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!
The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
The weight of this sentence is heaviest at the end ~ for they will see God. The pure of heart have a deep and driving desire to see God. The believer may see the Lord through a vision, when he comes again, or when they lay their eyes upon Him in eternity. The pure in heart should continually expect to see God’s character revealed through fellowship in the Word and with the Spirit.
A pure in heart believer will have motives which are unmixed and whose conscience is clean. Are your purposes driven by a heart that desires for God’s glory to be made manifest…come what may? Is your conscience unsettled, or is it at peace? We must welcome the Refiner’s fire, which is fueled by love because we are impure by nature and by practice and thus need this testing. Purity of heart will come by way of the refining fire, and the fire will have two forms. One way will be by the fire of affliction.
“Now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold, which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
“Count it all joy, my brethren when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord . . . for the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives . . . If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children . . . he disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness . . . Pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:5-10, 14)
The other way is by the fire of intentional self-sacrifice.
“If your right eye causes you to sin pluck it out . . . and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
“I discipline my body and bring it under strict control.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
The commands God gives believers are certainly not too difficult or beyond our reach (Deut. 30:11). He instructs us to crucify the flesh (Galatians 5:24, Romans 12:1) and not to pattern our life after this culture (Romans 12:2). We are to renovate our mind so that we are able to recognize His perfect will (Romans 12:2). In order to follow God’s commands, it will be our responsibility to welcome the Refiner’s fire and practice self-denial so that the true joy of our life will be found only in eternal things.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky nested in its branches. Luke 13:18
The typical mustard seed is usually 1 to 2 millimeters (0.039 to 0.079 in.) in diameter. When this tiny seed is planted, it grows into a bush reaching an average mature height of between 6 to 20 feet with a 20-foot spread. Under ideal conditions, exceptional plants can reach a height of 30 feet. Impressive growth comes from humble beginnings. Desire and welcome the Spirit’s teaching in your life, even when it is accompanied by correction so that your maturity is made evident to all.
The redeemed in God’s kingdom consists of the small becoming mature. Growth is anticipated and expected. We are to ‘take’ the seed given us (2 Corinthians 9:10) and sow it into the ‘garden’ of our heart. God will then provide the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). Glory to God.
The mature tree described here in Luke has strong branches and thus provides a nesting place for birds. Likewise, our growth and maturity ought to provide glorious provision for other believer’s lives to grow in strength. Look and expect to see sweet fruit resulting from other’s growth. Growth and fruit are expected. Glory to God. Believer, reach out and ‘take’ the seed of faith Jesus gives (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 12:3) and plant it in the ‘garden’ of your heart and allow it to flourish; expecting God to do nothing less but great things with your faith! My eyes are on you Lord, perfect my faith (Hebrews 12:2)!
Two ways we plant the seed of faith in the ‘garden’ of our heart is by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and exhorting ourselves (Colossians 3:16) in His truth. God grows our faith when we make the effort to understand the magnitude of His grace. Grace always gives more than we deserve (Luke 17:9).
Jesus is THE source and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is His faith that we possess and He gives a measure of it to each one of us (Romans 12:3). Thank you, Lord for Your provision.
Lord, with the faith you have given me, I acknowledge and thank you for my Spiritual gift of (_____________). You intend for me to be profoundly effective in my gifting because is for your glory. Open doors of opportunity for me to minister to the body of Christ for Your glory alone. I desire to be found faithful.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 16:3,4
He comforts us in all our affliction. Life seems to have a way of revealing the clouds among the silver linings. If, however, you are at peace with The Sovereign, the silver linings will always be more apparent than the darkness of the cloud. When affliction comes to you, it is often a good thing to allow it to be swallowed down at once as we do when we must take the bitter pill of medicine. Chewing the bitter pill does not make it go down any easier. In fact, it makes it all the more difficult because it gets in your teeth and remains on your tongue. God sends afflictions for His own reasons, and they are for our good. Lord, help us to not brood over our grief; as we will most likely hatch something we did not anticipate ~ perhaps a hornet that will come with other stings we never expected. Instead, let’s occupy ourselves with blessing God. This takes our thoughts off our troubles and places them on God; redirecting us to greater things.
He comforts us so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction. Rely on God to be your comfort in times of trouble. He is faithful and will encourage you greatly so that you will not only have enough comfort for your own need but will overflow in encouragement so that you may supply some else’s need; it becomes a multiplying effect. God’s comfort is profoundly effective in our life and produces a harvest for the benefit of many. The remarkable thing is, the provision of comfort received for our need is adaptable for affliction of any kind; not just one similar to our own.
We comfort others through the comfort we received from God. Since God gives in abundance, let’s be found doing the same thing. Let’s follow the Master’s lead and graciously ease the distresses of others because He has so kindly relieved ours. Thank you, Lord.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power, is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Paul spoke to the Corinthians (v2-5) about the person (most likely himself) who ascended into the third heaven (the hidden paradise) and what he had heard (and seen?), admitting that human words were inadequate to fully convey the experience. The New Testament gives glimpses of the coming Glory for the purposes of strengthening our faith and developing our holiness (2 Peter 3:10-14, 1 John 3:2, 3). Most likely, Paul was given the glorious revelation (v3) to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Acts 9:16, Romans 8:18). Revelation the New Testament gives is not aimed at satisfying our curiosity (Expositors Bible Commentary) but for strengthening our resolve.
