Fasting? Do You Lose “Weight” or “Pounds?”

Fasting? Fasting. Fasting! So often we have questions, comments and emotions about fasting. There are so many types of fasts and it is no question that fasting is biblical and is a spiritual discipline (Matthew 6:16-18 – Not “if,” but “when ye fast …”). There have been times when I was overwhelmed by trying to keep up with the foods that I was to be fasting from, that I almost missed the spiritual growth that was to take place during the fast. I almost missed the ministry God was doing within me!

I could do a long teaching on fasting, but the purpose of my blog this week is for you to ask yourself some questions about why you fast. I asked someone recently the question “why do you fast?” The answer I got was “I fast to lose weight.” My initial reaction was “wow, how non-spiritual was that!” But I got an honest answer to my question. Her response made me ask myself some questions. When I fast, do I lose “weight” (those things that spiritually or emotionally weigh me down) or do I only lose “pounds?” When I finish a fast, am I hungry only for food or am I hungry for more of God?

You may be asking yourself, “What does fasting have to do with spiritual anemia?” Remember that spiritual anemia happens when you become be too busy, too overwhelmed, too tired, too religious, or too “trying to keep up” in order to spend quality time with God. Bottom line is that other things get in the way of your critical and necessary spiritual nourishment.

But what happens when you do those things that are supposed to bring spiritual nourishment, but you do not feel spiritually refreshed when you are done? What has happened when you fast and you realize that all you did was lose pounds but the weight is still there!

How can this happen? My answer goes back to the reason we become spiritually anemic – too busy, too overwhelmed, too tired, too religious, or too “trying to keep up.”

You see, what I have learned is that even when I do those spiritual disciplines that are to bring me close to God, if I do them with a “busyness” mindset, then what exactly will be accomplished? When I fast, if I only fast and do not take the time to pray and study God’s word during the fast, then will I get the breakthrough that God intends for me to have? Do you get supernatural breakthroughs as a result of your fast or are you so busy during the fast that you are only doing the mechanics of fasting (i.e.: not eating or whatever you are fasting from)? During your fast, do you pray? Do you seek God? Do you study His word? Or are you so busy during a fast that you get no spiritual breakthrough and the only thing that happens is you lose a few pounds?

I realize that life and your daily routines do not stop because you are fasting. But when you are committed to prayer and study during a fast, then you can experience a revival within, guidance, resolution for a problem, or the strength to handle a difficult situation.

What is the TEACHing Moment? I learned that when I fast, I can’t be so busy that I don’t pray and spend quality time with God. Fasting is more than a mechanical process of not eating certain foods. The combination of fasting, prayer, and study of the Word is powerful.

My last fast was more than just an exercise of my being able to not eat meat or sweets. It was an experience of denying my flesh. It was an experience of obedience. It was an experience of continuous praying without ceasing. It was an experience of deeper study and meditation time. What was the outcome? There was a spiritual breakthrough in my life! God released me from something I had been dealing with for some time. I have learned that fasting (just not eating) in itself is of no spiritual value (Jeremiah 14:12; I Corinthians 8:8) – “that which is of the flesh is flesh,” (John 3:6). But when I fast to seek God it is the attitude of my heart sincerely seeking Him to which God responds with blessing. When I fast, pray, study, and seek God with my whole heart, I can experience a mighty spiritual deliverance! I lost weight!

Reflect on the last time you fasted – Did you lose “weight” or did you just lose pounds?

To further study fasting, I recommend you read the text A Hunger for God by John Piper.

HOW Do I Pray Without Ceasing?

How do I pray without ceasing? I have often asked God this question hoping that He would give me some sort of answer with a process I could follow. Praying without ceasing is critical to keep you from falling into a state of spiritual anemia (if you have not read my previous two blogs on spiritual anemia, you may want to read them before going any further). But just how do I make this command from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 become real and active in my life? Please God, show me how with an 8-hour plus job, daily homework with my son, time with my husband, T.E.A.C.H. Ministries work, church work, and being a daughter to my parents to pray without ceasing!

