Day Nineteen

Sometimes, when we are fully fasting, we are eager to pray with others. 
Here are two prayer meetings designed just for you.

Friday, January 26th at 12pm at the Prayer House
Saturday, January 27th at 12pm at the Prayer House

It will be an amazing time as we come to the conclusion to our fasting.

Daily Directives

Today you will begin a more intense time of fasting. Some may be completely fasting, while others may be eating only a meal a day.

Elmer Towns writes it this way in Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, “When you take control of your physical appetite, you develop strength to take control of your emotional appetites" (31).

A fast focused on connecting with God empowers us to take greater control of our appetites.  

The goal of fasting is always and ever to draw close to God, to unleash our hearts into His heart so Jesus may be able to do things we never could. The sin nature, our bent to be controlled by our lusts, is so absurdly powerful that Jesus never taught anyone to seek to master it. Jesus called for and taught His followers to kill the sin nature (Matthew 5:29; 18:8; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24).

One of the first implied fasts we have in Scripture occurs in Job when his friends show up to sit with him for seven days. For an entire week, none of them says a word. While the term for "fast" is not used in the story, it is certainly implied for those seven long days of silence. The fast imposed by Job and his friends is an expression of grief over deep, heart-wrenching loss.

There are other places in Scripture where fasting was used to express intense grief over loss and death. David fasted when his son was dying (2 Samuel 12:16), and Hannah fasted when her womb was barren (1 Samuel 1:7). Fasting throughout history was used as an expression of grief because ceasing to eat is one of the typical ways humans respond to heart-wrenching loss. This is why people going through intense trauma often need reminding, "You need to eat something." It is natural not to want to eat when you have lost something huge, such as a relationship. Some people have lost relationships they considered more important than their own lives. I know husbands who lost wives they loved and quit eating and would have done so to their own deaths had family not stepped in and encouraged them to begin eating again.  

Actually, this cause for fasting was likely the beginning notion of it. This grief, no doubt, was at the heart of the origin of fasting.

Spiritually, once we are made sensitive to Christ's presence, we come to know that our sins have made a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). Our sins have caused us to fall short of His "glory," which is essentially another word for presence (Romans 3:23).

Fasting in this way becomes a self-imposed grieving period where we enter the blessed discipline of mourning. This is not so much mourning our sins— although we may do that a bit— as it is mourning the separation our sin has caused. Sin breaks the bond of closeness and shoves God away, until we are left shivering in our own loneliness. Jesus said blessed are those who take moments to mourn their separation from God, for in their mourning they once again draw near to the God Who drew near to them, and they will find comfort (Matthew 5:4).

All of this fasting discipline is tricky. As Jesus warned, we can, in a moment, turn fasting into, “Hey everyone, look at me. I'm doing a great thing," or “Hey God, look at me and give me what I think I need" (Matthew 6:16). We do not grieve our sins to make God feel sorry for us; we grieve our separation because we are truly saddened by it based on what we have done to injure the relationship.

Fasting is a short season of going without food to mourn any season or moment of time our selfish and lustful tendencies have created a separation between ourselves and God.

Daily Scripture

Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants His people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 NLT

Daily Commentary

After Paul had established the church at Corinth, he wrote a letter to the church seeking to correct a sin problem. One of those letters we have no copy of, but the other we know of as 1 Corinthians.

The problem in the Corinthian church persisted, so Paul decided to visit the church, a visit he called "painful." Paul was seeking to bring the church to repentance, for the leadership had been approving of the sinful practices of one of their prominent members. Eventually, the members dealt with the sin, but from having to deal with the sin, another problem grew. Some of the church leadership had developed a resentment toward Paul's apostolic leadership over them.

Paul left Corinth with the issue still not fully resolved and began traveling; he then wrote a third letter which we do not have.

Paul continued to travel, but he was all the time seeking word from the Corinthians concerning how they were responding to his latest letter.

Paul finally found Titus, one of the apostolic team he had left in Corinth, who gave him a mixed report about the church. The general well-being of the church was good, but the group opposing Paul had not warmed to him.

This is when Paul wrote what we know of as 2 Corinthians.

In the passage we are considering, Paul reminds the church at Corinth of a letter he had previously written, which he defined as "severe" or "harsh." On the one hand, Paul did not like having to bring grief to the leaders of the church through letters or personal visits. On the other hand, the pain he caused produced in them "repentance." Repentance does not mean merely that they coughed up the sins; it means they changed their minds and hearts from the way they had formerly been thinking to a new way of thinking.  

Paul thus reminds the church at Corinth of the kind of sorrow his "harsh" letter produced: repentance or a change in the way they were thinking.

Paul contrasts the sorrow that caused them to change their minds, which he calls "godly sorrow," with "worldly sorrow.” He defines "godly sorrow" as that which arises from the separation between God and people caused by sin, and “worldly sorrow" being sorrow over the price and consequence of sin.

Those who experience "worldly sorrow" will do the sin again if there are no consequences. "Godly sorrow" changes the way one thinks, so those repentant, if given the opportunity to sin again, will resist doing so because it would cause separation.

"Godly sorrow" produces a period of mourning when one realizes he or she has been missing out on the nearness of God.  

The Corinthians changed the way they had been thinking in approving and applauding a prominent rich member of their church who had been parading a sinful practice for all to see. Their change in thinking led to their asking the man sexually abusing his father's wife to cease doing so or leave the fellowship. They ended up doing the right thing, even to their own harm. They did the right thing not because they felt guilty, but because they sorrowed over the separation their actions had created between themselves and Christ.

Paul was asking, in 2 Corinthians, for the leaders who were opposing him to have the same "godly sorrow" in relation to their rejection of his Jesus-given apostolic leadership. Paul was aware that in their rejection of him, they were separating from God.

Guilt will never lead to a change in the way one thinks, but "godly sorrow" will.

Daily Decisions

This is without a doubt the most difficult part of fasting—taking an inventory of how something we might be doing could be separating us from God or making our relationship with Him more distant than necessary.

Spending some time over the next three days contemplating any practice that is keeping you distant from God will only result in a change in the way you think.

Job's friends sat silent for seven days and then sought to answer the question for Job: why was he so separated from God? Oddly, none of them had experienced any "godly sorrow," so the book of Job is filled with the bad advice of Job's friends.

Eventually, Job, as he argued and fought his way to understand what was going on, was actually filled with "godly sorrow." He was more interested in his relationship with God than in what he had lost.

Right there is the secret of "godly sorrow”: being more interested in God than what one has lost, being more sorrowed over losing God than losing a thing, a practice, or even a person.

Daily Journal Thoughts

On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.

Next, write your commitment; it might be worded something like this: “Jesus, I am asking You to search my heart over the next three days and reveal to me any practices or attitudes that might be separating me from You. I am asking you to produce within my heart a godly sorrow so I will be open to changing the way I think.”

Then go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.

You have been journaling for some days now. You likely know what to do without reading. Here is where you can begin to pen something like this:

“Jesus, You love me so much that You are showing me places that are or could create a separation between us. Things like …"