“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18 NLT)
Other people’s opinions didn’t seem to matter to Jesus. In fact, the ONLY opinion that mattered to Him was His Father’s, and if we’re to follow after Him, then that’s where our hearts must be also.
It is easy for us to get so caught up in trying to please or impress others, that we often lose sight of what’s really important. Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself, because I want to please the Lord, and yet, all too often, I find myself trying to please my pastor, or other members of the church, knowing that this is not pleasing to God… Not only do I end up not pleasing God, I think I even grieve His Spirit, and that’s just horrible.
Let me explain. Every year, at the beginning of the year, the pastor calls for a fast. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but has it become a tradition, a ritual, a religious act? I comply with this every year, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But here’s the issue I have with this – This is not something Holy Spirit is leading me to do, and I end up doing it merely because I’m a leader of the church and it’s expected of me. And throughout the 21 days of the fast (yes, it’s always 21 days), I struggle because I have not been led by the Spirit to do this.
It’s totally different when I hear the Spirit telling me to fast. Four years ago, when I went to jail to minister one Sunday, I was asked by the guards and the inmates to visit another inmate in her cell, who was having seizures. Now this was highly irregular. I am not normally allowed to go on the block, but the Lord was moving. I went back there, and as soon as I saw her, I knew that she was not merely having seizures. She was demonized.
It was amazing, because I felt no fear or nervousness in the situation. You see, I knew I wasn’t in charge. Jesus was totally in control, but although I bound those demons, I saw no change in this woman’s condition, and it grieved me. Later, after I left the jail, I prayed and I asked Jesus why the demons did not stop tormenting this woman, and I heard the Lord speak very clearly to me, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.”
I knew what I had to do. I went on a clear liquid fast, and a friend loaned me Jentezen Franklin‘s book, “Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship With God“. (If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it!) I started out planning to fast for 21 days, until I read the chapter about the flies, and I heard the Lord speak to me again. He told me this was to be a 40 day fast. It was amazing.
I went to two women’s retreats during that fast, and if any of you have gone on retreats, you know that good food and fine dining are a part of the fun, but I was okay. I went to restaurants with my friends, and we had a great time, and I wasn’t even tempted to eat, because the presence of the Lord was so strong in me and I didn’t want to do anything to quench His Spirit and what He was doing in me and for the women that I ministered to in prison. This was a fast that the Lord called me to go on, and it had a purpose – His purpose.
The next time I ministered in jail after this fast was completed, unbeknownst to me, the woman who I had ministered to before attended the church service. Now you need to know that I had never seen her in a church service before, nor since I had ministered to her in her cell, and I had only seen her the one time.
As I was ministering, I looked to the back of the room, and I began to prophesy to this woman. Her countenance was changed and I didn’t recognize her at first, until the Lord revealed to me that she was the one that I had fasted and prayed for. I looked in her eyes and I told her that I had been fasting and praying for her for forty days. As she began to cry, I told her that she wasn’t just having seizures, she was demonized. She nodded her head as the tears flowed, and told me that since that Sunday when I had ministered to her, she hadn’t had anymore seizures, but prior to that, for several months, she had been having seizures multiple times a day. I was amazed by what the Lord had done, and that He had given me the privilege of being a part of His kingdom.
So this brings me back to what I was talking about earlier… Somewhere in the four years since that time, I feel like I lost something that I’m just now starting to get back. I love my pastor and my church, but I love the Lord more. One of the things our church is so proud of is the fact that we are not traditional or religious, and we follow Holy Spirit, and yet, the truth is, we are human, and our pride in this has blinded us to the fact that like so many, we have become traditional and religious…
No, we don’t have bulletins and programs and rote prayers like some denominational churches, but we have become traditional in other ways… And please don’t think I’m dishonoring my church by speaking this way, because as I said before, I love my pastor and the members of my church very much. And the truth is, on this side of heaven, there is no perfect church yet, until Jesus returns from glory and separates the goats and the sheep… and helps us sheep get right too.
Here is where the real problem is… I have become traditional and religious and I have grieved Holy Spirit, and this grieves me. I hear the Lord saying to me, “I hate all your festivals and sacrifices. I cannot stand the sight of them! From now on, when you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look. Even though you offer many prayers, I will not listen. For your hands are covered with the blood of your innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Let Me no longer see your evil deeds. Give up your wicked ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let us argue this out,” says the LORD. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:14-18 NLT)
I hear You calling to me, Lord, and I repent. Forgive me for grieving You, for trying to please everyone and offend no one, and by doing this, I offended and displeased You. Forgive me Lord and change my heart. I repent Lord and I humble myself under Your righteous right hand. I will fast when YOU lead me to fast. I will serve YOU first – help me to be attentive to Your word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Cheryl A. Showers