Tag Archives: spiritual discipline

The Discipline Of Fasting

Earlier this year I went to visit a doctor. One of his first questions was, “How often do you fast?” I gave him a puzzled look since that is a church question and not a doctor one. He said, “I fast once a week and the health benefits are amazing.” While you do gain health benefits from fasting, I believe the spiritual benefits far outweigh the physical ones. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that seems to have been lost in today’s modern church. We’ve relegated it to a once a year thing instead of a regular discipline, and we’re missing the power that comes with it. God instituted it in the Old Testament, but Jesus validated it for New Testament Times as well.

In Daniel 6, there is a story that most of us are familiar with. Daniel was a person who practiced spiritual disciplines. I believe he was promoted because of them, but there were those who didn’t like his being promoted and they wanted to take him down. They convinced the king to put anyone who prayed to any being other than the king into a den of lions. When Daniel found out about it, he didn’t stop practicing his spiritual disciplines. The men told the king and he had no choice but to throw Daniel in the den. The king liked Daniel, but he had broken his new law. Daniel 6:17-18 says, “A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night” (NLT). As you know, God honored Daniel’s prayers and the king’s fasting.

When prayer isn’t getting you the answers you need, it’s time to fast. If you’re medically unable to fast, ask a friend to fast for you. God shut the mouths of lions because of fasting in this book. In the New Testament, spiritual battles were won and people were healed because of it. I often recommend a three day, water only fast to people. It’s difficult and challenging, but very effective. Fasting isn’t supposed to be easy. We constantly give in to our body’s cravings and fasting helps you to learn to deny those physical cravings. It also helps when it comes to denying your fleshly ones too. If it’s been a while since you’ve fasted and you need an answer from God, begin the spiritual discipline of regular fasting and watch God Move in your life.

Photo by Ingo Stiller on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Honoring God’s Presence

I take a spiritual growth assessment a couple of times a year to get a snapshot of where I am. It helps me to visualize the different aspects of my disciplines, see where I’m gaining ground and where I’m losing ground. I’ve noticed when certain disciplines, like listening in my prayer time, are low, there are fewer experiences with God. There’s a direct correlation between my listening to His voice and experiencing His power and presence in my life. If I want more of it, I have to make time to listen instead of just talking through that time to Him about my needs. Listening is a great way to honor God’s presence.

In 1 Samuel 3, Eli was the High Priest of Israel. He was their spiritual leader, but the first verse says, “Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon” (NLT). The reason why the messages and visions were rare is because Eli had quit honoring God’s presence. He no longer slept in the tabernacle tending to the candlestick, he allowed his sons to steal God’s offerings and turned a blind eye to their promiscuity. God had enough of it and spoke to Samuel a prophetic message of how He was going to remove Eli and his sons from their positions.

In Matthew 13:57-58 it says, “Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.’ And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.” Our belief and honor have a lot to do with how much we experience the power of God in our life. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard God’s voice or experienced Him in a real way, take a close examination of your life. Are you honoring Him in all aspects of your life? Have you been relaxed on your spiritual disciplines? When we honor God, He shows up in our life in real ways.

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Growing In Grace

If you ever see my son, most of the time it feels like he’s wearing high water pants. No matter what we do, we just can’t seem to keep pants that fit him. He’s constantly growing and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We always joke with him about it asking him if he can stop it or grow younger instead. Even as a child he knows that you can’t stop growth and that it happens naturally. It’s the same thing in the animal kingdom, with plants and most living things. They naturally grow and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. God designed physical growth to be natural, but he made other types of growth to require effort in order to create it. If you want to grow your knowledge, you need to apply effort in education. If you want to grow your muscles, you need to apply effort in working out. There are many things like this in life including your spiritual growth.