Paul was embarrassed at having to boast of his experience (v1) to the Corinthians because his boasting would not have contributed to the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) and because he desired to avoid the suggestion that he was in any way a special Christian; as he said, he was “a man in Christ.” Even though the revelation Paul received was an honor (v5), it did not add to his importance; it only served to equip him for service.
How can we learn the best conduct during trials? Paul’s behavior in 2 Corinthians illustrates the following:
1) He asked the Lord for help. His “thorn” was so troubling to him that he “pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away.” We should pray and ask the Lord for all of our needs.
2) Paul received a revelation of God’s majesty which fortified him for service in ministry as well as in suffering. Any revelation you receive whether it is from the Lord or from the Word, consider it essential equipping for ministry and for suffering and not merely as answers to questions or for boasting.
3) The answer to Paul’s prayer did not take the form he expected. The thorn remained, but so did his memory of the divine reply, “He said to me.” Even though the thorn produced distressing weakness at various times in Paul’s life, he would never lack sufficient grace to be a conqueror (Romans 8:35-37). By God’s grace, our acknowledged weaknesses will meet God’s full scope and strength (Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13) so that the power of Christ will rest on us.
4) Paul learned that he would not escape all hardships. Therefore, he resolved to gladly boast about anything that would expose his weakness; enabling Christ’s strength, through him, to be made evident to all. When we come to the same conclusion as Paul and resolve to boast in our weaknesses instead of our strengths, we should most certainly expect Christ’s enabling strength to be made evident through us for God’s glory.
Paul found comfort and delight in the awareness of his weakness because it was balanced by the sense that the might of Christ would dwell in him and around him. The word for “rest” in 2 Corinthians 12 is like the word in John 1:14, to dwell as in a tent, and suggests the thought that the strength of Christ was to Paul as the Shechinah cloud of glory encompassing him and protecting him. (Ellicott’s Commentary) Glory to God. Let’s boast in our weaknesses sweet things and expect the strength of God to aid us.
Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Let your light shine before men. In other words, let the brilliant light of Jesus’ resurrection break forth through the very pores of your skin so that all may know that because of Jesus’ transforming effect on your heart you are fully equipped for His good works. Glory to God.
There are two ways you can consider the meaning of the word ‘shine.’ One is to manifest a bright light, especially by rays. This brings the sun to my mind. Since the sun provides our primary source of energy, life on earth would not exist if it were not for the sun. This bright star our earth revolves around shines with brilliance, and its rays reach down to earth, touching everything. Oh yes, the sun created by God holds a tiny resemblance to the Son of the Father. Eighty percent of the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds and fog. Expect the brilliant manifestation of God’s light in you to penetrate through the gloomiest, cloudy and foggy mind.
The relationship between the sun and earth also reminds me of our relationship with Jesus. We revolve around the Son; the Son does not revolve around us. We would not exist without Him. Just as we need the sun for energy, the energy for our strength to do good things comes from the Son (Ephesians 1:19, 6:10, Colossians 1:29, Hebrews 11:34, 1 Peter 4:11). Glory to God.
A second meaning for the word ‘shine’ is to perform very well. When we accomplish God’s good works, the brilliant light of God shines through us, and man can’t help but give glory to God.
Don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13) sweet things because it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good (1 Peter 2:15). True believers are God’s luminaries, so go forth and SHINE! I enthusiastically say in advance, glory to God!
She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your words and about your wisdom is true. But I didn’t believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, I was not even told half. Your wisdom and prosperity far exceed the report I heard. How happy are your men. How happy are these servants of yours, who always stand in your presence hearing your wisdom. May Yahweh your God be praised! 1 Kings 10:6-9a
The Queen of Sheba is to be commended. She too possessed the riches of this world but desired what she lacked ~ wisdom. The reports of Solomon’s wisdom awakened her heart, and she desired to know more. She was not content with sending an ambassador to inquire on her behalf because that would not satisfy her. She decided to make the difficult journey so that she could stand in his presence and hear his wisdom with her own ears. What she did not realize was the joy that would accompany such wisdom.
The queen had great riches but loved the wisdom of God more. She knew what she possessed was not enough to solve the complexities that faced her people. She needed more than she had to give. A storehouse of possessions will not satisfy when the true need is the wisdom of God to provide answers to the toughest problems, the light to shine on the darkest places, and the strength the untie the tightest knots. Lord, I too have heard reports about your wisdom but I am not satisfied with reports. I desire to experience it for myself.
We do not need to travel long distances to stand in the presence of Wisdom. But a sacrifice will need to be made. Do you desire His wisdom enough to lay down your own intellect, stomp it to the ground if need be and see it as folly? That will be a great sacrifice, indeed. He promised that if we desire wisdom, all we need to do is ask for it, and it will be given generously (James 1:5). Take the faith that God has given and cry out to the Lord for His wisdom. We need it desperately.
God’s wisdom blows away the clouds of this age’s uncertainty and ushers in the light of joy. Ask for it. Wisdom is a beautiful thing.