FAST AND PRAY FOR BREAKTHROUGH
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, August 18, 2019.
Part 2 of 21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING. Various passages and Mark 9:14-29.
OUR GOD BREAKS THROUGH
Last Sunday, I started to tell you a story and didn't finish it. I didn't realize until I got home and had one of those moments: "Oh no, I didn't finish that story. Duh!" It isn't age. I've been doing this my whole life, getting distracted and losing my place. Squirrel! Anyway, here's the rest of the story ...
During the 21 days in August, 2018, I felt the Lord set me free from an unhealthy dependence on food. For many years, I used food as a drug. I ate my emotions; for example, if I was discouraged, I yearned for pizza and chocolate. Food brought me comfort and, as a result, I hated fasting. Some time during that August fast, I felt food lose its grip on me. I still eat. I still enjoy food. But I no longer need it or use it as a drug. God gave me a breakthrough. I still have my struggles with food, but they aren't nearly as intense as they used to be.
We are fasting and praying for 21 days because we believe our God breaks through. He delivers. He saves. He rescues. He heals. He transforms. He makes a way where there is no way. The Bible is a catalog of breakthroughs. Here's just a few examples:
Moses raised his arms over the battlefield. God gave Israel victory.
Elijah told Naaman to go into the river. God healed him of leprosy.
Jonah preached in Nineveh. The people of the city repented. God saved them from judgment.
I could go on and on, but let's cut to the chase and consider the greatest breakthrough in history: Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried on Friday. On Saturday, he lay cold in the grave. But early on Sunday, God broke through. The Spirit of God breathed life. Jesus rose from the dead, alive forevermore.
That's why we fast and pray for breakthrough. God can, and often does, break through whatever we're going through.
A CONNECTION: PHYSICAL OBEDIENCE AND SUPERNATURAL BREAKTHROUGH
God's breakthroughs are often preceded by our physical obedience:
God gave military victory when Moses raised his hands. God did nothing when Moses lowered his hands (Exodus 17:8-16).
Elisha told Naaman to wash in the river Jordan seven times. He didn't want to. How could a river heal his body from leprosy? Who knows? But it was only when he stepped into the water that God broke through (2 Kings 5:8-14).
Jonah had to go into the city. He had to stand on the street and raise his voice and speak judgment. Only then did God break through (Jonah 3:1-10).
I can think of more examples:
Only when Moses stretched out his hand over the sea did God break through and part the waters for Israel to escape bondage in Egypt (Exodus 14:15-22).
Only when the woman stretched out her hand to touch Jesus's robe did God break through and heal her body (Luke 8:43-48).
I could go on and on ...
If you're looking for God to deliver you from sins and unhealthy habits (such as my food thing), remember this: there's a connection between your physical obedience and God's supernatural breakthrough:
(Romans 6:13) Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
God sets us free when we obey with our bodies - "do not offer any part of yourself; offer every part of yourself." Here, one key to supernatural change is physical obedience. And that is one reason why we fast and pray. There is a link between the physical act of fasting and the breakthroughs we are praying for.
DELIVERANCE FROM DEMONIC OPPRESSION BY PRAYER AND FASTING
In Mark 9, we are taught that deliverance from demonic oppression is preceded by the physical action of fasting. Let's read it now:
(Mark 9:14-29, NIV)) When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy's father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He's dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn't we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer (some manuscripts have "and fasting.")
That's a great story, isn't it? Jesus set the boy free from demonic oppression. Here's what we need to know:
Jesus is exceedingly glorious. As the disciples were trying to cast out the demon, Jesus was up the mountain revealing his glory:
(Mark 9:2-3) There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. (See Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:12-14)
When Jesus came down the mountain, the people must have seen his radiant glory because Mark wrote that, "As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him" (verse 15). Listen, there is no room at all for indifference and a "ho hum" attitude to Jesus. If you're in the doldrums, ask the Holy Spirit to re-awaken your spirit with "wonder" at Jesus.
