"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 1, 2011
As I write this, Jon and I are finishing up the final days of a Daniel Fast. I have been reading a book along with the fast by Elmer Towns entitled "The Daniel Fast for Spiritual Breakthrough". When some do the Daniel Fast they only eat vegetables and drink water, which Daniel did during the time he fasted. But a point the author makes is that the reason Daniel fasted meat was because it had been offered to idols. If Daniel were to live in modern times, his fast may have taken on a different nature than it did during his days. The "king's delicacies" or choice foods may mean something different for us today.
I had felt that participating in a 21-day Daniel Fast was something I needed to do, and prayed that God would show me what foods or activities I needed to give up for that time period. I told Jon what I was going to do from January 10th through the end of the month. He felt that he needed to also participate in the Daniel Fast and God showed him what he needed to give up during the fast. There were some very specific needs that I was praying for, but the main purpose for both of us doing this was to obey God and strengthen our relationship with Him. We wanted our focus to be on God for those 21 days and to honor Him.
I will admit that I really expected some breakthroughs and to begin to see prayers answered after the first few days. After two weeks it seemed as if nothing extraordinary was happening and it was a bit discouraging. The thought came to mind, "So what's the use? Why not just give up if God's not going to do anything spectacular and answer my prayers?" Immediately the answer came. It's about obedience! If I was fasting those things to try and bribe God or to somehow satisfy my flesh, then I was doing it for the wrong reason. But if I was doing it in obedience to God, then I had my priorities right.
A few weeks ago, Jon started telling me that we needed to start really saving our money and not spend unnecessarily. Okay, that's a good idea, but I could tell there was more to it than that. Every few days he would comment about how we really needed to watch our money and start saving because something might come up where we would need it. I felt like I wasn't being wasteful with our finances, and it kind of bugged me that he kept bringing it up over and over again, without sharing with me what he had in mind. The thing is, he started this back before Christmas when I was trying to shop for presents. I told him that saving was fine, but I wanted to enjoy Christmas and it really wouldn't be any fun if we didn't buy gifts for one another. He assured me we could buy gifts, but for the next few weeks kept bringing up the money issue. I would question him to no avail. Finally, he told me why he had been wanting us to save and what the big secret was. There's a slight possibility of him traveling, somewhere we both would really like to go, for a job in the next couple months or so, and he wanted us to have the money saved up for me to be able to go with him. I told him if only he had of told me that from the beginning, instead of being so secretive, I would have been thrilled to have been saving. Why? Because I would have known what the goal was that we were saving for.
Sometimes it seems like God is being secretive and withholding information from us. He is asking us to obey and do something and we do it, but have no reason why. It can become frustrating because we're not sure if it's to make us stronger and build our relationship with Him, or if God has a plan for us that we can't see.
Romans 8:24, 25 says, ".... but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."
It's often hard to "eagerly" wait for what we do not see. Instead we get frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged and start worrying about all the what ifs. And too many times we lose hope and give up before seeing the answer.
In the past I have been a sporadic exerciser. I take it in spurts where I will do it for a few days, then give up when I don't see results; then I'll feel guilty and start up again. That cycle has happened over and over again. But I have faithfully been exercising 4-5 days a week since the beginning of the year. Since the beginning of our Daniel Fast I have been working out most week days. I will pop in the DVD and exercise as soon as Jon leaves for work. Honestly, I thought with the foods and drinks that I've given up for the fast and my exercising regularly that I would see physical results. I have not had any desserts or snacks, have not drunk any Pepsi or sweet tea, Jon and I have not been eating out, and most days I only eat 2 meals a day. But I get on the scales and see only minimal results and my clothes still pretty much fit the same. I admit, it's been pretty disheartening.
I was complaining to God about it and He reminded me that the fast was not about "dieting" and losing weight; it was about focusing on Him. If I turn it around and make it about me, then I've failed. If I make it a diet instead of a fast, then my priorities are not where they should be and I'm not honoring God.
