Special Service to begin 100 Days of Prayer, Promise and Power
A Call to Fast
2 Chronicles 20:1-30
In a nutshell: Fasting is always done for a purpose; our purpose is to get us pure before God, and to humble us.
Jehoshaphat-one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament-was no giant of the faith. He was just a regular guy who was prone to mistakes; who made major errors in judgment; who at times he acted proudly; at times placed more confidence in what he could do, rather than what God could do, and he didn't always follow through on what God asked him to do. But while he made mistakes, he still had a quality in his life that God was able to use. If you have your Bibles, please turn to…
2 Chronicles 17:3-6 3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals 4 but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. 5 The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.
What made Jehoshaphat so special is that deep down in his heart, he was devoted to following the Lord. This devotion led him to do something very right, at the time of his deepest need as the ruler of God's people. And friends, that's the example I want you to see…and hope you will be directed to follow this morning.
B. Jehoshaphat's Army
Jehoshaphat commanded an army of nearly 1.2 million fighting men. It was well organized. It was fierce in battle. And it was feared by its enemies.
But the bitter enemies of Judah at that time-the nations of Moab, Ammon and other countries to the west and south of them, put together the "mother of all armies". They assembled over 2.5 million fighting men who gathered with the express purpose of bringing Jehoshaphat and the southern kingdom of Judah to their knees, and drive them out of the Promised Land. And in the incident I want to focus on this morning, this huge army was marching toward Jerusalem.
Jehoshaphat's reaction to these incredible odds that were coming against him, is going to serve as an example for what our leadership is asking you to do over the next 10 days.
C. 10 days of Fasting and Preparation
Beginning today, we are calling our church family to 100 Days of Prayer, Promise and Power. The Pastors have felt God moving us to do this at the time in our church year when we normally mentally shutdown and retreat because of the heat of our desert. But instead of retreat, we believe God is calling us to arms.
We presented this idea to our elders two weeks ago, and they enthusiastically agreed that this is something God was calling us to do. So, as a united leadership team, we are bringing this 100 Days of Prayer, Promise and Power to you, and humbly ask that you participate with us.
D. Five components
There are five main components that will be involved in the next 100 days.
1. First, there are the targets that we feel God has given us to pray for. And friends, most of them are God-sized-most of them are something that only God can do. And quite frankly, if He doesn't answer our prayers, we won't hit the targets. The bottom line is that God has to do the work, or it won't happen. So, here are the targets that we are going to be praying for over the next 100 days: a. 10 days of fasting and preparation b. a 10% increase in worship service attendance over these same 100 days, last year. c. a 10% increase in Sunday School and Adult Enrichment attendance over these same 100 days, last year. d. a 10% increase in giving to the ministries of our church. e. 10 new people to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, through the ministries of our church. f. 10 baptisms in the next 100 days. g. 10 new people to join our church in the next 100 days h. 10 new family units to start coming regularly to our church i. 10 baby dedications (no one is pregnant right now, that we know of) j. 10 people who are interested in helping start a Hispanic Ministry through our church.
If you total all those percentages and people up, you come up with the number 100-as in 100 days of prayer.
2. Second, there will be small groups that will meet in homes on a night during the week in strategic areas around our valley where the people of our church live. (We'll let you know more about those next week.)
3. Third, there will be Mile-Markers along the way when we will gather and celebrate and share what God is doing. The first one is this "kick-off" service this morning. Another will be Sunday, July 14, the half-way point of our 100 days. And finally, on September 1, our grand finale, where we'll celebrate God's answers to our prayers.
4. There is the e-mail link, that will give you progress reports, encouragement and answers to prayer. Use the flyer in your "This Week…" to sign up for this.
5. Then lastly, there is this booklet. It's a personal journal that we want each of you to keep as you pray during the next 100 days. There are suggested scriptures to read during each of the 10 day periods, and space for you to write answers to prayer; what God is saying to you; and significant Bible passages He gives to encourage you. Please don't leave here today without one of these booklets. Read the first few pages, then start praying and writing what God says to you.
Now, what has this got to do with Jehoshaphat? I'm glad you asked. When Jehoshaphat was faced with a God-sized task, look at what he did. Go ahead three chapters and look at chapter 20…
2 Chronicles 20:3-4 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
He was alarmed-sure! He was skeptical-you bet! Did he start manipulating things-no way! Did he try to defeat this enemy with his own strength-NO! What he did was to call the nation of Israel to a fast.
Fasting is something that the Old Testament talks about a great deal. It was a practice that the people of God followed, both by command of God at certain times, and out of their response to a situation where they needed guidance at other times. In the New Testament, we see that it was a practice carried out by Jesus at key times in His ministry, and by His followers as the early church was getting started.
1. Setting aside Paul and Barnabas
From the book of Acts, two key events came to my mind this week, as I thought about fasting. One is recorded in Acts 13, where some of the key leaders of the early church were praying and fasting to find out what the next step was for them to take in the early church's life. And God showed up during this time and spoke to the group…
Acts 13:2 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Because of their action that involved fasting, God set in motion the events where the two most effective missionaries in the history of the church we set apart. God told those people to single out Saul and Barnabas. And He basically said, "Now, watch what I'm going to do through these two guys!"
And if you're not familiar with the story, God used these two men to take the Christian faith to all of the Roman Empire, and develop followers who literally turned the world upside down. And instead of moving away from God, society in great numbers moved towards a relationship with Him.
