The Secret to Effective Ministry


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 13:1-3

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

As God calls Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries, we gain insight into how and when God speaks, and learn how every believer can find the power to effectively minister to those the Lord has placed in their life.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

You can go ahead and turn to Acts 13. That's where we're going to be today. Acts 13 will mark Paul's transition into his primary calling and role as the Apostles sent to the gentiles. If you don't know, a gentile is just someone who's not a Jew. While the book has been primarily focused on the church in Jerusalem up to this point, it will now shift its focus to the gentile nations as the gospel continues working its way outward like the ripples caused by a stone thrown into a pond. While the ministry of the gospel to the Jews spread out from Jerusalem, the ministry of the gospel to the gentiles will primarily spread out from the church in Antioch. In Acts 11, this is on your outlines, we read, Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenix, Cypress, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men from Cypress and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

Most of the Jerusalem Church, almost all of it, was initially composed of Jews who had come to the city for the Feast of Pentecost, heard the gospel, believed in the Lord Jesus, and never returned home. They just stayed where God was moving, which was in Jerusalem. But when Steven was murdered and intense persecution broke out against the church, they pretty much all returned to their homes in Phoenix, Cypress, and Antioch. While they preached the gospel as they traveled, almost all of them spoke exclusively to other Jews. But there were a few men who preached to the gentiles, and God moved through them mightily, saving thousands of gentiles in Antioch, just as he had saved thousands of Jews in Jerusalem. With that, the church established her first beachhead in pagan gentile territory in the city of Antioch. Hearing about the work God was doing, the elders of the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate if gentiles were indeed being saved in Antioch. It was plain to him that God was indeed moving mightily, but there was a great need for leaders and teachers to raise these new believers to maturity. So he tracked down his old friend, Solomon, and brought him to Antioch, where the two of them served as elders and the church flourished.

It was in Antioch where believers were first called Christians. You recall that Sol and Barnabas had recently been to Jerusalem to deliver a financial gift to the church there from the church in Antioch. There was a famine affecting the church in Jerusalem, and the brethren in Antioch wanted to help, so they sent Sol and Barnabas with a financial gift. Now, as the two of them return to Antioch, our camera leaves Jerusalem and follows them. It's around 46 AD, and we read in Acts 13, verse 1, Now in the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Nizhar, Lucius of Cyrene, Manea, a close friend of Herod the Tetrarch, and Sol. These five men served as elders at the church in Antioch. Prophets receive divine revelation concerning the future and or practical instructions. In the former case, God will give a prophet a message about the future to serve as a warning, an encouragement, or to allow a person or a people to prepare. We saw Agbis the Prophet do this in Acts 11 28 when he warned of the coming famine. He will do it again with Paul individually in Acts 21 verses 10 and 11.

In the latter case, as we shall see in the next verse, God will give a Prophet a message regarding something that needs to be done, a practical instruction. It's important to note that in the early church, Prophets were not given divine revelation concerning doctrine. God did that through the uppercase a, Apostles, Paul and the members of the 12. Teachers are gifted by God with the ability to explain the Bible in a way that gives people a right understanding of Scripture so that they're built up in their faith and empowered to obey Jesus. Now, as an aside, the term preaching generally refers to speaking to believers about things they already understand, but connecting with them on an emotional level, appealing and exhorting them to act on what Jesus has commanded them to do. We need a good mix of both. The church in Antioch was led by prophets, teachers, and preachers, a powerful combination. Paul had all three of those gifts. We learned about Barnabas back in Acts 11. We don't really know anything about Simeon called Nezhaire, except the nickname Nezhaire was a term meaning black or dark. It's a Latin term. It's where the name of the African country Niger comes from and Nigeria.

It wasn't considered insulting at the time. I know this is hard to believe, but there was a time in history in the distant past when people weren't easily offended by everything in the world. It's really interesting. There's parts of the world that are still like this. I'm a huge Manchester United soccer fan and there was a player from Uruguay on Manchester United. A bout two years ago, he had a friend that he was saying happy birthday to on Instagram. We just wrote a comment, This guy is his good friend. I think we referred to him as Negrito, which just means blackie. Everyone was so offended, nobody even bothered to ask, But is the friend offended? Everyone was just offended on the friend's behalf, but the friend wasn't even actually offended. That's where we are now. We're offended on behalf of other people. We can't even just be busy with the things that offend us. We got to be offended on behalf of other people. We don't even need to check if they're actually offended. You should be offended. How dare you not be offended? I'm offended on your behalf. I'm offended that you're not offended.

