A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer

As we look out at the church today, there is so much that encourages us and fills us with gratitude. There is renewed zeal among God’s people for the spread of God’s glory across the earth. Like never before we hear brothers and sisters in different circles and different streams of contemporary Christianity talking about the gospel and mission, about transforming cities and reaching unreached people groups. These conversations are essential, and we hope they will continue with even greater intensity and intentionality in the days ahead.

But sometimes what we are not hearing can be as illuminating as what we do hear. It reminds us of an exchange in an old Sherlock Holmes mystery, where Holmes refers to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” during a robbery. A fellow detective, confused at Holmes’s comment, responds that “the dog did nothing in the nighttime” — to which Holmes responds: “That was the curious incident.” Despite the proliferation of Christian publishing and Christian conferences, J. I. Packer’s observation of our own curious incident still rings true:

When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology — but rarely of their daily experience of God.

Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service — but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God.

Our sermons contain much sound doctrine — but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.

We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.

Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.

Think about it. Where are the passionate conversations today about communing with God through fasting and prayer? We seem to find it easier to talk much of plans and principles for proclaiming the gospel and planting churches, and to talk little of the power of God that is necessary for this gospel to be proclaimed and the church to be planted.

If we really want to be a part of seeing disciples made and churches multiplied throughout North America and to the ends of the earth, we would be wise to begin on our knees.

It is for this reason that we gladly commend the new edition of John Piper’s Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer. If you have read or heard anything from Piper, you know that he is rightly and biblically passionate about the spread of God’s glory. But at the same time, he is acutely and biblically aware of our need for God’s grace. He knows that apart from dependence on and desperation for God, we will not only miss the ultimate point of our mission, but we will also neglect the ultimate need of our souls.

We were made to feast on God. In the words of the psalmist, we were created to cry:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food. (Psalm 63:1–5)

We have read the sad statistics about the number of young people who turn away from the church once they are out of their parents’ home. We have heard people explain that they have “tried God” when they were young but that it didn’t work for them. But we have to wonder: did they “earnestly” seek him with their whole hearts? Did they cry out to him in fasting and prayer? Sometimes we “earnestly seek” after things from God rather than God himself. It is hard for us to imagine anyone leaving the presence of the living God — the maker and sustainer of heaven and earth — and looking for something better!

There is spiritual delight to be found in God that far supersedes the physical diet of this world, and fasting is the means by which we say to God, “More than our stomachs want food, our souls want you.” Once we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), the things of the world no longer appeal to us in the same way.

As Piper says in the opening pages of this book, “Beware of books on fasting.” This is not a book of legalism. It’s not a book of technique. It does not contain a twelve-step plan. At the end of the day, it’s a book more about our hearts than about our stomachs. Abstaining from food (or other things) for a period of time is not an end in itself but a means to cause us to learn about and increase our love for Christ. As Piper explains in this book, the Bible gives us many reasons to fast:

  • We fast because we’re hungry for God’s Word and God’s Spirit in our lives.
  • We fast because we long for God’s glory to resound in the church and God’s praise to resound among the nations.
  • We fast because we yearn for God’s Son to return and God’s kingdom to come.
  • Ultimately we fast simply because we want God more than we want anything this world has to offer us.

Few things are as frustrating as trying to convince our loved ones of the greatness and grandeur of God. We are jealous for our neighbors and our faith family and the nations to find satisfaction in God alone. As we recently reread the book you hold in your hands, we have tried to imagine what it would be like if our churches were filled with believers fasting regularly and biblically. What might God be pleased to do if his church rises up to say, “This much, O God, we want you!”? We encourage you to read this book, asking great things from God, “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think!” (Ephesians 3:20).


For a free pdf of the book, as well as options to purchase paperback or Kindle versions, see Desiring God’s updated resource page for a Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer.

This post is transcribed from DesiringGod.org with permission

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God Owes Me Nothing (But Gives Me Everything!)

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty beaten down. I’ve had what is probably the worst 11 month stretch I’ve ever had to go through. It’s tested me, stretched me, and brought me to the end of myself time and time again. I think the hardest thing about it was that there was seemingly no end.

I’m still in the midst of quite a few of these difficulties (job situation, no car, financial strain), but I finally feel–for the first time in a long time–that I’m turning a corner. I’ve been coming to realize that my frustration stemmed from my belief that God owes me something. I mean, I’m going to church, leading in the capacities I am able, leading a small group, reading my Bible.. that must warrant some sort of special grace to me, right??