Demons hate people. They hate us because they hate God. Since they can't hurt or kill God, they attack us. Demons are real and they are deadly. They deceive us, mislead us, make us sick, and try to kill us. Derek Prince writes, "Under Satan's domination, they work to inflict on humanity every possible form of harm, deception and torment" (They Shall Expel Demons, 1998, p. 94).
Demons manifest themselves under many different names. In our Mark 9 passage, Jesus called the demon who attacked the boy, "You deaf and mute spirit" (verse 25). In other places in the New Testament, demons manifest with names such as crippling, predicting the future, deceiving, timidity, falsehood (Luke 13:11; Acts 16:16; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:6).
Demons are no match for the power and authority of God. Jesus cast out the demon with a simple command, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again" (verse 25). There was immediate obedience, not even a moment of resistance.
The disciples did not have the power or authority to cast out the demon, They had tried and failed. Why? Because they were working in their own power. They had grown self-confident and self-sufficient, forgetting their dependence on God. This is why Jesus rebuked them, "You unbelieving generation" (verse 19). This is why he cast the demon out with a simple word, as if to say, "I'm the only one with the power to do this. Apart from me, you can do nothing" (compare John 15:5).
Physical obedience precedes spiritual breakthroughs. The account ends with the main point of the story. Jesus said, "This kind come out only by prayer and fasting." Prayer and fasting express our total dependence on God. The disciples forged ahead on their own and hit the wall. We need God to do what we cannot do. That's what we're "saying" when we pray and fast. "God, please move in supernatural power in this situation.
PRAY FOR SUPERNATURAL BREAKTHROUGH
Last week, we focused on the greatness of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We yielded ourselves to his greatness; we humbled ourselves; we surrendered our lives to him. Tomorrow, we begin week 2 of our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. We'll focus on supernatural breakthrough in all kinds of situations in our lives, in our church, and in our neighborhoods; situations such as: spiritual awakening, faith in Jesus, and salvation; progress over sins, habits, and addictions; improved health, finances, and relationships; and release of spiritual gifts and miracles. The 21 Day guide will help you know what to pray about and you can add your own prayers to it. We'll rely on two principles:
Our God breaks through. Nothing is impossible with God. He can do immeasurably beyond what we can ask or imagine. He is the chain-breaker, way-maker.
God responds to our physical acts of prayer and fasting with supernatural breakthroughs.
Right now, I want us to humble ourselves in prayer for breakthrough. Let's stand and raise holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8) in prayer as we call on the Lord for breakthrough:
"Father God, nothing is impossible for you. We surrender our lives fully to you and declare that we are totally dependent on your power. During this second week of our 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer, please do a supernatural work in and through us, and in the situations around us. I want to see your Kingdom blessings manifest in and through me, at the Cornerstone, in my family, workplace, neighborhood, and the Blue Water Region: Life in place of death; joy in place of depression; health in place of sickness; prosperity in place of poverty; dignity in place of depravity; peace in place of conflict; order in place of chaos; truth in place of lies; and godliness in place of evil. And we will praise you and thank you and bow down to you, our great God. In Jesus' name, Amen!"
What if the Lord doesn't answer our prayer, or doesn't answer the way we want or when we want? That's a good and appropriate question. God does not always say yes. Sometimes he says no, or not like that. Sometimes he says wait. But that should not discourage us from asking. It's better to pray than not to pray. It's better to ask God to get involved than to try on our own or to give up trying at all. Stay in faith because you know for certain that God is always God. He is always great and good. He always loves and cares for us. He never abandons us. He will make everything right in the end.
A FINAL WORD
Please make it a priority to be here next Sunday morning. I know it's the end of summer and there are things to do and places to go before school starts and the weather changes. BUT ... I believe the physical action of being here with God's people to worship and pray and hear God speak, will be rewarded with supernatural breakthrough. Joey and I have worked on making next Sunday a unique experience with a lot of opportunity for God to work in our lives. We're raising the bar on our expectations. We're moving out of the status quo. We're saying no to complacency and indifference. We're rejecting any "church as usual" attitude. We want more of God. We want to see him move. We are desperate. If you're desperate for the Lord, do all you can to be here.
Remember to take a 21 Day guide and use it this week. Come back next Sunday full of expectation.