That's how offended I am. This guy's nickname was Neger, which literally just meant black. Here's the idea. If I moved to Mexico and I took on a Mexican name and I took on the name Jose, it would be like everyone calling me white Jose. That would be it. I wouldn't have anything to be offended about. I know some of your brains are like, That doesn't compute. I know I should be offended, but I don't understand why there's this this turmoil. Listen to the logical part of your brain, okay? Scholars tell us that it does almost certainly mean he was from Africa. He took on a common name Simeon, and so everyone was just like, Which Simeon? Black Simeon. That's all it meant. He wasn't offended, they weren't offended. The end. All we know about Lucius of Cyrene is that he was from Cyrene, which was a port city in North Africa on the Mediterranean. The one detail we have about Manna'in is that he was a close friend of Herod the Tetrarch. This was Herod Antipas, who oversaw Judea during the ministry of Jesus. The original Greek tells us Manna'in was brought up with Herod.

The term can even be translated as foster brother. It seems that one way or another, he was raised in the same household as Herod. Paul obviously needs no introduction. I just want to point something out while we're here. The five elders in Antioch at this time consisted of a lifelong devout Jew who was from the Priestley tribe of Levi. That was Barnabas. An upper class Gentile raised in the house of the wicked Roman ruler of Israel, an evangelist who formerly persecuted the church so intensely that they fled Jerusalem for their lives, an Arab from North Africa, and a black man likely also from Africa. Now, reading that in 2023, you might be tempted to think, That's great. They obviously had a diversity, equality, and inclusion initiative in place in the church in Antioch to ensure equal representation among the ethnicities of the city. But they didn't. They didn't. The text simply lists their names and in some cases where they were from. That's because the people in Antioch were not concerned about those other things. They were concerned with the biblical criteria for elders. Again, I know this is mind blowing, but their primary concern was, did these men meet the character requirements and were they gifted by God for the role?

That was it. That's all they were looking at. When Paul lays out the requirements for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, he doesn't mention ethnicity, educational background, wealth, social class, or where a person is from. Did they meet the character requirements and were they gifted by God for the role? That's how it is to be in the church. When you become part of the church of Jesus Christ, that becomes your identity. You're part of the family of God. We don't have other subdivisions within that. All are one in Christ Jesus. That's how it's going to be at our church. We can't make any future commitments regarding the ethnic makeup of elders at this church. They might all be Asian one day. They might all be black one day. They might all be white one day. They might be any mix of whatever, but that's not factoring into our thinking at all. We just want men who meet the character requirements of Scripture and are gifted by God for the role. That's all we care about. We need to remember that the Lord told Samuel this when Samuel was sent to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as Israel's next king.

The Lord told Samuel, humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart. That's how it is to be in the church. Verse 2, would you underline this first phrase here, As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, as they were worshiping the Lord and fasting. The Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Sol for the work to which I have called them. Back in Acts 6, we read about a problem that arose in the early days of the church. The elders of the church were having their schedules consumed with busy work, the practical administrative tasks involved in the organization of a church. The elders of the church the solution the Holy Spirit provided was for them to appoint seven trustworthy men to oversee some of those administrative tasks. The men they appointed were likely the first deacons ever appointed in the uppercase C church. The reason it was problematic that the elders were having their schedules filled with administrative tasks is revealed in that same chapter. Their time should have been devoted to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. When a solution was provided by the Holy Spirit that opened up their schedules so that they could do that, it says that the church body was collectively pleased because the people of the church understood that they would be well led, well fed, well taught, and well shepherded by elders who were focused on ministering to the Lord ahead of ministering to them.

They wanted to be pastored by men who spent time with Jesus, knew his presence, recognized his voice, and ministered in the power of his Spirit. That is what we find them doing here in Verse 2, worshiping the Lord and fasting, practicing spiritual disciplines as part of their regular routine as elders. If you want your church to be led by men who are equally devoted to ministering out of the overflow of their relationship with God, you need to be open and obedient to God to be used by him and serve your church family however he calls you to. He calls you to be asking, How can I serve? Where is help needed? Become a member of the church so that you can be entrusted with greater responsibilities. God gives spiritual gifts to whomever He pleases, so we don't have control over that. But every Christian should seek to develop the character that Paul describes in the Requirements for Deacons and Elders. You can find them. I put the references on your outlines in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. If the Lord chooses to gift you with the gifts required to be an elder or a deacon, your character should already be there.

