It is hard to believe that this will be our last service in 2018. God started us off with the book of Joshua so that we could learn how to take the territory that He has given us in our lives and in our city. This past year may not have gone as you planned or envisioned. Your faith may have grown this past year or maybe it was challenged. Nonetheless, you are still here and are putting your trust in God. I want to talk a little about sowing in tears and then finish off with talking about the fast and what we will trusting God to do in our church in 2019.
I. Sowing in Tears
Psalm 126:1-6: When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.
This psalm is talking about Israel’s coming out of their seventy years of captivity. Their disobedience and rebellion brought them into captivity. God did a mighty work in them though this captivity and was bringing them into a new season of harvest and celebration.
When the Lord brought them out of captivity, they thought they were in a dream. The were filled with joy and laughter and they sang (or they worshiped).
They prayed this prayer: “God restore our fortunes as streams renew the desert.” They had lost everything, but they knew God could restore all they had lost and more!
This is a beautiful picture for us. We may plant in tears but we will harvest with shouts of joy.
Tears of Sorrow / Suffering
2 Kings 20:5: “Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord.
God sends the prophet Isaiah to tells King Hezekiah to set his affairs in order because his days are numbered. Hezekiah cries out to God and reminds Him of his faithfulness to follow and do God’s will.
God hears his prayer and heals him, adding fifteen years to his life. He also gives him victory over his enemies.
Tears of Joy
Genesis 33:4: Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.
Jacob is trying to return home and is worried about Esau still being mad at him. When they saw each other for the first time in many years, they embraced each other with tears of joy.
Tears of Compassion
John 11:33-35: When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.
Jesus wept with compassion as Mary, Martha and others grieved over the loss of Lazarus.
Tears of Desperation
Esther 4:1-3: When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes.
Mordecai found out that his people were about to be wiped out so he and the rest of the Jews fasted and wept for God to save them.
God gave Esther favor with the King and her people were spared.
Tears of Travail / Giving birth
Isaiah 42:13-14: The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero; he will come out like a warrior, full of fury. He will shout his battle cry and crush all his enemies. He will say, “I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labor, I will cry and groan and pant.
God was about to rescue and restore his people in this text. He tells His people to come to Him in worship. He tells them to sing a new song.
Birthing things for the Kingdom of God is not easy and there are going be tears that will take place as we travail for His will to come forth.
Tears of Repentance
Joel 2:12-13: That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.
There are times when we may get away from the Lord and we need to have a time of repentance. This may be because you have tried to make things happen on your own or maybe you have allowed doubt to enter your heart.
Galatians 6:7-10: Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
I want to remind you of this promise in Scripture. We will always harvest what we plant. We have been sowing Kingdom seeds in our city and in our families for the past five years and we are going to see His Kingdom come forth.
You may be in a place of frustration and may be thinking, What’s the use? I have fasted every year and nothing has changed. God is faithful and He says that we will reap the harvest at the right time if we do not give up. We can’t control when that time is, but we can prepare ourselves and be ready when it comes. We have come this far. Let’s see this through and be amazed by what God does!
II. The Fast
The goal of this fast is come to a revelation of who Jesus is and a greater intimacy with Him.
We are going to do this fast from a place of rest. I want our church to commit to getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night for the next twenty-one days. If you have a busy life, find was to cut things out and make time for the Lord and your family.
God wants to speak to us through dreams and visions this year and I believe we are going to have some powerful encounters with Him as we sleep and rest in Him!
God has made it clear to us that we need the Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives if we are going to walk in all that God has for us. We need to be led by our Spirit and not our flesh. Fasting is what enables us to do that. We deny our flesh and weaken it, which allows the Spirit to take the lead and help us to hear what God is speaking to us.
Keys to hearing God and knowing what to fast:
Silence is putting away the outer distractions. People hate silence because the moment they are silent they begin to see the chaos within. The Holy Spirit will purify us in the seeking. The flesh does not like to wait. Silence is what weakens our flesh as we wait on the Lord.
Stillness is the quieting of the soul. The moment we begin to pray, we have fear crossing our minds. The Holy Spirit wants us to trust so that He can free us from any inner chaos.
It’s in the stillness that we lay down our burdens, cares and worries at the feet of Jesus.
Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God!
Psalm 37:7: Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.
Stillness is waiting on the Lord. It helps you to let God be God and stop trying to make things happen in your own strength and wisdom. Let God be in control while you sit back and watch, and be amazed!
Stillness precedes revelation.
What we do in private will be revealed in public. If we are not praying and seeking God, we are not going to see him move in our city or in our lives. God moves through our prayers. That is why prayer and fasting are so important.
David killed bears and lions in private before he defeated Goliath in public. God knew that He could trust David in public because of how He lived in private. That goes the same for us.
Here is how I want our church to pray during this fast. I want you to fast whatever will help you silence the noise and distraction around you. I want you be in a place of stillness where you have laid every worry, doubt, and anxiety at the feet of Jesus and you are at a place of complete peace in His presence. When you get to this place of silence and stillness, ask God what He wants you to pray for in that moment.
Here are three things I believe will come through this fast:
A greater revelation of who Jesus is and a greater intimacy with Him.
A greater relationship with the Holy Spirit and His leading in our everyday lives.
A greater release of God’s Kingdom in our city as we step out in faith and obedience to God.