Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. Matthew 6:16
Perhaps the first question that comes to mind is, “How can a hypocrite fast?” “Isn’t fasting for the one authentically searching?” Sad-faced, somber, gloomy, downcast, sullen; it all amounts to how someone desires to appear before man. Or even worse, because the fast is resented in the heart. My question is, why on earth would someone look gloomy when they are seeking God? Do they think He will not be found? Is it because it is too hard of a work?
A hypocrite is someone who claims standards or beliefs to which his behavior does not conform. As a Believer, we claim the promise that when we seek Him, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13, Deut. 4:29, Luke 11:9)! As a bold believer seeking the spiritual reward found in a fast, it should be done with a heart of joy which results in a happy countenance! There is no place for gloom. There is no place for sad-faced believers acting as if they were enduring some strenuous pursuit that required more than they desired to give.
When fasting, we deny our hand the ability to fulfill our need for nourishment. Instead, we are promised that if we ‘hunger and thirst’ for righteousness that we will be filled (Matthew 5:6). Believer, let’s resolve not to follow the example of the hypocrite but instead possess a joyful face and a heart full of anticipation that the Lord will indeed ‘fill’ us! Seek Him in his Word, and you will find a feast. This will require the transforming effect of receiving Jesus as the Treasure that he is; faith that sees his truth, beauty, and worth as that which far exceeds anything you can provide for yourself. With this truth thumping in your heart, there will be no hint of that hypocrite gloom. No indeed! There will be hope! And this Hope DOES NOT DISAPPOINT (Romans 5:5)!
In the same verse, Jesus says the hypocrite makes their countenance unappealingto others. Does this unpleasantness translate as such an arduous chore that it keeps others from desiring to fast? Not only have they made fasting unappealing, but the Lord gives an assurance that their reward would only be temporal.
Not only are we expected to fast (Matthew 6:17), but God rewards fasting (v16)! Lord, may our light appear like the dawn, and may our recovery come quickly as Your Word says! May Your righteousness go before us and may Your glory be our rear guard! Lord, when we call you will answer, and when we cry out, You will say, ‘Here I am.’ (Isaiah 58:8-9) What a fantastic promise. Instruct your heart to be full of expectancy during your fast. The Lord blesses us. Amen.
Greetings fellow sojourners! I have attached an article that I pray blesses you. I do not know the person’s ministry but I like his encouragement for those in spiritually dry seasons. The points articulated in the essay provide good advice to ponder. Perhaps it is written with pastors in mind but consider how the counsel might assist your own life. Lord help us to not allow a spiritually dry season to become fertile ground for sin! Believer, let’s not only pray for our own dry seasons but also for our leaders. May this empower you to keep returning to the fountain of living water, particularly when you are feeling parched.
In His grace,
Here is the article in its entirety:
Every Christian—and every pastor—has spiritually dry seasons. These moments range from mildly annoying to living in a pre-Aslan Narnia where it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” Some pastors are embarrassed by this experience, which further complicates the matter. What follows includes things I have done—or, things I wish I’d done—in response to my own dry seasons. I hope it will edify and encourage you.
1. Invite other voices to speak to you.
This seems like a no-brainer but it may be the most difficult step of them all. Tell someone that you are struggling. Don’t stay silent and save face. This leaves you abandoned, under an ever-increasing sense of loneliness and insecurity.
The impulse to save face is particularly difficult when dealing with those close to you. However, giving into it robs you of the opportunity to lead even as you’re walking openly and honestly through difficulty. It also robs those close to you of the opportunity to love you by carrying you for a while. If I could have one mulligan in ministry (“one” is of course rhetorical, as my ongoing Mooney mulligan list is absolutely daunting!) it would be to entrust myself as weak to those close to me rather than deciding to push through sadness alone. When I didn’t do this, I became cruel, defensive, fearful, and distrusting, all of which I covered with a thin veil of confidence. I devastated at least one relationship that I miss to this day, and I’m sure I wounded others beyond repair.
