LARGER THAN LIFE
January 7, 2007
This past Monday I was studying in the lobby of a hotel. I was by myself and I thought, “What a perfect environment. I’m alone in this gorgeous lobby.” And there was a piano right in front of me. So I was just sitting there spending time with God, preparing for this message and the ensuing talks. All of the sudden, I watched this guy walk through the lobby with a fanny pack on. I normally don’t wear fanny packs, but this guy seemed to like the fanny pack. He had a bag with him and he walked all the way to the piano and put the bag on top of the piano. He didn’t say, “Excuse me,” didn’t say, “Sir, I’m going to play the piano; I’m going to tune the piano. I could come back maybe at a better time.” He never said that. He just sat down and began to tune the piano. Over and over again he just banged on one note. Then he would go to another note.
I was sitting there thinking, “I’m going to wait this guy out. He is not going to get the best of me!”
And I counted. He would hammer on each note thirty to forty times. Up and down the piano he went. And it got me a little bit freaky, but I just kept studying God’s Word.
Well then, he did something that was interesting. He began to play beautiful music. And I was shocked when I heard this music. He was tuning, and all of the sudden he went into this song. And I thought, “What a transition! Here’s the guy banging on one key one moment and the next he’s playing beautiful music.”
And I couldn’t help but think about our lives, because isn’t it true that so many of us spend so much time banging on one key, pounding on one key. We think, “Well if I lived in that area of the country, maybe with that climate or with that size house, then my life would have meaning.”
Or, “Maybe just maybe if I was just hooked up with that person in another marriage or another relationship, that would do it for me.”
Or, “If I had that job. Yeah, that would be great! With the corner office and all of the trappings and trimmings that go along with that.”
Isn’t it true that we spend a lot of time just pounding on one key? What did that guy do, though? That guy put together notes and sounds in a beautiful combination that made some incredible music. That transition is there for all of us; yet, isn’t it true that we spend most of our time going through the same ritual, routine and regimen 24/7 when we have an opportunity to play beautiful music.
We think, “I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to stop smoking. I’m going to change the way I do business.”
We make all of the promises. And we resolve to do this or that. I would argue, though, rarely do we get to the foundation of where we need to go. Many times we focus so much on the superfluous that we miss the significant. We get so involved in the junk and even doing good things that we miss the best thing. Today, I want to kick this series off by talking to you about something that will help all of us live larger than life.
Do you know living larger than life is in Scripture? John 10:10. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” Jesus said that.
Now, the answer that I’m going to unfold for you today to deliver on the next level is going to shock some of you. It’s counter intuitive. It’s paradoxical. Because the world says to live large we’ve got to attain more and more and bigger and bigger. Yet, Jesus comes along and Jesus says something else. I’m going to talk to you about something you’ve probably never heard a message on before. And it’s found in Matthew 6.
If you have your Bibles turn to Matthew 6:16. You’re going to feel a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when I read this verse. Hear is what Jesus said. “When you fast…”
“Wait a minute! Surely he was talking about someone else. I mean, Ed, surely you’re not going there. You’re not really talking about fasting for like twenty minutes. Come on man!”
“When you fast …” I’m just reading his words. In other words, followers fast. Jesus is assuming that those of us who tenaciously follow him fast.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do…” (The word hypocrite is the Greek for actor; an actor is being someone or playing someone that he or she is not.) “…for they disfigure their faces to show men their fasting.”
“Whah, whah, whah. I am fasting. I’m so holy. Feel sorry for me.”
Jesus said, “Don’t do that.” Fasting is an adventure.
I’m going to challenge every single person who is hearing my voice right now—whether you on the floor, the balcony, maybe in one of our over flow rooms—I’m going to challenge all of you to embark on a fast. Some of you are saying, “Where are the exit signs? How can I get out?”
Now, what does it mean to fast? A biblical fast is not dieting. Some of the women are like, “Oh girl! I’m going to fast because I need to drop a few.”
No, no, no. It’s not about that. Yeah, that will happen. But it’s for value, not vanity reasons. Fasting is not just going without food. Biblical fasting is a spiritual discipline of redirecting our appetite from the material to the things of God. Biblical fasting is denying our appetite to deepen our relationship with God. It’s all about our connectivity with Jesus Christ. That is why we fast.