One of the main concerns of the writers of the New Testament was our spiritual growth. It’s not the type of growth that occurs naturally like physical growth. It’s like the others where it requires effort and discipline on our part. They wanted us to know that there’s more to Christianity than just accepting Jesus as our savior. That’s the beginning of a lifetime of growth. Sadly, for many Christians, the stop there or just past that point in their growth. They fail to adopt spiritual disciplines that will help them grow closer to Christ and to become more like Him in their life. The writer of Hebrews, Peter and Paul all addressed Christians to encourage them to move from milk to meat and to go from infants to mature believers (Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Peter addresses is again in 2 Peter 3:18. He wrote, “But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (TPT). Growing into mature believers is our goal, but it requires that we do more than go to church once a week. It requires reading the Bible, doing Bible studies, spending time in prayer, reflecting on Scripture, sharing our faith and applying what we’ve learned. If we do these things, we will grow in God’s grace and in our intimacy with Him. The point of sending His Son to save us was the restore the relationship between us. Growth in relationships don’t occur naturally. It requires that we spend time getting to know the other person. The more our relationship grows with someone, the more we adopt parts of their personality into our life. The same is true when we grow our relationship with God. We become more like Him and that’s His desire for each of us.

Photo by Akil Mazumder from Pexels

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Becoming Spiritually Hungry

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. After being there a few months, I began to get hungry for some home cooking. I reached out to my mom and she sent me some recipes so I could have a taste of what I was missing. On other occasions, a few of us would sit around and talk about what we were hungry for. Then there were rumors that a Taco Bell was opening up in a certain part of the city. I would ask around to see if it was true. I even went down there a few times to look for it. I was hungry for more than what the country offered. In the process, I found some really great places to eat, but that hunger in me grew so much that I began to plan my first meal back in the States.

Being spiritually hungry is pretty similar. It’s a desire that’s inside of you that needs to be fostered. It starts with a thought, “I wish I could experience God like that person.” It could even be the desire to know God like you once did or to feel His presence when you’re missing it. That stirring should push you to move and do something different in order to experience it. Those thoughts should challenge you to seek others who are experiencing God in a way that you never have to find out what they’re doing, how they’re studying and what they’re reading. Spiritual hunger should motivate you to fill it much like hunger in your belly does. You don’t just sit around thinking, “I’m hungry.” Chances are, you get up, go to the pantry and start digging around for something to meet that need. God wants us to dig through His Word looking for sustenance.

Proverbs 18:15 says, “The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths” (TPT). There are depths of God that you and I have yet to experience and discover. The amount we will learn and know about God is in direct proportion to how much we hunger for Him. Are you satisfied with only a snack? Are you content to stay where you are? Do you feel like you know Him enough? Challenge yourself in these areas. Stir up that hunger within you to know and experience more of Him. That’s how you grow and mature in your faith. You feed the desire to know Him more and by praying for Him to reveal more of Himself to you. It requires effort on your part to get up earlier, to stay up later, to block out distractions, to read more, to listen more and to seek more than you have. God is willing and able to satisfy your spiritual hunger, but you must be ready to learn and discover more.

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Owning Your Maturity

When my son was a new born, my wife and I decided we didn’t want him to learn the behavior of crying for what he wanted. That started with the very first thing that babies learn to cry for – milk. We began to pay attention to his movements and sounds around feeding times so we could anticipate when he was hungry. As we noticed them, we would begin to warm up some milk and feed him. However, there were times when we were busy and missed his cues. In those moments, he would let us know he was hungry and ready for milk through his only means of communication- crying. The best part was when he began to hold his own bottle. Later, we was able to crawl to the bottle when he was hungry and began the maturation process of feeding himself.

As Christians, we go through a maturity process as well. When we first accept Jesus as our savior, we are merely spiritual infants. We need the milk of God’s Word to help us grow. We need to learn simple concepts that are easily digestible. As we mature, we should graduate to more difficult concepts and spiritual disciplines. Just like a baby, there is a transformation that takes place in our lives. Our inner faith should grow as we mature and learn how to reconcile our inward faith with our public life. As we drink the milk of God’s Word, it begins to change how we live so that our lives become more Christ like.