Jon has also reminded me that when you take on a strict exercise program that many times you are building muscle in the beginning, so may not see weight loss. And I have to admit that I've had more energy and have felt much better than I had been. I haven't had the indigestion issues and heartburn that I had been dealing with and haven't taken anything for it for several days now. I have built up from doing the beginning phase one of the exercise DVD to being able to do phase three. I can't say that I love doing all the pushups and crunches and squats and other exercises, but it is getting a little easier each day as my body is getting stronger and I feel good afterwards. I am determined to persevere and not give up this year.
A while back I was thinking about how often at the beginning of the year I say there are things I want to do or change, then the end of the year rolls around and nothing has changed. It has become a comfortable rut and even though I say I want to change, I've never wanted it bad enough to do something about it. I determined in my heart that this year was going to be different and changes were going to be made. I am not going to get to the end of 2012 and still be in that same old rut. I know how weak my flesh is, and knew that God was going to have to intervene and help because I wouldn't be able to do it on my own. It was as I was praying and asking for help that God placed it in my heart to do this Daniel Fast for 21 days. I've been learning the importance of self-control and focusing on the right things. But I also know that as time goes by, it will be easy to fall back into my old patterns if I'm not careful.
So has the fast been worth it, regardless of not seeing big breakthroughs and answered prayer? Yes. Why? Because I obeyed God. And instead of giving into the lust and desires of the flesh, I have stayed disciplined and followed the guidelines that I felt God impress upon me. Have I given up hope that my prayers will be answered? Absolutely not!! I know that God has heard my prayers and will "hope for what I do not see and with perseverance I will eagerly wait for it". Perhaps the answers didn't come immediately or happen as soon as I would have liked, but I choose to continue holding onto hope until God answers. I choose to have faith and trust God to bring those things to pass.
I not only want God to answer those specific needs that I have been praying for, but I want Him to change me. There are areas in my life that need improvement and I desire to see God work in those areas and help me take responsibility and change. And this year I want my primary focus to be on God, then let everything else be secondary. I also want to obey God in all things. I read a quote that says, "You don't have the power to obey until you make a choice to obey." God can't force obedience upon me, but I have to choose to obey. Once I make that choice, then God will give me the power and strength needed.
There may be things that you've been praying for or issues in your life that you've been struggling with. Don't lose hope and give up. When we give up hope, we give up on God. We'll never know the completeness of what God will do if we give up too soon. We'll never know the joy of a job well done if we are not firm to the end. There's a lot to lose by quitting and everything to gain by continuing to the end.
I've heard the verse, "Pray without ceasing." But that's just 1 Thessalonians 5:17. 1Thessalonians 16-18 is quite a bit longer than that: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
When we assume God will answer a prayer right away, it can be hard to keep praying after we think God has missed His deadline. But, not only are we told not to cease praying, but to rejoice, too.
That can be tough, especially when it feels like God isn't paying attention. He's always paying attention, of course. But He doesn't always adhere to our timing. And it can be tough to keep praying when we feel like despairing. And it's also tough to keep rejoicing.
But it is worthwhile. Give it a try, and see if you don't feel better about it.
2 cups Bisquick
1 lb. Sausage
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
Mix all ingredients together until doughy (works better if you use your hands to mix). Shape into 1-1/2 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 until golden, about 25 minutes.
These are good as appetizers, but I also like to make them up ahead of time and store in a container or ziplock bag in the refrigerator; then for breakfast take out however many we want and microwave to heat.
Jon and I would like to take this opportunity to wish two very special couples a very happy anniversary.
Jon's parents, Stan and Diane, will be celebrating their 50th anniversary on February 6th. We were able to surprise them this past Sunday with a small family celebration at our home.
My sister and her husband, Janie and Jimmy, will be celebrating their 30th anniversary on February 5th. Wow, hard to believe they've been married that long!
We pray both couples are blessed this year with many special moments together and that God's richest blessings will be poured out upon their lives.
Don't be afraid of opposition; remember, a kite rises against the wind.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon