Sunday, June 15th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at both services of my church on June 15, 2008.]

I am up here today because of Judy Conrow’s battle with cancer. As a church, we have tried to help her as much as we can. We have prayed for her. We have encouraged her. We have helped with meals and taking care of the kids. We have raised money to help with medical expenses. At the Early Bird service, we laid hands on her for her healing. But the battle has not yet been won.

This Tuesday, the 17th, Judy is scheduled to have a pet scan, presuming her blood sugar is low enough. If the pet scan does not reveal cancer in any other part of her body, she will have surgery a week from Thursday, on June 26th, to remove the cancer that’s below her lung and above her liver. They will remove part of her lung, and part of her diaphragm, which will need to be rebuilt. If the pet scan this Tuesday reveals other cancer, however, there will be no surgery. In either case, Judy needs a miracle that only our God can provide.

So with the approval of the consistory, I’m here today on behalf of the spiritual development committee to call our church to a day of prayer and fasting for Judy’s healing.

The details are on the sheet I’ll be passing out, so you don’t have to try to remember all of this. The fast will begin next Saturday, June 21st at 6 pm. It will end next Sunday, June 22nd at 6 pm, with a covered-dish supper at church, so we can all break fast together. Ron Burch has agreed to play the piano for us after the meal, so we can have a “Hymn Sing” and thank the Lord for listening to our prayers.

I know some of you are not familiar with the discipline of fasting, so I’m going to share a little bit of what the Bible says about it. First, it’s almost always combined with prayer. For one day, instead of reaching for the loaf of whole wheat or rye to feed our bodies, we reach for Jesus, the Bread of Life, to feed our souls.

Contrary to what I used to think, fasting is not just an Old Testament discipline, but there are many different circumstances in which they did fast. They fasted before going to war[1]. They fasted when confessing and repenting from their sins[2]. Jehoshaphat called a fast when he was afraid of an army headed his way.[3] Nehemiah fasted and wept when he heard of the distress of God’s people in Jerusalem.[4] The great city of Nineveh fasted in the hope that God would relent from judging them – which He did.[5] And King David, a man after God’s own heart[6], even fasted for his enemies when they were sick.[7]

In the New Testament, we find Anna fasting and praying night and day in the temple when Jesus was taken to be circumcised.[8] Jesus Himself fasted forty days and forty nights when He was facing the temptations of Satan.[9] Paul fasted for three days before his sight was restored.[10] The church at Antioch fasted while they were ministering to the Lord.[11] The same group fasted when they sent Paul and Barnabas out to answer the call of the Holy Spirit[12]. Paul and Barnabas fasted when they were appointing elders for the churches they established.[13]

So we find many examples of fasting, in both the Old and New Testaments. In addition to these examples, the Bible gives us some instruction about fasting.

When the people complained because God didn’t seem to notice their fasting, He rebuked them through the prophet Isaiah. God said they were fasting to please themselves, and that while they fasted, they continued to oppress their workers and continued to fight and quarrel amongst themselves. This did not please God.[14]

Jesus said this about fasting:

And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. [15]

Jesus also told us that in some circumstances, prayer is not enough, but prayer and fasting are required.[16] I think Judy’s cancer is one of those circumstances.

In several different places, the Bible tells us that fasting humbles our souls.[17] James and Peter both tell us that God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.[18] So if we truly humble ourselves in fasting and prayer for our sister Judy, perhaps God will be gracious and grant her healing.

From a practical standpoint, there are several ways to fast. Some people drink only water. Some people drink water and other liquids, like juices and soups. Some may choose to have just bread and water. Other people will give up certain foods or food groups, perhaps bread products or dairy products. It doesn’t matter. How you fast is between each person and God. Now the BIG WARNING: If you have a medical condition affected by your diet, like diabetes, please do not fast. You might be able to give up a certain thing, like candy bars or coffee, but we don’t want anyone jeopardizing their health.

The point of a church-wide fast is not to see who can give up the most, because that would lead us right into that boasting Jesus warned us about. The point is to humble ourselves, and, for one day, focus ourselves and our prayers on Judy’s healing.

I’m going to share a couple scripture passages now, related to the bread we eat.

(Deuteronomy 8:1-3) All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

Luke 4:1-4 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.’”[19]

John 6:26-35 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.” They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” They said therefore to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’” Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

On your handouts, I have listed several additional scripture passages. I encourage you to read and meditate on these passages as you fast and pray for Judy. When your hand wants to reach for a slice of bread, reach instead for the bread of life. Let us pray:

Our Heavenly Father, we come boldly to Your throne of grace, in the name of Your precious Son, Jesus Christ. We are crying out that you might show mercy and heal our sister Judy. We know, Lord, that she doesn’t deserve your mercy. She is a sinner, as we all are. But we know, too, that You are a compassionate God, and we know that Your Son has paid the price for all of our sins. So we bring her before you today, trusting in Your Word. We have faith, Lord, that You can heal. We have faith, Lord, that You will teach us how to fast and pray on her behalf. And we have faith, Lord, that You will hear and answer the prayers of the Church that bears the name of Your Son, weak and sinful as we are. We pray, also, Lord, as Your servant Daniel prayed:

O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Thy great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.[20]

Amen.

Additional Scripture Meditations
Luke 11:1-13
Luke 18:1-14
Ephesians 6:12
Ephesians 6:18
Revelation 8:3-4
John 15:4-8
Matthew 18:19-20
Acts 1:14
2 Chronicles 7:14
Jeremiah 29:11-13
James 5:16
Acts 12:5
Joel 2:12-14
1 Corinthians 6:12-13
Isaiah 58:3-11

[1] Judges 20:26
[2] 1 Samuel 7:6
[3] 2 Chronicles 20:3
[4] Nehemiah 1:4
[5] Jonah 3:4-10
[6] 1 Samuel 13:14
[7] Psalm 35:13
[8] Luke 2:37
[9] Luke 4:1
[10] Acts 9:9
[11] Acts 13:1-2
[12] Acts 13:2-3
[13] Acts 14:21-23
[14] Isaiah 58:3-4
[15] Matthew 6:16-18
[16] Matthew 17:14-21
[17] Deut 8:1-3, Psa 35:13, Ezra 8:21
[18] James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
[19] Luke 4:1-4
[20] Daniel 9:18-19

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