By the way, that goes for any young person. If you want to know what it looks like to be a man or woman of God, go study those sections of Scripture. Become that Jesus follower, that man or woman. Listen, great congregations make great pastors. Great congregations see a pastor packing up after the service and say, What are you doing? You should be praying with somebody. You should be encouraging somebody. You could be exhorting somebody. You could be ministering to somebody right now. What are you doing? Let me do that. You see, the early church understood that. That's what happened in Acts 6. They reap the benefits of responding because it produced elders who knew the presence of God and ministered from the presence of God. I had you underline the raise as they were worshiping the Lord and fasting because I want us to notice that the Holy Spirit spoke to them as they were spending their regular, likely daily time ministering to the Lord. They didn't sit down and have a meeting and come up with a 10 point strategy for reaching the nations with the gospel. They ministered to the Lord. They fellowshipped with Jesus.

They spent time in his Word and his presence. When it was time for them to receive instructions from the Lord, he made sure they received them. We have lost so much of this basic understanding in the modern church. Most pastors are so busy with administrative tasks, they have no time, no energy for the most important task, which is ministering to Jesus. As I said, great congregations make great pastors. Congregations that give and serve generously and sacrifically will be blessed by God with pastors who minister from the presence of God. Jesus' words to his disciples are true. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Would you write this down? Ministering to the Lord must be our priority over ministering to people. Ministering to the Lord must be our priority over ministering to people. Ministering to the Lord is the highest calling we have, and it's a calling we all have, and it's a call we can all answer. The truth is that if we're not ministering to the Lord, we won't actually have the power that's needed to minister to people. The idea that we can minister to people while neglecting ministering to the Lord is an absolute oxymoron.

Because the truth is that we all minister from the overflow of our relationship and time with Jesus. The greater the spiritual responsibility, the greater the time and spiritual disciplines needed. This is one of the key concepts of the Christian life. Every believer must understand this. Whoever you are, you have a ministry. Your extended family, your spouse, your children, your brothers and sisters in the church, your coworkers, your friends who don't know Jesus, they're all part of your ministry. Here's the key. You are incapable of ministering to those people apart from the power of God's Spirit flowing through you. Incapable. There is nothing in your flesh that can minister to them. Nothing. We need to be filled with God's Spirit every day so that we have something to offer those the Lord has given us to minister to. None of them need more of you. But my goodness, do they need more of Jesus in you? Some of us are experiencing conflict and tension because we are trying to minister from a place of emptyness. We haven't been spending time with the Lord. We haven't been getting filled with his Spirit. Then when we try and minister to people out of a place of emptyness, we wonder why it doesn't seem to work.

God is love and he fills us with his Spirit so that we can love others with his love, so that his love can flow through us. We grossly overestimate what we can do apart from God, and we grossly underestimate what God can do through us. We get so caught up in busyness and to do lists and trying to manage relationships that we forget the most important thing, ministering to the Lord and being filled with His Spirit. We have to come to the place where we genuinely understand that the only thing of value we have to offer anybody is Jesus in us. That's it. If we could really understand this, our perspective on so many things would change. We would pray, and worship, and fast, and study God's Word as if our lives depended on it. We would view our time with the Lord as more important than food or water because we would understand that as we lift up the name of Jesus, us. There is so much more happening than we realize. As I bless the Lord, as I seek his kingdom, people might look on and think, What are you doing? But we would understand I'm working on my marriage.

I'm working on my relationship with my children. I'm working on my ministry to my unsaved friends and family and coworkers. I'm working on my finances. I'm working on my future plans. I'm problem solving. I'm addressing my mental health. Because Jesus said, Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. If we could understand this, we would understand that Jesus must be first, not only because he is worthy of nothing less, but because we desperately need him to be first in our lives. This is so contrary to my own natural thinking. One of the hardest parts of being a teacher of God's Word is having to teach things that you are absolutely failing at spectacularly, and yet you have to teach them because it's what's next in the Word and because it's true. I hope you know, I don't ever teach from a place of mastery, ever. I'm a follower of Jesus doing everything I can to follow Jesus. I teach this because it's true and because Jesus said that we are called to teach disciples how to obey Jesus. I'm terrible at this because I'm OCD. I'm anxious by nature.