Finally, saving face turns dry seasons into fertile ground for sin. Think about it. You tell your members that dry seasons are a normal aspect of any relationship, including their relationship with Christ. However, by denying your own dry season, you perceive yourself to be above the norm. And so you become safely insulated by your own facade of abnormally strong spirituality. Your make-believe piety is safe from every external perception. This isn’t safe. It’s not safe from your own flesh and the enemy, who will gladly use it to steadily eat away at your soul.
Brother-pastors, trust me. Saving face is worth none of the hype it promises. Tell someone you’re struggling, and after telling others, let them do what you have equipped them to do—namely, the work of the ministry. Listen to their voices rather than your own.
2. Tell your wife and your other elders.
In a dry season, your voice is perhaps the last one you need to listen to on a regular basis. As I mentioned, you need outside voices from those who love you. In particular, dry-season pastors should share their struggles with their wife and their other elders.
Don’t neglect your wife! Robust complementarianism doesn’t require an approach to your wife as if she cannot handle your weakness. In fact, the opposite should be true. If you don’t believe this, you may need to read a different article. She’s your equal, and at times your spiritual superior. Can you imagine being stranded during a tornado and finding yourself physically incapable of moving yourself to safety? You’d be foolish to refuse her help. She’s there for you, and you both should know one another better than anyone else.
Brother-pastor, share your darkness with your wife. After all, she probably already knows that you’re in a bad spot—and she can probably tell you why, at least in part. She wants to help more than others, and is probably more capable of helping than others. Let her be your guiding voice. Let her direct you back to the core elements that you consistently tell others to pursue.
But she doesn’t need to be the only one you tell. You should also share your struggles with your fellow pastors (if you have them).
On multiple occasions, one of my fellow elders has come to my office to read and pray with me. The Word of God is the primary voice you want to hear during dry times. During these times, he reads a chapter or so to me, and then prays with me and for me. He doesn’t take a long time. The Scriptures do the work. Even a glancing blow from the life-giving Word of God does damage to the dry times. It provides a source of unparalleled encouragement.
The Word of God and the gospel-shaped wisdom of those closest to you offer much help during dry times. But that’s not all.
3. Meditate on the psalms of lament; sing songs of comfort.
Don’t neglect music during dry times—particularly the Bible’s songs or psalms of lament.
One sings a lament to confront reality even when there’s no tangible evidence that you will win the battle. “Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God!” (Ps. 43:5) To sing a lament is to sing of pain and suffering; to cry out about the seeming absence of God.
But laments are certainly not the only type of song to listen to and sing. Any good music that provokes you to dwell on and even feel gospel realities is helpful. Some of my favorites hymns are “Be Still My Soul,” “And Can it Be,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” and “I Asked the Lord.” I also love Bach’s solo cello pieces, Bill Evans’ “You Must Believe in Spring,” and Chick Corea’s album Alive. Each provokes me toward helpful and fruitful mindsets.
On a related note, dry seasons are horrible times to listen to the wrong music. By wrong music, I simply mean music that will push you away from love for Christ and others by pushing you toward loving yourself more than you should. Due to music’s capacity to throw you back in time, you might begin to focus on opportunities missed; you might be tempted to recollect old lovers, old grudges, old lifestyles, and old habits. Music can take you to old places and recraft old times. It can even manipulate your depraved imagination to turn those seasons into something different than they were. This is not helpful to say the least. While you may listen to all types of music without incident throughout most of life, dry seasons require more discernment.
A Brief Word on Authenticity
I remember a well-meaning brother telling me in an early dry season, “Bro! You gotta fake it ’til you make it!” I still love that guy but that was and is a wrongheaded way to view a dry season. A genuine pursuit of Christ regardless of feelings is not tantamount to disingenuous motives or actions. Dry seasons shouldn’t encourage you to fake affection, but rather to demonstrate genuinely mature affection by pursuing Christ in daily, mundane, and even seemingly fruitless ways. These habits will shape your heart so that when the dryness itself dries up, you will not be the same. By God’s grace, you will be more mature, marked by a steadiness and depth that wasn’t there before.
