lessons, personal stories, and words of Jesus empowered and encouraged me.  I recommend having a book to study during your fast and choosing a book of the Bible or a character in the Bible to study. 

Journal throughout your fast.  While reading the various books, I received specific hope-filled promises concerning the situation I faced.  I wrote every single one of them down and then some.  With each quote, promise, truth, or revelation, I wrote and I got stronger.  My faith level began to increase.  I was no longer playing defense; I was back on offense!  The enemy is gonna pay for messing with me!  He’s going DOWN!

Claim your promises with your voice.  As I wrote the promises into my journal, I spoke them out loud.  Sometimes I walked around the room, looked up to Heaven, and boldly asked God to bring the promises to pass.  If you’d been a fly on the wall, you would have thought, “Crazy woman!” But I was doing some warfare prayer and I meant business!

Practical do’s & don’ts:  When you fast, try to get away from your normal routine if possible.  Get quiet and still.  Drink plenty of water and clear liquids. Get someone else to do the cooking and stay out of the kitchen.  Take a break from media/tv/technology as much as possible.  Keep worship music on continuously.  Get out in nature and experience God’s creation. Enjoy the presence of God!

Jentezen Franklin says if you will fast, the Holy Spirit will replenish you and your authority in Christ.  He’s right!   So, if you are in crisis, quit-mode, or you just feel like a dull ax . . . let me encourage you—give fasting a try.  It’s time to sharpen the ax!

*The "sharpen the ax" theme in this blog came from reading Jentezen Franklin's book, The Fasting Edge.  He goes into much more biblical truth behind this metaphor. I highly recommend this book!
**This book is perfect for anyone praying for a prodigal son, daughter, or family member. I've read and reread this book--it's a wonderful hodge podge of stories, poems, thoughts, verses that Ruth collected and wrote herself when her children were away from God.  

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