1 Peter 2:2 says, “In the same way that nursing infants cry for milk, you must intensely crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. For this “milk” will cause you to grow into maturity, fully nourished and strong for life” (TPT). Each of us need to own our own maturation process. It’s not the responsibility of the church to grow us. We must intensely crave spiritual food Monday through Saturday and learn to feed ourselves. Reading God’s Word daily puts food into our spirit. Meditating on verses is like the chewing process. It breaks it down and releases nutrients that are vital to your growth. Wherever you are in your maturation process, there’s always room for more growth that fully nourishes your soul and leads you into a stronger spiritual life.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

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Habitual Fellowship

A phrase that stands out to me, when reading about great men of faith in the Bible, is they “walked in habitual fellowship with God.” Each time I read that phrase, it calls out to me and dares me to do the same. To walk in habitual fellowship with God is to be in constant communication with Him and to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. The men in the Bible who did this, found great favor with God.

Noah was one such man. The time period he lived in was like no other. There was no one else on earth who feared God or lived righteously. He had no church to find shelter in. He had no Christian friends who could encourage him and pray for him. He was the lone believer in a sinful world. Imagine your life without the help from your church or Christian friends. Imagine having no one you could go to for prayer when you needed it. How long would you last?

This was Noah’s situation and instead of throwing in the towel, he doubled down on his relationship with God. Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a righteous man [one who was just and had right standing with God], blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked (lived) [in habitual fellowship] with God” (AMP). If he was the only blameless person and he could walk in habitual fellowship with God, then you and I can too. We can find the strength within ourselves to be in constant communion with God. We can find time to pray and read His Word each day.

Merriam Webster defines “habitual” as, “Doing something regularly or repeatedly.” These men of faith regularly and repeatedly met with God and He rewarded them with favor and by making covenants with them. The God who made covenants with them still wants to make covenants with us. He’s simply waiting for those of us who will dare to enter into a habitual fellowship with Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NLT). If you will fully commit to Him in habitual fellowship, He will give you the strength you need to live for Him every day.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Running To Win

I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.

Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.

1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.

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The Key To More Power

If spending quality time with God is the way to having a quality spiritual life, then fasting is the way to having a more powerful spiritual life. Giving up our time shows God we are making Him a priority. Giving up food shows Him that we are willing to sacrifice our physical comfort for spiritual gain. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that I’m afraid too few Christians engage in. Either we don’t see the purpose or we don’t see the value, so we don’t do it. When we skip fasting as a spiritual discipline, we miss out on a strength that’s needed to overcome certain things in our lives.

In Mark 9, there is a story of a man who asked Jesus to heal his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. In verse 18 he said, “I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” They had spent quality time with Jesus, but hadn’t been fasting and praying so they lacked the power to heal him. Jesus told them in verse 29, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.” He inferred that there is more power in fasting.

When you are in need of more power to overcome a temptation, to find the right direction, or to get through a situation, I encourage you to fast and to pray. Your fast should be between you and God. Don’t make an outward show of it or tell people you are doing it so they will feel sorry for you. Jesus said that if you did that, you have your reward. I’d rather have the power of God than the approval of man. It’s our choice when we fast.

In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, “When (not if) you fast, don’t make it obvious.” He knew that our human nature likes to receive sympathy from others. We like to play to the crowd and to get others to feel sorry for us. Fasting is not about that at all. It’s about showing God you have brought your body under discipline and are denying it what it needs in order to gain what your spirit needs. It shows Him we are willing to feed our spirit instead of our stomach.

The Bible talks of many different types of fasts and lengths of fasts. How long, what you fast, and why you fast are between you and God. I always feel like the more challenging the fast, the greater reward. If my fast costs me nothing, that’s about what I’ll get in return. The greater the need in my life, the greater the fast I do. Some are mentally challenging, but all are physically challenging. Before I fast, I usually seek God on what He wants me to fast and for how long. Once decided, I pray for the need every time I have a desire for what I’m fasting. I’ve learned that giving up what I want for what He wants changes me for the better every time.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Training For Godliness – Encouragement 

Each year, I take one week off from writing to help me refresh and reset. This is that week. To help you stay faithful to your daily devotional time, I’m bringing back a series I wrote a few years ago on disciplines we as Christians need to have. Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with all new devotions.


