Are you facing decisions this month, this year – things for which you need wisdom and direction? Life presents major decisions that are crucial to our future. Decisions can impact our destinies. We mull over them for weeks, months even, without making a determination one way or the other, scared of the consequences in either direction.
God promises that when we enter the chosen fast, He will cause His “light [to] break forth like the morning” (Isa. 58:8). If we focus on God’s will and not our own when we are facing major decisions, He will give us the wisdom, perspective and insight we need to make the right choice. One way we focus on Him and His will is through fasting.
As a persecutor of Christ and His followers, Saul was confronted with a life-changing decision, revelation of God’s light, and a fast while traveling the Damascus road. After being struck down by God, Saul was blind for three days. He “neither ate nor drank” for three days (Acts 9:9).
Can you imagine how Saul felt in those moments? He had dedicated his life to persecuting Christians. He must have been shocked and confused about Christ…and what all of this meant for his future. It was only after he went without eating and drinking that he saw the light. God sent a man named Ananias to the house where Saul was. Ananias came with a message from God for Saul. He laid his hands on Saul and Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle.
Paul previously had a misconception about God. He saw a narrow, Jewish God. He didn’t understand God’s love for the world. He was going down the wrong highway to Damascus. Everything changed when he met Jesus. And the change took place through three days of fasting. During this time Paul rethought his views of God and Jesus. God gave him the foundation and theology of the New Testament.
The Saint Paul fast is for gaining insight and wisdom. It is for those times when we face major decisions. Like Paul, we may feel in the dark, confused and uncertain. During the Saint Paul Fast, we target our choices and decisions. The following steps, taken from Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthroughby Elmer Towns, will help you as you target these decisions during your fast.
1. Make Time to Listen for Jesus’ Voice
As Paul was traveling to Damascus, he heard the voice of Jesus. He was specifically directed to a house off of Straight Street in Damascus. There he had time to meditate on what he had heard Jesus say. Begin your fast by listening for God’s voice. “Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10).
2. Ask and Answer Questions About Yourself
After Paul was struck to the ground on his way to Damascus, God asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Paul truly thought he was serving God by persecuting Jesus’ followers. There are times that we think we’re on God’s side, doing His will, when in fact we aren’t. We think we are choosing His will, making a correct decision, when we aren’t.
Let God ask you questions when you fast. Study what Scripture says about your decisions. Linger in the quiet and let God speak to your spirit.
“After God had asked Paul a question, the confused Jew in turn asked God a question, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (Acts 9:5). Paul didn’t recognize the transfigured Son of God who had stopped him from entering Damascus with vengeance in his heart. Paul asked an appropriate question. Until we know who God is, we cannot know what to do. God will not show us an answer until we want to know Him. He will not show us an answer until He shows us Himself.”[i]
3. Recognize the Objective Truth
As we face decisions, we are often confused, frustrated and concentrated on our own line of thinking. The Saint Paul fast changes our self-focus. Our answer is not inside of us, it exists externally, in Christ. Although Paul was shocked and confused, he did recognize that his answer was in the Lord Jesus – “Who are you Lord? (Acts 9:5) – not in himself.
“When we fast, we signal our willingness to accept God’s truth instead of our own subjective musings.”[ii] So often the truth is presenting itself to us, yet we ignore it.
The best way to start a fast is to start as Saint Paul did. He fell to the ground, “trembling and astonished” (Acts 9:6). He asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” As he did this, he confessed in his confusion that Jesus is Lord. When Paul recognized Jesus, his life changed course. It turned around instantly. Like Paul, we should call on the One who can help, and recognize Him as Lord – as master and ruler.
4. Stop All Self-Effort and Yield to God
There are times that we are supposed to work and work unto the Lord, and there are times to pause in stillness and silence before God. Fasting as Paul did means to stop self-effort. It is not a time to work, but a time to wait. It is a time to dive deep into the heart of God in complete submission to Him and His will.
5. Pay Attention to the Spiritual
Submit your spirit. When Paul called Jesus “Lord,’ it was an admission by an opponent of the Gospel that Jesus was his master and ruler. It was also an admission that his past actions were wrong.
Search with your whole heart. “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer.29;13). So often we think we are seeking God wholeheartedly, but the longer we remain in His presence, the more we see our natural man on the throne. The more we search for Him, the more we find selfish motives, pride and deception. Such traits of our flesh could be driving our decisions. The Saint Paul fast is a time to search for God with our whole heart.
Allow God to search you. In the Saint Paul fast, we ask God to show us what is in our hearts. We ask Him to shine the light of His Spirit and reveal hidden sin and show us what is there. He already knows what is there. The goal is that we know it.
Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you. Entering the Saint Paul fast means asking the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).
Study diligently and pray. We are to diligently study the word that we might rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Dive deep into God’s word with all the study aids you can and gain a clear understanding of the Scriptures. Pray and meditate on what He has revealed to you.
6. Be Open to Insights from Others.
God spoke to Paul personally, but He also gave additional insight and direction through Ananias. As you fast and pray, God may give you limited understanding, as He did to Paul. As you continue fasting and praying, He may be giving someone else your answer, and you may have to wait for that person to come into your life. Just because you don’t have the answer yet doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Be patient!
7. Prepare to Be Misunderstood
As Paul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, several men were with him. Some were servants and others companions who would search the houses of Christians in order to arrest them. God did not speak to the men who were with Paul. “The men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one” (v. 7). Only Paul saw Jesus.
The Saint Paul fast is a often a solitary fast. You stand alone before God. Your conversation is with Him. Do not be surprised if others do not understand – family, colleagues, friends…even spiritual leaders.
What is the bottom line? When you are in the dark and don’t know what decision to make, fast. When you need insight and wisdom, fast. The same Lord and Savior who revealed Himself to Paul will reveal Himself and His will to you.
“Then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (Isa. 58:10).
Question: How are you targeting your decisions through prayer and fasting?