I love to make a version of the Holy Spirit in my own image. I love to make a version of the Holy Spirit that works for the CRA and audits taxes. The Holy Spirit who says, Listen, if you get everything lined up just right, then I can move. But this 6 should obviously be a 7. I don't know how you expect me to bless that. That's the Holy Spirit that I want to make in my mind. If I could just get everything in order, everything as it should be, then the Lord will bless it. Then he will flow. That's not what the Bible says. It says, Just come, minister to the Lord. Be filled. Have your mind renewed. Have your spirit renewed. I can't talk about these things and not think of that little town of Bethany just outside of Jerusalem, where Jesus would often visit one of his favorite families, the house of his good friends, Mary, Martha, and hazardous. In Luke 10, a scene is described where Jesus is in the house. Just think about that because that's the point of the whole story. Jesus is in the house. He's among them. He's present.

We're told that Mary sat at the Lord's feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks. She came up and asked, Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to give me a hand. The Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary's made the right choice and it will not be taken away from her. Jesus told Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing, one thing is necessary. It's the same thing Jesus told his disciples when he said, Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. One thing. One thing. All Christians believe in God, but far too many Christians don't believe God. Far too many Christians never trust God with their time, never put God first with their time because they don't actually believe that if they do, God will provide all these things. Jesus revealed to his disciples the key to a fruitful life. In John 15, he said, Remain in me and I in you.

Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without me. The crazy thing is that when you get into the original Greek, you find that the word nothing means nothing. You can do nothing without me. Not half decent, not good enough, nothing. We need a paradigm shift. We need a change in perspective. Because in the Western world, we're so intoxicated with this idea of productivity. Your value is directly connected to your productivity. As Christians, we mistake productivity for fruitfulness. Can I tell you they're not the same thing? Productivity is when the world looks at you and says, You're living a valuable, worthwhile life. Fruitfulness is when Jesus looks at you and says, You're living a valuable, worthwhile life. The Bible never calls us to be productive. It calls us to be fruitful, to produce things of eternal value rather than meaningless things that a supervisor deems valuable. I'm not saying don't work hard at your job.

I'm not saying that. I'm saying don't confuse productivity for fruitfulness. They're not the same thing. If we understood that, if we understood that real productivity is fruitfulness, then we would understand that from God's perspective, lifted hands looks like productivity. Knees on the ground in prayer is what productivity looks like. The Word open, asking God to speak to us is productive. Songs and voices raised for the glory of Jesus in ministry to him. That's what productivity looks like. We need a paradigm shift. A large part of the reason the early church was so full of the power of God was that they understood. They could do nothing apart from Him. S o they prioritized ministering to him above everything else. They weren't like most churches today, running around like headless chickens, trying to invent a new program every month. Let's try this. Let's try a kid's basketball league. Let's try a woman's knitting club. Let's do a woman's reading club. Let's do a men and beer club. Let's just try everything. Programs, programs, programs. That's the solution. None of that in the early church. Not because they didn't have sports or beer, but because Jesus had to be the priority above everything else. And they were waiting for Jesus to tell them what to do.

Do that in us, Lord. Do that in us. Verse 3, it says, Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, on Paul and Barnabas, they sent them off. We're not told if the Holy Spirit spoke with an audible voice to the group or if he spoke to just one person in the silence of his own soul. But what we do know is how the church leaders responded when someone or multiple people shared this instruction they believed the Holy Spirit had given them. They didn't blindly believe it. It says they fasted and prayed until they sensed that the Holy Spirit had confirmed this instruction to the other church leaders, and it seemed good to them collectively. Paul would later write to the church in Thessal and Eca and share the wisdom of this approach, writing, Don't stifle the Spirit. Don't despise prophesies, but test all things and hold on to what is good. Those three short sentences convey so much good and Godly practical counsel. We don't want to miss out on anything that God has to say to us or anything God wants to do among us. We don't want to be those who say, We won't be having any of that Holy Spirit nonsense in this church.

