Here we are. The beginning of a new year is always so full of hope. For most it is a time to re-evaluate priorities, set goals, and resolve to develop new and better habits. And this is usually done in quick-start fashion. Also, for most, those endeavors lose momentum within a few short weeks. I’m grateful that I don’t rest upon my own resolve for better living. I rest upon the reality that Jesus purchased a better life for me, and I live day to day in the confidence that all the power required to change my heart and my habits resides in His able hands and faithful will. Does that absolve me from prioritizing, strategizing and amending my behavior? Not at all. It demands a loving and devoted response from me to read His word and hear His voice, to slow down and listen for wisdom in where and how I place value on the stuff of life.
It is easy to lose sight of Him in the daily-ness and trials of life. It is easy to default to depending on myself and my own devices for sustenance, comfort and control. Thankfully, there are the disciplines of grace that provide structure and form. I develop a frame, if you will, through His grace, and into that form He deposits substance and the transforming power of all He has done for me.
Our church family makes a practice of corporate prayer and fasting in the month of January each year. If you’ve been with me long, you will have read my remarks about this in previous years. Prayer and fasting are two of the disciplines of grace that it is my privilege to embrace, and doing so with my community of faith increases the richness of this time.
Because we do this together, there is a sense of looking to the Lord for guidance in our pursuit of His mission and purpose for us. Because we also do it in the privacy and secrecy of our hearts, there is an opportunity for individual revival and renewal that has a direct impact on the community as a whole.
There are many practical ways to fast, and the Bible speaks clearly about the various ways and reasons for fasting; however, the main thing is the motive of the heart. (Isaiah 58:6-12 and Matthew 6:6) Scripture teaches us that why we fast and pray is as important as that we fast and pray. It is not a duty. It is not from a sense of guilt or because it is expected by others. It truly is a response of devotion and desire toward the lover of our souls, the One who is sanctifying us for His own good pleasure and purposes now and in the ages to come.
In a fast, you give up what is good, in order to obtain what is better. It may be abstaining from various foods, media, or activities. These things are often good things that provide fuel, education and emotional well-being. But giving them up, even for a time, interrupts our normal routine, and gives us the margin and the quiet to slow down and listen. The very nature of fasting slows us down. Doing without food can cause us to feel less energetic. Giving up certain activities means we have more time. That is why fasting should be accompanied by prayer. We should be careful not to replace the things we have given up with different things to fill the gap. The point is to make room for Him and let Him fill the space.
We are retuning to the perfect pitch. We are resetting and recalibrating. We are contributing to an outward manifestation of an inward and spiritual happening. We are putting ourselves, our heart, mind, and will, into the hands of our Lord and Maker. And we are listening.
Dear reader, as you embark on this new year, this part of the journey where you’ve never been before, I urge you to listen for the Master’s voice. You may think you already know what needs to go and what needs to stay. Have you asked Him? He alone knows where and how far you will travel in the coming days and what you will need to get there and to be there.
I pray for us all, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give [us] a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of [our] heart may be enlightened, so that [we] will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a NASB)
Until next week, fellow sojourner, lay aside something good and open yourself to receive what the Master desires for you.