I spend time with God daily, but how can I possibly pray without ceasing? Does God expect me to have my head bowed and my eyes closed at all times? For years, that is what I thought and I often got frustrated when I could not live up to “being a woman who prays without ceasing.”

Praise God for understanding! Now I can share it with you.

One of my favorite websites explains “pray without ceasing” in this way – “Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but rather an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions. When our thoughts turn to worry, fear, discouragement, and anger, we are to consciously and quickly turn every thought into prayer and every prayer into thanksgiving. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commands us to stop being anxious and instead, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). He taught the believers at Colossae to devote themselves “to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to see prayer as a weapon to use in fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:18). As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task that God commands. A lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, continual dependence upon and communion with the Father.”

I have learned that in order to stay spiritually nourished, praying must become like breathing. To be fully functional, we must stay in the presence of God.

Brief moments of prayer once or twice a day is not sufficient for your spiritual health. Here is a strategy to help you to pray without ceasing. Put this strategy into practice and watch God change things!

Here is the strategy. Each day do two things 1) get a scripture that you will meditate on for the entire day and 2) designate for yourself a prayer focus – that is, what/who you will pray about and be thankful about for the entire day. Let me warn you that being thankful for a situation that you want changed is difficult! Now, meditate, pray and be thankful for the entire day.

Here is an example – My scripture for the past few weeks has been Psalm 30:5b, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Today, all day, I will be praying and giving God thanks for my marriage and marriages in general. Tomorrow, all day, I will have a different prayer focus, but my scripture may remain the same or it could change.

What will be my outcome? I have already experienced that when there was a pressure in my life because of a work situation, I immediately said “I will find joy in this situation.” What did God do? He gave me the strength to endure. What do I have that no one can take from me? JOY!

I know for some of you this strategy may sound elementary. If it is elementary, then you should have no problem doing it – all day – every day!

I am excited to hear how God is going to do great things in your life because you are learning to pray without ceasing! Let me know how you grew spiritually based on your new action of PRAY WITHOUT CEASING!

How do you pray without ceasing? Respond and let me and others know!

Spiritual Anemia – My Journey to Recovery

Many people have asked me what it takes to write a blog. Writing a blog is just like preparing to deliver a sermon. You must seek God, study the Word and then write as the Lord leads you. Writing a blog is not easy because it takes time, prayer, and study. If God leads you to take on this assignment, know that He will equip you for it. Who knows parts of this blog could become part my second book! We will wait to see what God does!

Now on to this week’s blog – My Journey to Recovery!

In my last blog I discussed spiritual anemia and how you can develop this spiritual disease. Many of my blog readers told me they connected with being spiritually anemic. With the many demands on us today, spiritual anemia can become a major distraction in our life and ministry.

Let me give you an example. There have been so many times when I have been so busy with ministry work that I did not take the time for the ministry within me. I must be transparent and tell you that this has happened to me more than once! My book, The Ministry Within, addresses the times this happened to me and the outcome of being in this condition.

What did I learn? This is simple, hard-hitting, yet you must hear it. Based on my experiences of the outcome of being in an anemic state, I learned that spiritual anemia comes from being too busy, too overwhelmed, too tired, too religious, or too “trying to keep up” in order to spend quality time with God. Bottom line was that I was letting other things get in the way of my critical and necessary spiritual nourishment.

Your intimate relationship with the Father is vital to moving forth in life and ministry. Do not get so busy that you neglect the One who gives you life and ministry!

You must take the time to learn to nourish yourself spiritually so that you will not neglect your quality time with God. How do you nourish yourself spiritually?

Actions to Keep You Spiritually Nourished

The following actions can move you beyond just a surface living and drive you into the deep! These are spiritual disciplines that when I really learned them, I set as a goal to implement them daily. It is not easy, but I find when I neglect either action, I find myself spiritually weak.

You must understand that these disciplines are ACTIONS and must be IMPLEMENTED. Reading them in my blog and not putting them into action will not help you. It just gives you more information. Each of these disciplines the Bible tells us to do and they place us before God so that He can continue to transform us and give us strength for those “fiery darts”!

These disciplines are easy to say that we want to do them, but when it is time to become disciplined such that we do them DAILY, we must ask ourselves are we doing them?

