Fasting Breaks the Spirit of Heaviness
You never forget the feeling of sorrow and loss that occurs when someone close to you dies. I loved my father dearly. When he passed away in 1991, it took me weeks to get beyond the initial impact of grief and mourning. Each day when I awoke, that sense of loss would hit me again as I thought, “My daddy is dead.” He was a wonderful father and grand- father. I am thankful that we had the opportunity to make so many wonderful memories together. His life was indeed a celebration. Though I knew Dad was with the Lord, his absence from this life left a void that took awhile to get over.
In Matthew 9, we see the disciples of John the Baptist coming to Jesus to ask, “Why do we and the Pharisees often fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” (v. 14).
Jesus answered, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast” (v. 15).
This is not the only time you see the words mourn and fast used interchangeably in the Bible. The example the Lord gives in this passage makes it clear that fasting is much like mourning. When you are on a fast, you usually do not feel like celebrating. It is a time to press into God, to seek Him, and to forsake the things of the flesh. Within hours of beginning a fast, you may find that food is the first thing on your mind (right before your stomach begins to growl).
Still, I look forward to the corporate fast here at Free Chapel each year because of the rewards that come from the diligence of an entire church seeking God in that manner. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Who is the comforter other than the Holy Spirit? As the prophet Isaiah began his proclamation of the good news in chapter 61, he foretold of the coming of Christ, who came to:
Comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. —Isaiah 61:2–3
I believe that as the church learns to fast (mourn) together, we will see God begin to fulfill these promises in many ways. Are there “burnt out” experiences in your life—ugly reminders of past hurts and failed dreams? Don’t throw away the ashes. God will give you beauty for ashes. He will give you the anointing of His presence, which is the oil of joy for your mourning.
Fasting Breaks the Spirit of Heaviness
The spirit of heaviness has to do with despondency, depression, and oppression. Sadly, the biggest pitfall in America is the oldest in the world. Americans use drinking, smoking, drugs, medications, overeating, and other harmful behaviors to try to lift the spirit of heaviness. Think about all the commercials you see for weight loss, smoking cures, antidepressants, etc. Seldom do you turn on a television program without being bombarded by drug company commercials.
Instead of looking for more stuff to put into our bodies to ease the pain, we should fast and seek the God who gives us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that afflicts so many. Why is it a garment of praise? You will find that you wear depression and oppression like a garment. It shrouds you in darkness and despair. It is a heavy garment that continues to drag you down. It keeps you from lifting your head and from raising your hands in praise to God.
Heaviness drains worship out of your life. Church is depressing unless you learn to worship. I know that is a strange statement, but it is true. There is nothing worse than a Spirit-filled church that loses the garment of praise and picks up the spirit of heaviness. God desires our praise more than our mere church attendance. That is not to say we should forsake assembling together as a corporate body. But our times together, just as our times alone, should be to glorify and praise our awesome, mighty God. Praise pushes back the enemy!
There is power in corporate fasting and power in corporate praise! It creates a river of healing, a river of deliverance and victory, a river of cleansing in the house of God. It is time to exchange ashes for beauty, mourning for joy, and a garment of heaviness for a garment of praise.
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