Brother-pastor, I hope you will not waste your spiritually dry seasons.
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:6-8
When you ask him…..be sure your faith is in God alone. No wavering, no half-heartedness. Faith believes God answers prayer. Believers, we must resolve not to waver, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He who gave us promises to pray will not now deny what He has already promised. Abide in Him and allow His words to abide in you (John 15:7) so that your loyalty is not divided between God and the world. Did you notice that the wavering person is not only unstable in their prayer life but in everything they do?
“The possibilities of prayer are the possibilities of faith. Prayer and faith are Siamese twins. One heart animates them both. Faith is always praying. Prayer is always believing. Faith must have a tongue by which it can speak. Prayer is the tongue of faith. Faith must receive. Prayer is the hand of faith stretched out to receive. Prayer must rise and soar. Faith must give prayer the wings to fly and soar. Prayer must have an audience with God. Faith opens the door, and access and audience are given. Prayer asks. Faith lays its hand on the thing asked for.” (E.M. Bounds on Prayer)
It pleases God when we obey his Word, and we will discover that it also strengthens us. Jotham strengthenedhimself because he did not waver in obeying the Lord his God (2 Chronicles 27:6). Abraham did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Romans 4:20).
When you pray, be motivated by God’s Word, His love, and His Spirit. When the fierce winds of trial come, prove just how firmly attached to the Vine you are. Abide in the Lord, allow your faith to boldly pray His promises, and don’t let go of the prayer until you receive from Him. Ask for the wisdom to hang on in prayer while those fierce winds of the trial blow. Never worry, He gives generously and without criticizing.
We have all heard the conversation that goes something like this: “You’re lucky.” And the next person says, “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.” I saw a license with the word ‘blessed’ on the plate recently. Without question, God has blessed us tremendously. However, can we say we are more aware of the greater blessing? Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems a lot of people are more aware of material and physical blessings than they are of spiritual blessings. I read a section in Ephesians 1:3-14 and paused there because it brought to mind the rich spiritual blessings that are clearly laid out in that passage. It is essential to consider whether we value the nonmaterial, invisible, and imperishable spiritual blessings, the blessings of grace, more than we value material or physical blessing. Let’s check out the blessing of grace that Paul lays out in Ephesians.
God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. (v3) Is it not true that “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN Christ” is far greater than just being blessed materially or physically? Sweet things, as soon as we are united to Christ by faith, we possess every spiritual blessing in the heavens. Wow. Thank you, Lord!
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. (v4) What a blessing, indeed!
God loves us and favors us. According to His will, He adopted us through Jesus Christ for Himself. (v5-6) God loves us and deals with us so graciously!
He redeemed us through Christ’s blood; we have forgiveness through the richness of his grace that he lavished on us. (v7-8) Thank you, Lor,d!
He made known to us a sacred secret. (v9-10) Jesus Christ of Nazareth will return to the earth and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
We have received an inheritance in Him. (v11) This inheritance encourages us to look with hope to the time when all true believers will be the Bride of the Lamb. Amen.
We were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when we heard the message of truth and believed in Him. He is the downpayment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (v13,14) Just as in legal matters a seal indicates ownership and security, so it does in divine affairs. Thank you, Lord, for sealing us with Your Holy Spirit!
I can’t say thank you enough Lord for blessing me in every way. Help me become more aware of Your great blessing of grace than I am of any other way I am blessed. Help me to prioritize that in my life. Thank you for spiritual blessings, thank you for allowing me to be holy and blameless in Your sight, thank you for loving me and adopting me, thank you for redeeming me and forgiving me, thank you for allowing me to know the sacred secret, and thank you for my spiritual inheritance. I desire to bear much fruit so that you receive all the glory. It is in the name of Jesus that I thank you, for I am indeed spiritually blessed!