No, sir. We don't want to do that. But we also don't want to be those who will approve and agree with anything as long as someone says, The Holy Spirit told me to do this. Well, I just don't see why you doing a clown show would be beneficial to the church. What if I told you, The Holy Spirit told me to do this? Well, go right ahead. We don't want to do that either. We want to be open to the Holy Spirit. But when someone claims to be sharing or acting at the Holy Spirit's direction, we want to test what they say and do that by comparing it to the scriptures, seeking the Lord ourselves, because God will never contradict himself. The response of the church in Antioch to this word from the Lord is a textbook example of how things should be done. Whenever someone says, The Lord has given me a word. T hat's what we try to do here at Gospel City. We're open to God speaking through his people. So if you believe the Lord has given you a word for the church, we ask that you come to BJ or me in the worship time following the message and share it with us so that we can test it before it is shared as the Bible tells us to.

I should also mention that we desire to see God send elders out from our church one day. We're actively working on raising and identifying potential elders so that one day, by the Grace of God, we'll be in the ready position for God to speak a word like this to us. And we'll be able to send out two or more elders and their families and anyone else who feels led to join them to go and plant a church somewhere. Members at Gospel City have access to Pipeline, which is a training program that helps believers grow in their faith, their theology, their evangelism, and their ministry. It's through Pipeline that we're able to identify home group leaders, ministry leaders, and people the Lord might want to use in other ways to build his church. The Lord calls whomever he desires to call. Our job is to always be in the ready position to be called. God calls people. God entrusts people who are actively loving the brethren, serving their church family, growing in their knowledge of him, walking in faith, and obeying the commands they know Jesus has given. That's why God called Paul and Barnabas. They were being faithful where they were.

They were already doing it where they were. That's what we're called to do. We're called to be faithful where we are right now. We're called to be fully present followers of Jesus wherever we are right now. If you're thinking, I mean, maybe if I get a promotion of some sort in ministry, something more significant with greater influence, then I'll start really taking following Jesus seriously. You'll never get that call from God because God is looking for people who are being faithful where they are right now. Faithful in little, faithful in much. Write this down. The way to be sure you don't miss God's will for your future, is to obey God's will in the present. The way to be sure you don't miss God's will for your future is to obey God's will in the present. The way to be sure you don't miss God's will for your future is to obey God's will in the present. I hope this relieves anxiety for some of you. If you're thinking, how will I know who the person is I'm supposed to marry? How will I know if I'm meant to enter this ministry endeavor? How will I know if I'm meant to take this job or that job?

How will I know what to do? How will I hear from God? The model we see in Scripture is listen, obey the will of God that he's revealed to you right now. Be a person who obeys what God has already shared with you. Then he'll make sure that his will is revealed to you when it's time for you to hear it again. He will. But if where you are right now, you know what God wants you to do, but you're like, No, I'm not going to do that. Why would God bother to share his will with you about your future? So that you can just spit in his face again and say, I'm not into that either. God reveals his will to people who are ready to obey it. God identifies those people by seeing who is obeying his will now. We got to be those people. Paul and Barnabas were the church's best leaders, their best pastors, and yet we don't see the church saying, Let's send some other guys. The Gentiles will still be blessed. I mean, they're just gentiles. But there's so much more Paul and Barnabas could do here. This just doesn't seem strategically advantageous to send our best players to the other team.

But they didn't do that because they understood that the church belongs to Jesus and every person in the church belongs to Jesus. The goal of the church is pleasing Jesus by obeying Jesus. That's why the church rejoiced when they knew they had heard from God because it was another opportunity to joyfully obey God by sending away their best leaders. As we shall read in verse 4 next time, it was not the church that sent Paul and Barnabas, but the Spirit. Here's what I know. I know that God made sure the church in Antioch was taken care of. He gifted and called new leaders because he can do that. Our God is not limited in any way. Let's talk about fasting for a bit. We're never commanded to fast in the scriptures. I think that's just the wisdom of God because he knew there would be certain people in certain situations with health and medical issues who would be unable to fast. How horrible would those people feel if the Scripture seemed to imply they were in sin by not fasting? God never commands us to fast under the New Covenant. You're not in sin if you're not fasting.