Not so much.

In reading through John Piper’s Daily Devotional, today’s content really resonated in a special way with me. For the first time in quite a while I’ve been able to see that God owe’s me nothing, and that’s been incredibly freeing. I’ve been able to come to terms with the spiritual state of my soul and where I would be without Christ’s (perfect! willing!!) intervention.

In short, this changes everything.

I’ll let Piper do the rest of the topic with this framework in mind.

—————

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

A vague, bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.

This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?

Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful.

The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.

So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Not 95%, but 100%. (Matthew 22:37)
  • Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be as eager for things to go well for him as you are for things to go well for you. (Matthew 22:39)
  • Do all things without grumbling. No grumbling—inside or outside. (Philippians 2:14)
  • Cast all your anxieties on him—so you are not being weighed down by it anymore. (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Only say things that give grace to others—especially those closest to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Redeem the time. Don’t fritter or dawdle. (Ephesians 5:16)

So much for any pretensions to great holiness! I’m undone.

But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded.

I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer. (“Put to death what is earthly in you” Colossians 3:5. “Put to death the deeds of the body” Romans 8:13.)

In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Peace rises.

Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.

How I Approach God When Feeling Rotten

Help, Lord

“Help, Lord.”—Psalm 12:1.

The prayer itself is remarkable, for it is short, but seasonable, sententious, and suggestive. David mourned the fewness of faithful men, and therefore lifted up his heart in supplication—when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help; but at the same time he intended honestly to exert himself for the cause of truth, for the word “help” is inapplicable where we ourselves do nothing. There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings of certain professors. The Psalmist runs straight-forward to his God, with a well-considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking, and where to seek it. Lord, teach us to pray in the same blessed manner.

The occasions for the use of this prayer are frequent. In providential afflictions how suitable it is for tried believers who find all helpers failing them. Students, in doctrinal difficulties, may often obtain aid by lifting up this cry of “Help, Lord,” to the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher. Spiritual warriors in inward conflicts may send to the throne for reinforcements, and this will be a model for their request. Workers in heavenly labour may thus obtain grace in time of need. Seeking sinners, in doubts and alarms, may offer up the same weighty supplication; in fact, in all these cases, times, and places, this will serve the turn of needy souls. “Help, Lord,” will suit us living and dying, suffering or labouring, rejoicing or sorrowing. In Him our help is found, let us not be slack to cry to Him.

The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord’s character assures us that He will not leave His people; His relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us His aid; His gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and His sure promise stands, “Fear not, I WILL HELP THEE.”

~ C.H. Spurgeon (From Morning and Evening, a daily devotional)

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

At the heart of the word “courage” are ideas of boldness, fortitude and resolve. These three closely related words together provide a robust understanding of courage. Boldness is the confidence to take a risk – initial courage. Fortitude is the firmness of the mind without retreat – sustaining courage. Resolve is the determination to reach the end goal – persevering courage.

Courage is often expressed in word pictures of battle, conflict or crisis (insert a William Wallace freedom cry here) so that a “courageous” person will face an opponent even if victory looks bleak. But what about the courage to speak truth in love though it may cut to the heart (Acts 2:37John 6:60)? It requires courage to call out friends for living lives that do not resemble the faith they profess.

When lacking the courage to speak plainly and with conviction, we often say nothing, call it mercy and let the opportunity pass. Passivity counterfeits for patience. Cowardice masquerades as grace.

Instead of recognizing that our fear of man cripples us to silence, we convince ourselves that we are gracious people. But the problem is that leaving someone in sin is not grace or love; it is consent, indifference and, quite honestly, unloving.

Grace is frequently misunderstood to mean overlooking wrong, when true grace could not be further removed from this misconception. Grace is not rejecting someone when they sin or overlooking sin in a person’s life. It’s having the courage of conviction to call someone out when they sin and to do so in love. Grace is a commitment to bring to light what is in darkness (1 John 1:5-10).

There have been many times in the past where I have overlooked sin in a brother and called it grace. Instead of leading them out of sin, I let them stay in their sin, which corrupts and decays. This is not an act of love but an act of cowardice.

Genuine grace transforms. True grace never overlooks. It is remarkable, and when you see it, you know it. Grace never leaves you the same.

If we quench the voice of the Spirit long enough, we can become numb to His leadings and thereby render our selves useless to our brothers and sisters in the church. We must regain our sense of conviction and be bold, strong and resolved to stand courageously with other believers when we see sin in their lives (Heb. 3:13). This is true love.

