Publication: Pastoral Letter, January 2004
Dear Friend in Christ:
Thank you for your support and prayers during 2003. You have helped us in our service to the Lord. And, may 2004 be a banner year for you! My desire is to sow truth into your life that will bring eternal blessings. This letter contains a very significant key to those blessings.
These thoughts are deeply rooted in the lives of my honored and beloved parents who served the Lord together for 56 productive years. And these thoughts have been confirmed to me through the word of God and 48 years of ministry.
Psalm 25:14 says, “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him.” Malachi 3:16 tells us that God takes note of those who fear Him. Reverence for God is the door into His wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). It is not the end, but the beginning. At this point we should check ourselves in regard to our awe of His Word, and His works, in order that we may proceed by His grace into His secrets. He has things to show us that will overwhelmingly enrich our lives! What an amazing opportunity.
“Blessing” has become such a common word that it sometimes loses its very significant value. But to bless God and be blessed by Him should be our highest goal.
“The blessing of the Lord makes rich and adds no sorrow to it” (Proverbs 10:22). One may quibble as to whether or not God wants to make us rich, but make no mistake, God owns all wealth and gives to us the power to produce wealth (see Deuteronomy 8:18). Wealth is not the problem; the misuse of it is the problem. Failure to acknowledge God and consuming it upon ourselves – loving wealth while ignoring God – brings abuse to God’s grace. Nevertheless, if we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, He desires to add resources to us so that we can sow into His purpose in the earth.
Of course, wealth goes beyond material things. True wealth is the enrichment of lives through spiritual blessings (see Ephesians 1:3). Blessing is God’s favor; it is His gracious increase in our lives upon our meeting certain conditions. The secret of the Lord is the revelation of those conditions which opens heaven to us – with all its wealth, power, and excellence. These are the conditions that I will point out in this letter as listed in Isaiah chapter 58; they enable us to be very fruitful and enjoy abundance.
Isaiah 58 discusses the purpose of fasting. Fasting is the denial of our appetites for a specific purpose and for a specific period of time. It is self-denial in order to discover God’s will and favor. It helps us to focus on the Lord and put His will above our own. It is a good and even healthy practice, when done properly and done for the right reasons. And this is a good time to fast as the New Year lies before us.
We are in a significant season of change. Men like Bill Bright, Derek Prince, Ken Hagen, Larry Burkett, Bryn Jones, and other significant leaders passed on in 2003. The transitional season began in the 1990s and continues as we face the new century. We need to step forward with fasting and prayer and seek God for His blessing in the years ahead.
Before you fast, ask yourself, “What are my motives?” Are they centered in self or in God and His grace toward others? The nature of God is goodness and mercy. He desires to bless others. Jesus clearly demonstrates the unselfish heart of God. If we have His motives, we are in tune with Him.
Isaiah 58 speaks of some people who fasted but were not heard by God. They were not blessed. They fasted for personal advantage and God had no regard for their sacrifice. Verses 6-14 give us the motives or conditions for a successful fast and the abundant blessings that will follow right motives for self-denial. Let us carefully examine some of these conditions:
- To loose the bonds of wickedness
- To undo the yoke
- To let the oppressed go free
- To give bread to the hungry
- To bring the homeless to a home
- To give clothes to the naked
- To care for our own kin
- To remove the yoke from our own midst
- To remove finger-pointing
- To satisfy the desire of the afflicted
- To honor the Lord’s Day
These eleven distinct conditions for a successful fast all pertain to helping others. Jesus summed it up this way, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Jesus knew the secret of pleasing the Father, and His 40-day fast should highly motivate us.
Now, let’s look at the promised blessings that result from fasting unselfishly:
- Our light will break forth like the dawn.
- We will speedily recover.
- Our righteous reputation will go before us.
- The glory of the Lord will follow and guard us.
- The Lord will answer our prayers.
- Our gloom will fade into noonday light.
- The Lord will continually guide us.
- He will satisfy us in desert places.
- He will make our bones healthy and strong.
- We will be like a well-watered garden.
- We will be like a spring that never dries up.
- We will be restorers of ancient ruins and paths.
You will notice that if we fast to bless others, most of our own needs will be covered before we ever even pray about them. When we use our resources to bless others, He blesses us with His abundant resources.
Each of these promises alone would be worthy of our sacrifice, but together they are amazingly bountiful. They should certainly motivate us to pray and fast so that others can find life, joy, and peace.
In Isaiah 1:15, God warned Israel that when they “spread forth their hands in prayer,” He would not hear them because of their wrong motives in that day. Prayer in itself, when done with wrong motive, does not gain favor with God. But unselfish, merciful prayer does bless Him.
The Ten Commandments give us an idea of God’s will in regard to Himself, to family, and to neighbor. Jesus defines our neighbor as anyone in need. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that we will be judged on the basis of our compassion toward others.
Yes, we are justified by the blood of Christ. We are clothed in His righteousness. The cross is the place where we see His selflessness and our selfishness, and choose the life of self-denial. In so doing, we gain His riches.
The idea that Christianity is merely a “personal benefits” package from heaven, a self-improvement plan, is patently false. The Gospel is the Good News that we can be saved from ourselves by believing Jesus and following Him in His unselfish love. Consuming our blessings only upon ourselves denies the very purpose of grace, and displeases our Lord.
On the other hand, those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Those who give mercy will receive mercy. God not only wants to give us grace, but He wants to make us conduits of grace. That is the secret of spiritual blessing.
I grew up in an unselfish family; for that I am eternally grateful. I watched my parents give whatever they had to those in need. I saw them bring people to our home to live for days at a time. I saw them visit the sick constantly. I remember on one occasion going with my father to visit a convicted murderer on death row. Through it all, I saw God bless my parents abundantly. My father’s “office” was wherever there was a need. God blessed that understanding. My parents knew the secret of spiritual blessing.
Sometimes I resented the sacrifice that they made for others; I felt cheated by their generosity to others. But their example and God’s favor upon them stuck with my sister, my brother, and me. As years have passed, I have come to know what Dad always said was true – “You cannot out give God.” When God is blessed, He knows how to bless the one who blessed Him.
As you look ahead to 2004, please keep CSM in your prayers, that we would know the mind of the Lord and that we would be a conduit of His blessing to others. Would you prayerfully consider standing with is in this mission? Together, we can effectively proclaim the liberating Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom in more than 70 nations worldwide.
We are expanding our outreach this year, with God’s help. We are focusing on Christian education and training, and we believe the Lord is giving us some breakthroughs in those arenas. We are also expanding our website, making it even more interactive and user-friendly. (For more information, visit us at www.csmpublishing.org.)
Thank you for being a part of this ministry. There is a harvest ahead. It is not only waiting to be reaped; It is waiting to be loved.
Scripture References: Malachi 3:16; Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 10:22; Deuteronomy 8:18; Ephesians 1:3; Isaiah 58; Isaiah 1:15; Matthew 25:31-46; Psalms 110:10