But Jesus seems to clearly assume that those followers of his that can fast will fast. In the sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus gives instructions for fasting that begin with the words, Whenever you fast. In Matthew 9, we read, John the Baptist's disciples came to Jesus saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast? Jesus said to them, Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Here in Acts 13, we see one of the reasons Christians fast, to seek direction from God. They sought confirmation of the word the Lord had spoken in their midst. Christians will also fast to draw closer to the Lord in fellowship. But I want to explain how fasting can help us hear more clearly from the Lord and draw closer to Him. First, we need to understand what fasting is. It's abstaining from food and the intake of calories, abstaining from food and the intake of calories. When we do that, our body has a metabolic reaction. Our whole body begins to slow down because it's saying, Oh, man, I'm not getting any fuel right now, so I need to go into a conservation state to keep everything running.

As part of that process, your mind begins to slow down too, and your entire being becomes quieter. This metabolic change in our bodies produces a stillness that helps clear our minds of distractions and makes it easier to hear from God. We become more sensitive to his voice. That's what fasting is. It's why it doesn't work when we just cut back on certain foods or do a sugar fast. It simply will not produce the same physiological response in our bodies. Second, if we're going to eliminate calories for a time so that we can hear from God more clearly, we need to make sure we have time to hear from God more clearly. A simple way of doing this is to say that we're going to take the time that we would normally spend eating and we're going to instead spend that time in fellowship with the Lord. M aybe the commitment is saying, I'm going to spend 30 minutes at least with the Lord three times a day when I would normally be eating. Maybe I'll walk and pray, listen to worship music and praise God. I'll pray in my room. I'll get into the Word.

I'll let God speak to me. If you don't have the time to do that while you fast, then I do not recommend that you fast because otherwise you're just doing a hunger strike. That's not what a fast is. You're not trying to twist God's arm by refusing to eat. If I'm always watching sports on TV so that I never have time for my family, the solution is not for me to merely stop watching so much sports. The solution is for me to instead spend that time with my family. Instead of this, I'm going to do this. That's part of the idea of fasting. So to be clear, fasting is setting aside a period of time to eliminate the intake of calories and spend extra time with the Lord. In addition to seeking direction from God and drawing closer to Him, we also see people fasting in the Bible as an expression of repentance, while praying for miraculous deliverance, while praying for God's blessing and power to be on the elders of the church while praying for physical protection. Sometimes we see groups of people fasting together in the Bible, like the elders in Antioch here in Acts 13.

When fasting alone, Jesus says, we're to be discreet about it. In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, Whenever you fast, don't be gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly, I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that your fasting isn't obvious to others but to your father who is in secret. Your father who sees in secret will reward you. In other words, we don't fast to appear spiritual or devout to other people. We fast to draw near to the Lord. We don't post stuff on social media like, suffering to draw closer to the Lord is hard, but oh man, it's worth it. So that someone will reply, What's going on? Are you okay? We don't post things like, just so that we can say, yeah, I'm just fasting right now and it's really difficult but worth it because it's the Lord. Jesus says, Just keep it to yourself. Just keep it to yourself. Packing up chairs, I can't lift it. It's probably because I'm fasting right now. I'm just so weak.

Jesus says, listen, keep it to yourself. Your father in heaven will see and he'll reward you. Some practical tips on fasting. Obviously drink lots of water. The fasting hack of all fasting hacks. Black coffee has no calories. If you have health issues and you can't fast completely, but you want to seek the Lord through this spiritual discipline, you can generate a partly similar effect by significantly reducing your caloric intake and fasting over a longer period of time so that your body still slows down and goes into that conservation state. As I mentioned earlier, when you fast, your being will slow down and quieten. Your spiritual sensitivity will increase. Listen, if you don't spend time with God while you're fasting, you're just going to be hangry and you're going to sin in your hangar. But when your spiritual sensitivity is increased, myself, for example, I try to be really extra careful about the media that I consume while I'm in that state of heightened spiritual sensitivity. I don't listen to secular music when I fast. I don't really watch TV or movies when I fast. I just don't want to risk taking anything in in that time that could become a distraction.

