John the Baptist was a man of the Word. He had spent his entire life studying the Scriptures in solitude and meditating on the law. He had pointed to Jesus and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). He had seen the Holy Spirit descend on Christ as a dove and heard the Father’s voice declare Jesus to be his own Son. Yet, John found himself in prison, his powerful, anointed ministry cut short by the wicked King Herod (see Luke 3:19-20). Now the crowds who had followed John were gone — the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” silenced.
John’s public ministry had lasted only a year but during that time, God had demonstrated his power through John’s preaching. Jesus knew that this fiery prophet would rather be dead than locked up in prison. After all, he had lived all his years in an open wilderness, walking through the land and sleeping in caves.
While John was imprisoned, some sort of deep, dark trial of the soul overtook him and he began to doubt. John must have wondered why Jesus had not delivered him from prison. After all, Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would set the captives free when he came. Frankly, Jesus was not living up to John’s expectations. Was he really the promised Messiah? (See Matthew 11:2-3.)
The same devil who tempted Jesus in the wilderness attempted to destroy John’s faith. And he uses these same lies and deceptions against us today. His goal is to plant seeds of doubt in us about God’s Word, his promises, his delight in us. Satan wants you to become impatient as you wait for answers to your prayers. But impatience with God can cause your prayers to become “a strange odor” instead of sweet-smelling incense.
James 1:2-4 gives us this encouragement: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden idol in Babylon and demanded that it be worshiped. Every official, leader and citizen in Babylon’s one hundred-plus provinces had to fall down before this god or face death — roasted alive in huge ovens. However, three devout young Jews in the kingdom refused to bow and the furious king had them thrown into the fiery furnace. But the Lord came down and delivered his servants — and the king cried out, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” (Daniel 3:28).
Islam is a religion that is threatening the whole world with the demand to worship its deity, Allah. It is a kind of Babylon, with terrorist organizations demanding, “Bow to Allah or we will blow up your airplanes, bomb your towns, trains, buses and tunnels. We will kidnap you, torture you and behead you. Allah will rule the world and Islam will prevail.”
There is a growing wrath and anger in the hearts of wicked men against the very name of Jesus. We know that Jesus’ name has always been hated by wicked men, but now that hatred has turned into a demonic rage. In fact, his name is slowly and subtly being erased from society by legislative mandates in nations all over the globe.
There is ever-increasing satanic wrath against every devoted follower of Christ. If you are drawing closer to the Lord, then you are facing the full wrath of an angry devil. However, our greatest weapon in pulling down satanic strongholds is the Word of Almighty God. We are not to fret over the battles that Satan seems to be winning. The battle we are in is an eternal one and the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. Our Father has declared it: Jesus already reigns as King!
There is a cost to being completely sold out to God but there is also a great reward. When you are lukewarm, having a form of godliness without power — not overly sinful nor overly holy — you are accepted and your life is relatively quiet. You are no trouble to anyone, not even the devil.
When you get hungry for God and start to dig into his Word, people often fail to understand. Your appetite for worldly things begins to wane and you enter a new realm of discernment. You are broken and contrite in spirit, and you have a new burden for the church. You expect your friends to rejoice with you but, instead, they begin to call you a fanatic.
Moses was wonderfully touched by God’s hand and awakened about the bondage of God’s people. He was so excited by the great revelation of deliverance he had received that he ran out to share it with the brethren: “It came into his heart to visit his brethren … For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25).
Moses was the meekest man on earth; he was consumed with God, not in a holier-than-thou way but in a humble, prophetic way. He wanted his brethren to hear and see what God was about to do but instead of rejoicing with him, they rejected him, saying, “Who do you think you are? Who made you ruler over us?” Someday they would understand — but not then.
Likewise, when you share insights into God’s Word or try to explain truths you discover, you may hear, “Are you sure you aren’t going a little overboard? That’s a bit heavy for me.” And, frankly, you may lose friends or even have family members distance themselves from you.
The greatest reward for going all the way with Jesus is well worth any misunderstandings that may come your way. That reward is having Christ always stand with you! There are other rewards but his constant presence is all we will ever need.
“One of the Pharisees asked [Jesus] to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (Luke 7:36-38).
Simon, this Pharisee, also invited a select group of religious leaders to join the supper table. It was clearly a religious gathering, made up of men who fancied themselves the holy men of their generation. Then a “woman of the city” crashed the scene and knelt at the feet of Jesus. She bathed his dusty feet with her tears and wiped them clean with her hair — something no decent woman of that day would have done in public. Finally, she opened an alabaster box and poured perfume on Jesus’ feet.
The Pharisees were indignant, thinking, “How shameful! If Jesus were really a prophet sent from God, he would have known this woman is evil and stopped her.” Indeed, Scripture says those were Simon’s exact thoughts (see Luke 7:39). Jesus read his thoughts and announced, “Simon, I have something to say to you” (7:40). Jesus told the story of the two debtors, one with a huge debt and one who owed less, who were freely forgiven by their creditor. Then the Lord pointed out Simon’s arrogance, judgmental spirit and lack of compassion. “Simon, you don’t see the depravity of your own heart. You judge this broken woman but fail to recognize that you need as much, or even more, mercy.”
Jesus showed the spirit of forgiveness and restoration in the Pharisee’s house that night when he turned to the woman and said, “Your sins are forgiven” (7:48). He came to befriend and restore the fallen, the friendless, those overtaken by sin, and he is saying to us today, “This is what my ministry is all about. Let me enlarge your heart to see hurting, broken people so that you may extend my mercy to them.”
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
God will release something supernatural through prayer and fasting. Isaiah 58:10 tells us, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom as the noonday.”
God is telling us that a true fast will shift our focus from living for ourselves to living for others; from being self-absorbed and self-indulgent to living a life of satisfying the desires of the afflicted. Those who live to satisfy their own desires find themselves thwarted in their pursuits, frustrated and not finding the fulfillment of life they are looking for.
A true fast is not just about abstaining from food; it is the idea of consecrating yourself to God, separating yourself from something so that your heart is awakened to helping stricken people. It may be people around the world through missions or it could even be your own family. Jesus modeled this principle of living an others-centered life.
“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (58:11). God gives you his power, his glory, his presence when you begin to live for others. And God is the one who gives us the transformed heart to make this shift happen — the shift from being self-centered to being God-centered and others-centered.
If you will allow the Holy Spirit to grip your heart and cast off doubt and fear and undue concern for the things of this world, he will transform you. Something supernatural will happen in you so that something supernatural will happen through you.