Free And Clear
by Stephanie Reinhart, Set Me Free Ministries Team Member
Of all the things that God has created, one of my most favorite things is the wind. I grew up with a dad who loved sailing. He bought an old sailboat when I was eight or nine, and that boat was old then. (I think it was made in the 1940s.) It was not one of the newer fiberglass boats with a metal mast but was made completely of wood—a solid mahogany, nineteen-foot Lightning. My dad was blessed with all girls, but I was his tomboy and loved anything that he loved, so he taught me how to scrape barnacles, sand, varnish, and mend sails. Finally, he taught me how to sail. The boat was a mess, but it was our point of connection and together we finally had restored it.
I remember our boat was so heavy in the water that it took skill to get clear and free of the marina without running into the docks or another boat. Most of the other boats would use a small outboard motor to navigate their way through the marina to open water, but in every way possible, my dad taught me to sail the old-fashioned way. My dad at the helm, he would toss me a paddle and start calling out orders to me, one after the other, to tend to each detail that would eventually bring us clear of all the other boats at dock and lead us to open water. As we cleared the marina, Dad would wet his finger and hold it up to find the wind direction before trimming the sails. And with that, we were off! I loved sailing and the feeling of being free on clear, open water while flying along with the wind.
Drawing close to God gives me that same sense of being free and clear. Each year, just after Christmas, I sense God calling me closer. After all, this is the time of year when we tend to reevaluate our lives, make a bunch of resolutions, set goals, and, well, you know the drill. We want to know what comes next, and we want it to be good!
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions awhile back, when I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t keep them. Of course, this was a “me, myself, and I” type idea and effort, as I hadn’t yet embraced the reality that we are simply not designed to do life without God. Still, it was pretty depressing having to turn a blind eye to the New Year’s resolution thing just to avoid failure. Sound familiar? 1 Corinthians 10:13 describes how there really isn’t any challenge we face that isn’t common to us all, so I know that we’ve all been there or done that in one way or another.
Looking at Matthew 6, we see that Jesus calls us to draw close and walk with God in three distinct ways: to give, to pray, and to fast. Two of the first things we learn about when we come to Christ are prayer and giving. Prayer is vitally important in our walks with Christ as a way to express our thanks and love to God, unload our cares, and receive His life, love, peace, grace, and guidance. We give our lives to God when we realize He is God, and we are not. When we give back to God by being an encouragement to others or giving of our time, effort, or means, God smiles and opens up the floodgates of heaven in joy.
What about fasting, though? What do you think of when you hear the word fasting? In my gut, I just sensed what sounded like screeching brakes and a car crash. What? You want me to fast?
To get free and clear of misconceptions about fasting, we first have to realize that perhaps we haven’t been taught about biblical fasting or how to go about it. Perhaps we don’t see it as something God wants us to do—maybe a pastor or somebody more holy but not us. Somehow, I’d managed to walk with Christ for fifteen years without having any real knowledge of what the Bible said about fasting. In today’s church, you just don’t hear much about it; yet, Jesus said, “so when you give … and when you pray … when you fast” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). Did you notice there is no if in that passage?
Okay, so now that we know we should fast, the question becomes how do we fast and why? I want to suggest a simple approach to fasting, even though there are many ways to approach it and even more reasons for doing so. First, let’s go back to Matthew 6 for guidance and start with the idea of giving your fast to God. God wants to lead you even in your fast, and wherever He leads, you’ll find that He gives grace to follow. Dig into the Scriptures for guidance on what biblical fasts are all about. Isaiah has a lot to say about fasting in chapter 58. Try a word search for fasting in an online Bible resource like www.biblos.com and learn from the different fasts that have occurred in the Bible.
Second, put it to prayer. Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean going completely without food. In fact, it may not even involve food. Some people can’t fast from food for health reasons, so it’s important to use care and wisdom. If you have a medical condition, talk with your doctor first for advice. I also like to take a hard look at what my crutches are. Yes, I said crutches.
In John 5:8 Jesus said, “take up your bed and walk.” Basically, He’s saying to get rid of your crutches! What are your crutches? What do you lean on instead of turning to, seeking, and depending on God? For me, the things I gravitate toward are eating (specifically chocolate) and watching too much TV. I’d recommend that you pray and ask God to help you identify your crutches; ask Him what He would have you fast from. It might be meats, sweets, alcohol, or dairy products. Or, God may call you to fast from pop, TV, or romance novels.
For years, the first thought that came to mind when I actually considered really fasting was what I was going to have to give up! But fasting is really all about drawing closer to God and what you stand to gain. Yes, it involves giving up your crutches, but it’s really about being made able to walk! It’s about stepping into His presence! His presence is simply everything your heart could ever desire-every happiness, success, sense of value, purpose, or fulfillment. What is that yearning hunger in your heart? Is it for a work situation to improve, for your children to come to know and walk decidedly with Christ, or for the end to an addiction? Why is God calling you to fast?
2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. And so through him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.” Every good thing in this life is found in Him! It’s only in Him that we are set free and get clear. Fasting is God’s call to us to press in and say to God, “I want You, God, and everything you have for me.”
You may feel like your boat is a mess and you’ll never make it out onto open water. But with Christ as your Captain, it’s all good, because He sees your boat repaired, restored, and sailing free and clear. He’ll guide your every step, because in Christ, we are set free and clear! Can you feel the wind picking up?
Isaiah 58:6 says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
May the wind of His will and presence fill the sails of your life this year!