I also really don't want to see any food commercials while I'm fasting. But I cannot stress enough the importance of having that extra time to spend with the Lord while you're fasting. Because if you don't, all it will turn into is being about the food. The food will be all you're thinking about, and it'll just become a test of wills to see how long till I eat. Only one more day till I can eat. Only 13 hours till I can eat. That's not the purpose of fasting. If you operate heavy machinery or work with anything dangerous, you should probably take time off work to fast. You don't want to white out or black out and kill people while you're fasting, trying to seek Jesus. Lastly, just a bit of a reality check about fasting. Fasting for 24 hours is nothing. Okay? I just need to say that it's nothing. Most of us are not walking around with 8 % or less body fat. But yet a lot of us will talk about fasting for 24 hours as though we're taking our lives into our hands. Pray for me, I don't know if I'm going to make it.

Let's keep it real. You're going to make it. You got enough there for a while, most of us. Your life is not in danger. Unless your doctor has specifically warned you not to fast, you're going to be fine. While the Lord will bless any type of fasting, even for a day, the metabolic results that I'm talking about, the slowing down of oneself, it takes a bit longer than 24 hours to really enter that state. Later on, day two into day three is usually when that kicks in. That's about how long it takes for the effect to begin. If you want to try fasting, go for 24 hours. Craft out that extra time that you're going to spend with the Lord and see what happens. I can tell you one thing that will happen. You'll be blessed. You'll be blessed. Let me invite the worship team to come up and I'll just say this in closing, we need Jesus. We need Jesus. We can do nothing apart from Him. We certainly can't do the things He's commanded us to do. We certainly can't be the people He's commanded us to be apart from His power. We need Him desperately.

You cannot be the spouse, the parent, the child, the family member, the friend, the coworker, the peer that God has called you to be apart from His Spirit flowing through you. His Spirit cannot flow through you if you're empty and you're not going to him daily to be filled up. Nobody needs more of us. They need Jesus in us. The world is crying out for that. That's everything we have to offer people. It's Jesus. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Do you believe him? Do you believe him? When we worship in just a minute, we are not just singing songs. We're not just looking for an emotional experience. We're not trying to get high with Jesus. We are doing the thing that we most need to do. We are engaging in the most important thing we do as human beings made in the image of God. We're ministering to the Lord. That's what we're doing. That's why we go into it with the attitude, I don't care what the songs are. I don't care how the worship team is doing today. I don't care what the technical issues are.

I'm not taking a wait and see approach. I'm here to minister to the Lord. That's the agenda. Whatever else happens, if I do that, this was a successful time. If I miss that, nothing else matters. I desire to be fruitful in my time of ministering to the Lord by making Him the priority because I understand I can't be fruitful anywhere else in my life unless he's first. He must be first. Let's pray, would you bow your head and close your eyes? Jesus, we just confess that regardless of what we do, you are you are first. You are the first and the last, the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the name above all names. You are. You are the name at which every knee will bow. The name that every tongue will confess is Lord, to the glory of the Father. You are. Whether you are or not is not affected by whether we confess it or not. But Lord, our lives are intimately and radically affected by whether we will confess it, whether we will eagerly speak it back that you are first. So, Jesus, be first in us. Lord, be ministered to by us as unbelievable as those words sound being spoken.

You have made us in your image and adopted us into your family so that we can bless you the way that a small child delights his mother or father. You've enabled us to be a blessing to you, though you need nothing from us. Lord, we desire to be a blessing to you. If we're great at one thing, let it be that. Help us be great at blessing you. Help us be great at ministering to you. If we succeed at one thing, let it be that. Not only because you're worthy, but because we know if we get that right, you'll take care of everything else. Lord, I pray right now that we would not just believe in you, but that we would believe you when you said, Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and you'll find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Lord, by your Spirit, give us the power and the ability to lay to the side every anxiety, every worry, every concern. The urge in us to strategize and plan and manage situations. Help us to put it all to the side in faith, believing that if we just minister to you and seek you first, all these things will be given to us.

You'll take care of all them. So help us, Lord. Lord, forgive us for trying to do on our own things that we cannot do. Forgive us for trying to change people. Forgive us for trying to fix problems that we cannot fix. Instead of coming to you and understanding that the one thing that is needed is to sit at the feet of Jesus and lift him up. Lord, be lifted up. Be glorified. Be honored. Be magnified. Be exalted. Be made much of in this place and in our hearts because you deserve it all. Help us, Jesus. We love you. In your name we pray, Amen. Amen.

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