Training

Once you can do everything that we discussed this week, it’s time to really start training. Training is about pushing yourself beyond your limits. Jesse Owens, the Olympic sprinter, talked about how he learned to push beyond the pain. We must too. We can’t let life’s pains stop us from our training and running our race. We can’t let other people’s faults interrupt us from reaching our goal. It’s time to start really putting our faith into practice daily. Each day I ask God to allow me to be His hands and feet to at least one person. I ask that He would use me to speak His words to someone.

Training is hard work. Hebrews 12:2 in the Message says, “It means we better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything.” Start running and never stop. Keep your mind on things above and look to what awaits those who finish the race.

Keep your mind on the prize. Paul said it like this in Philippians 3:14, “Friends, now don’t get me wrong; by no means do I consider myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.” Just like in a marathon, you need to keep your mind on your goal of completing the race and hearing Jesus say, “Well done.” Hebrews 12:1 says that there is a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! We aren’t alone in this race. We have others who are out there to help us complete it. Find a running buddy and challenge each other daily to keep going further than you ever thought possible.

Conclusion

There are many similarities in training for a marathon and training for godliness. Both require mental strength and endurance. One is for temporary gain and the other is for eternal gain. Set your mind on the things that are above and remember that this world is not our home. We should be working towards our eternal home. Spend time each day working on getting there. Philippians 2:12 says, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation.” Keep working. Keep pushing. Don’t let set backs discourage you. You are not running this race alone. You’re in it to win it!

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Training For Godliness – Goals And Gear

Each year, I take one week off from writing to help me refresh and reset. This is that week. To help you stay faithful to your daily devotional time, I’m bringing back a series I wrote a few years ago on disciplines we as Christians need to have. Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with all new devotions.


Setting Goals

The next important step in spiritual discipline is setting goals. Each of us set goals in our daily lives whether it’s for work, retirement, our family or leisure. Why don’t we set spiritual goals? Proverbs 21:5 says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.” (NLT) We need to plan out our spiritual growth. Where do you want to be in your walk with God one year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now? What would that look like?

It’s going to take hard work to achieve those goals. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen over night. It takes time, planning, dedication and hard work. I also encourage you to write out your goals. Read them out loud every day. Tell yourself where you’re going and keep your eye on the prize. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” (NKJV) You are not running a sprint race. You’re running a marathon. If you’re going to run, you need to write it down and read it so you can continue to run in the hard times! Having the right goals for the right reasons will help you to be successful. A few months ago I wrote an entire post on setting spiritual goals. You can read it here.

Wearing The Right Gear

In physical training and exercise, the right gear is of utmost importance. Your gear can help you or hinder you. In I Samuel 17:38 – 40 we read where David was about to go out to fight Goliath. Saul wanted David to be dressed for battle so he put his own armor on him. The Message says that “David tried to walk around but he could hardly budge… Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five stones from the brook, and he put them in his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.”

Knowing what gear you need to be spiritually disciplined is key. While Saul’s armor was too big, God’s armor is just right. It was tailor made for you! Ephesians 6 tells us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood so physical armor won’t do any good. We need spiritual armor. It also tells us that we should put on God’s complete armor. Half way dressed for this won’t cut it. You will be in trouble quickly unless you fully suit up.

In a marathon, your shoes are one of your most important pieces. It’s the same in our spiritual race too. Ephesians 6:15 says, “And having shod your feet in preparation to face the enemy with firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news of the Gospel of peace.” (AMP) If you’re going to resolve to be spiritually fit and to grow spiritually, you need to be prepared to face some opposition from the enemy. You need the Word of God to help you keep your footing while you are fighting. Jesus used the Word of God to keep His footing while being tempted and you should too.

Tomorrow, we will look at having the proper nutrition and staying hydrated.

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