Here they are . . .

  • Pray
  • Fast
  • Study

I told you they were simple and I am sure you have heard this before. The question is how many of us do them on a daily basis? Notice, I did not say “regularly,” I said “daily.” If we do implement these disciplines daily, are they surface or are they deep?

You may ask how can I do all these on a daily basis? Well, I am glad you asked! Remember, this is a TEACHing Moment Blog. Therefore, in the next blog we will cover “Just HOW Do I Pray Without Ceasing?”

Meditate on Psalm 42:1-2 so that we will know why we must pray, fast, and study daily.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

Until my next blog remember you must keep yourself spiritually in shape. Weariness will distort your perspective on life and ministry.

Spiritual Anemia – A Deadly Disease

A few days ago, I was having coffee at Starbucks with a wonderful friend who is also one of the T.E.A.C.H. faculty. During the conversation she said that she was still waiting to read my writing on spiritual anemia. I told her I really did not want to publish that blog, but the Holy Spirit was not releasing me from writing it. So, I guess you may be wondering “why did it take Saundra so long to publish this blog on spiritual anemia?” Well, being the transparent person I am, let me give you the two reasons. First, I was struggling with whether or not I wanted the opening A TEACHing Moment Blog to be about one of my recent personal struggles. Secondly, this level of transparency is difficult to admit. You see, when I am transparent enough to admit that I was on my way to developing spiritual anemia, I also have to be transparent and discuss how I allowed myself to get into this state. Some people would not want to admit that they got to this point, but as that same friend told me, “Saundra, take the Superwoman ‘S’ off your chest.” I have learned that when I can acknowledge that I have an issue, God can move me past the issue and heal me. My experience can show you that when you are dealing with an issue, God will give you the strength to endure.

My issue began after T.E.A.C.H. Conference 2011 which was September 2011. I was so busy doing the “work” of ministry, that I neglected the ministry that needed to take place within me. My book, The Ministry Within, had just been published. My grandmother had just gone home to be with the Lord. I had several preaching engagements before the end of the year. I had responsibilities as an elder at my church. My job at community colleges had become unusually stressful and demanding. The holidays were approaching. Then of course, my duties as a wife, mom, daughter, sister and aunt did not stop. I had gotten to a point where I was physically tired and I did not have the physical strength to spend quality time with God. I was experiencing the scripture how the Word gives life and the flesh profits us nothing (John 6:63). I was experiencing how it felt when the life of the Word was not flowing in me as it should. My time with God is vital to my existence and when it was not flowing as it should, I was becoming spiritually sick. I was getting progressively worse and I did not even realize it. It was not until mid December 2011 and I faced a major professional battle that I realized that I did not have the spiritual strength to fight.

Explaining the battle is not necessary. But you should know that I was in a battle that required major spiritual warfare. It was evident that I was not wrestling against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). I was equipped with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), but I was not strong enough to carry it (Ephesians 6:10). So when those fiery darts came at me (and let me tell you they were more like spears than darts!), I felt as though I did not have the strength to stand (Ephesians 6:13). But God!

This experience taught me so many things that I will share in this blog during the month of March. For now, you must know that God showed Himself so strong on my behalf.

What should you take away from this TEACHing Moment?

  1. Your spiritual health is critical and needs to stay built up for the storms in life.
  2. Do not get so busy that you neglect your personal and intimate time with God. It is critical for your life. The Word is life.
  3. When you are developing spiritual anemia, the enemy will attempt to steal your joy!
  4. — Your relationship with God begins to weaken (Hebrews 2:1; 3:12; 5:12-14)
  5. — Your resistance to sin begins to weaken (James 1:13-15; 3:13; 4:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:6; Revelation 3:1-3)

Based on what you have read, ask yourself these questions:

“How is my spiritual health?”

“Am I on my way to developing spiritual anemia?”

“Is my life so busy that I are not giving the appropriate time with God?”

If your answer to any of these is “yes,” know that you do not have to stay in this state.

What God has given me and my lessons learned have helped me to find incredible balance in my life.

My next TEACHing Moment will deal with the lessons I learned about life balance on my journey to recovery.