2. Appointing Church Leadership
A second example from the life of the early church happened when the missionary work of Paul and Barnabas was starting to take off. They realized that these new churches that they were planting needed qualified leaders to carry on, when the two of them left the region to continue their missionary work. So, who was going to lead these churches after they left those towns?
Acts 14:21-23 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
Friends, up until the middle ages, Christians fasted as a regular part of their worship to God. It was part of their lifestyle. And it wasn't until the middle ages that Christians stopped regularly fasting and began thinking that this discipline should be left to the monks and those who set themselves aside for full-time service to the church. That was a mistake.
I am coming to believe that part of the ineffectiveness of the general church of Jesus Christ to make a difference in American society, is tied directly to our neglect of this important spiritual discipline of fasting.
Arthur Wallis, in his book God's Chosen Fast, gives about the best reason I've every heard for Christians taking part in the discipline of fasting. I put it on the fronts of your "This Week"…
"When a man or a woman is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, that person is demonstrating that he or she means business, that they are seeking with all their heart, and will not let God go unless He answers."
B. The focus of fasting
Now, here's something else that is interesting and important concerning fasting. Every time you read about God's people fasting-in both the Old and New Testaments-it is always done with an end goal in mind.
-Jehoshaphat did it to seek help from the Lord. -Esther did it to make the king ready to receive her and not kill her when she went in to him to ask him to save the Jews. -Jesus did it to prepare Himself for the temptation in the wilderness. -The early church did it to find out what their next step should be in spreading the good news of Jesus. -Paul and Barnabas did it to find out from God, who the leaders of the new churches should be.
And as the leaders of our church, we are asking you to participate in a fast for the next 10 days to get us pure before God, and to humble us. Let me explain those two things:
1. First of all, from experience, every time I've undertaken a fast, God has always allowed me to see myself through His microscope. In other words, through the discipline of fasting, I begin to see myself like God sees me. That's something fasting does-it reveals our TRUE spiritual condition before God.
Fasting reduces the power of self so that the Holy Spirit can do the kind of intense work within us that He really wants to do. Paul talks about this work in…
Ephesians 3:20 (Amplified Bible) 20 Now to Him Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desire, thoughts, hopes or dreams.
God wants to do a superabundant work in us, and fasting is one of the best ways He can do this work. But He can't do that superabundant work, if we aren't on the same page as He is.
Lee Bueno, in his book, Fast Your Way to Health, writes…
"Fasting burns out our selfishness. In fasting we willingly submit to the cauldron of renunciation as we give up one of life's greatest pleasures. Fasting is the foundry in which we are purified. Its fires refine our faith; its flames separate the base impurities from our true character in Christ; its hot blasts purify our hearts."
Friends, the first purpose of our 10 days of fasting is to get us pure before God-we want Him to show us if there is anything in us that needs purging, or anything that needs to be added…in order for each of us to be the person He can use to advance His kingdom.
2. The second goal of this 10 days of fasting is to humble us. In Isaiah 58:5, Isaiah the prophet describes fasting as "a day for a man to humble himself"
In Psalms 69:10, King David says that fasting produces "scorn", when he looked at himself.
And in Psalms 35:13, King David also says, " I… humbled myself with fasting."
Humility is a very important trait to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 35:13).
Humility was a major theme in the early church. Peter writes, "Humble yourselves, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:6). And James writes, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up." (James 4:10)
Illustration: At the Christian Motorcyclist Association rally I attended last weekend, the first night, the MC, asked people stand up and introduce themselves to each other. I walked up to a guy and introduced myself to him. He was a man from northern California, named Arthur. Arthur was 6' 9" tall, and weighed 400 lbs. He was a giant! He made me feel small. He made me feel helpless. When we shook hands, his hand wrapped around mine and enveloped it to the point where I couldn't even see my hand in his grasp. Folks, because of his size, compared to mine, I felt humbled.
Well, the act of fasting has that same affect on us. It humbles us as we draw close to God and stand right next to Him, and see how helpless we are compared to His greatness. Fasting humbles us from the inside out. And when we are humble before God, then He can do a work through us.
So our goal in this 10 days of fasting is twofold: get us pure before God, and to humble us.
III. Back to Jehoshaphat
Now, friends, here's the encouraging thing about all this. After the time of fasting before God, look at what did God do in Jehoshaphat's impossible circumstance…
2 Chronicles 20:17 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'"
And the rest of the story goes that Jehoshaphat and his men got up the next day, prepared for battle, but they never lifted a sword. By the time they reached the battle field, God had destroyed all 2.5 million soldiers of the enemy army, by having them quarrel and kill each other off. So when the army of Jehoshaphat came on the scene, all they had to do was spend the next three days gathering up all the treasure that was left behind by their enemies. In response to Jehoshaphat's call to fast, God did a God-sized task.
What will your fast look like? -For some of you, you won't eat any solid food for the next 10 days. -Others of you may choose to skip one or two meals each day. -Others of you may choose to give up a favorite TV program each day, -or some of you may refrain from doing a favorite activity for the next 10 days.
Regardless of what your personal fast will look like, please understand, fasting is a discipline of giving up something important, that you do regularly, so you can spend that time with God.
That's what we're asking you to do during the next 10 days. Give up something that's important to you, that you do on a regular basis, and devote that time to getting pure and humble before God.
You will do that by: -reading His Word, -journaling, -praying, and -being quiet before Him so He can speak to you.
(Spend the rest of the time praying together)
This page was last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2004 03:38 PM