It is time to leave coward ways behind and become mature men and women marked by conviction and courage. Are we willing to be bold and initiate conversations with our brothers and sisters who are not living out the faith they profess? Are we willing to show fortitude and to pursue those who are unwilling to change? Are we committed to not letting one in the flock go astray?

After the infamous fratricide in Genesis 4, the Lord comes to Cain asking where his brother is. Cain projects his guilt in his response to the Lord: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The reality is this: He was his brother’s keeper. And I am my brother’s keeper. You are your brother’s keeper. You are your sister’s keeper. We are to look after one another, speaking truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We are to shine the light of Christ into the dark places, especially if that dark place is your brother or sister.

Scriptures for Further Reading

Originally posted on The Village Church’s blog by Clint Patronella here: http://ow.ly/cvCnI

May We Not Simply Sing Louder

“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it because what could we do to stop it. A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance, and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews in route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.” And then the eyewitness shared with Pastor Lutzer, “ Although years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.”

I’m the last person to provide a “let’s become a voice in the nations for all the bad things we know are broken!!” rally cry, so this is not a post for such a rant. However, I do feel like this stirs my heart at a deep, deep level. There are many areas both in our own lives, and the lives of friends and family in which we simply try to drown out, ignore, and hope it simply goes away. Many of these are not situations in which we can simply intervene, but Ephesians 3:20 echoes that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

So all of my finite, broken, and insufficient words aside, may we re-read the excerpt above, and ask for the Holy Spirit to convict us as we need convicting. Ask God to expose us before Him in context of this excerpt, and pray for the power and obedience to act out on it for His glory and name-sake.

Clear The Stage

Take a moment today and meditate on the lyrics of this song. It’s been one that I constantly come back to, and one which is incredibly convicting and hits places that I need to be constantly reminded of. God is gracious to us, and I pray that this will stir your hearts to search your heart, and long to conform yourself closer to the image of Jesus; Lord knows He has used this in me.

Again, rest; take a moment to meditate on these truths and allow the Spirit of God to reveal areas in your life which you can better devote to Him. Love you guys.


Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols

Jerk the pews & all the decorations, too
Until the congregations few, then have revival

Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you’re broken for your sins, you can’t be social

Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

‘Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper

Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister

Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open

Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

‘Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the One who deserves it

Anything I put before my God, is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart, is an idol
Anything can’t stop thinking of, is an idol
Anything that I give all my love, is an idol

‘Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong
And you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols

Joe Encouragement: Let’s Be Like Him

“Encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

His name was Joseph. But he “was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)” (Acts 4:36). Joe Encouragement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be such an encouraging person that your friends simply call you Encouragement?

Courage is the resolve to face a fearful threat. And courage comes from hope — a hope in something stronger than what we fear.

Discouragement sets in when our hope is leaking out. It’s a sort of surrender to our fear. When this happens, and it happens often, what we need is an infusion of hope. That’s what encouragement is. Barnabas went around giving people hope-infusions, which helped them keep fighting the fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).

That’s the way I want to be, don’t you?

It’s not easy. It’s war. Encouragement is spiritual warfare. If you’re going to encourage anyone, you have to fight Satan and your own sin to do it.

The devil is constantly trying to discourage us. He’s the “the accuser of [the] brothers…who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10). And his minions are frequently throwing “flaming darts” of condemnation and jealousy and resentment at us (Ephesians 6:16). Resist them (1 Peter 5:9)!

And our sin nature wants to discourage others. It desires self-exaltation more than anything. So it relishes focusing on others’ weaknesses, foibles, mistakes and sins out of arrogance or envy. Pride is why so much of what we think or say or interpret or hear about others is negative and uncharitably critical.

But the “God of…encouragement” (Romans 15:5) has given us the weapon that is designed to defeat these enemies: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The Bible was “written for our instruction, that…through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). And when we have hope, we will have courage.

So Barnabas people are those who soak in and store up God’s word (Psalm 119:11) and by doing so they are able to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). And when they talk they tend to only speak what “is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give grace to everyone who hears us today? Let’s set out to do it! Let’s be on the hunt for those who need hope-infusions. And let’s ask the Father for Spirit-empowered discernment and Scripture recall so that we leave whomever we interact with today more encouraged than we found them.

“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

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Posted originally by Jon Bloom on Desiring God’s website here: http://ow.ly/bpSYc