January started the same as it has the past five years: the ball drops, it gets cold (Pittsburgh is like that, you know), and then we fast! Yes, our entire church takes part in a corporate twenty-one day fast and time of prayer to kick off the year. Why do we choose the coldest time of year to abstain from food and focus on God? I often ask that same question as I am huddled by the fireplace with a blanket, night after night, in January. But the answer is a simple one!
There is no better way to start the year than to put God first and practice spiritual discipline. It’s never pleasant at the beginning, especially cutting off coffee, sugar, and all the other things our bodies crave. But somehow, every time I decide to focus on God by fasting, stopping all social media, turning off the television, doing without talk radio, as well as music (other than worship), something GREAT happens in my life!
So now that it is over, what did I really get out of it? The quiet has helped me hear God. Every time my stomach grumbled, it was a reminder that I need to be, and should be, that desperate for God! God seems closer and I feel more connected. My soul is at peace. Decreasing social media and radio has helped me get more sleep than usual, also. It’s amazing how much time I was wasting on television and other distractions.
Who wouldn’t like anything that I just mentioned? There is one particular verse that was my “go to” verse this month. I found myself going back to it almost daily!
“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will”(Isaiah 50:4).
This “morning by morning” approach has changed the way I lead, pastor, parent and love my wife. It’s so easy to look only at the big picture, which means sometimes the simplicity of following God day by day gets lost in my I-want-it-all-now mindset. I want guidance and answers and I ask for breakthrough, but what I really need is a day-by-day walk and talk with God. As I started each day with time to read and talk with God, a peace continually met me there. I found that the more I fasted, the more God “wakened” me.
When God awakens something inside us, it’s more than just a good feeling or thought. You can tell it happened because you are launched forward, moved to action. It is then when you grasp an understanding that God is up to something so much better and bigger than you could ever understand on your own!
We are well into 2018, but this is still applicable now and every day! When God has you, then He’s got “this!” I’m not sure what your “this” is, but whatever it is, I know whenever we simply live in a daily understanding of God’s will, morning by morning, it’s the game changer! So, set that alarm clock a little earlier and remember that “morning by morning” is the way God leads best!