And I’m here to tell you something, because I’ve been studying this, even in the lobby in the gorgeous hotel while the guy was tuning the piano. I’m here to tell you something. Things will not occur in your life or in mine or in this church until followers fast. I’ve fasted several times in my life. Yet, I’ve never fasted the way I’m going to talk to you and challenge you to fast today.
You might be saying, “Well Ed, I’m not a believer. I’m not a follower of Christ. I’m not even sure if Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I have doubts about the Bible. I saw this deal on the Discovery Channel the other day and I’m just not sure about everything.”
I want to challenge you to fast as well, because the issue of Jesus is too important for you to hydroplane over. Every day of the fast, ask God this question: “God, if you’re real, reveal yourself to me. God, if you are real, if you are the real deal, show me that you’re real.”
And if you’re a sincere seeker, I promise you he will reveal himself to you. But don’t just sit back and say, “Well, what about the native who’s never heard about Jesus Christ? Or why do bad things happen to good people? I took this biology class in college and I’m really into evolution.”
Those arguments need to be processed and discussed; you need to read and really get deep and find out if indeed Jesus was who he said he was. It’s that critical and crucial.
If you’re a follower of Christ, it’s going to take you to the next level. If you’re a follower of Christ, it will give you some power, some insight that you’ve never ever dreamed possible.
Jesus, after his baptism, was driven out into the wilderness. For forty days he fasted. At the end of his fast, what happened? The devil showed up. He began to crank up the volume of temptation.
“Jesus,” he said, “turn those stones into bread.”
“Jesus,” he said, “bow down and worship me.”
“Jesus,” he said, “throw yourself off the temple. After all, you can rise from the dead.”
You know what Jesus said back to him? Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus redirected his appetite during that fast from the material to the things of God. He had God’s word in his heart. When the temptation began to hammer him; when he was the most vulnerable, what did he do? He came back with the word of God.
During the fast, think about an area where you are tempted. Talk to God about that area. Because right now, a lot of us are going through some serious temptation. Maybe that temptation is to live a life of deception. Maybe you’re always giving out half truths and exaggerating. And when you’re backed against the wall, you just lie. You cut your teeth on lying; you’re all about telling things that aren’t exactly true; you’re about leaving out facts. Maybe that’s the temptation. Talk to God about it during the fast.
Maybe your temptation is in the realm of sex, the flesh. Maybe you’re hooked into the internet, or maybe you’re thinking about sleeping in the wrong bed. Sexual temptation is real. Talk to God about that, during the fast.
Maybe you’re tempted in the whole area of substance abuse. Maybe alcohol or drugs has you. Maybe it’s a prescription drug thing. I don’t know. It’s a temptation. Talk to God about it. Redirect your food source from the material to the things of God.
And let me let you in on an insight right quick. Do you know why Satan is tempting you right now? Do you know why you are feeling these feelings of vulnerability? Do you know why you feel the pull of the temptation? Because you’re so awesome! Because God sees and knows who you can be. And the evil one sees the potential in your life.
Why did he go after Jesus? He saw the potential. He knew the power. He knew that Jesus was going to do what? Live perfectly, die sacrificially, and rise bodily. And Satan wanted to get him off of that track and he wanted him to miss his potential.
How many of us are missing our potential because of a failure to fast? If Jesus had to fast to release the depth and the power of God, I think we need to fast. Every major biblical character fasted. Moses was fasting when he received the Ten Commandments. The apostle Paul was fasting after his Damascus road experience. Esther fasted when she thought her entire people would be annihilated. Simon Peter was fasting when he realized Christianity was not just a Jewish thing. Cornelius was fasting at the same time when his household bowed the knee to Christ as the Holy Spirit of God sent Simon Peter to Cornelius’s household.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline. What’s discipline? That’s a good question. What’s discipline? Do you know what discipline is? Discipline is doing what you ought to do, so can do what you want to do. Say it with me. Discipline is doing what you ought to do, so you can do what you want to do.
Well, how do you do what you ought to do? You fast; you hear from God. You listen to Him. When you do that, and when you redirect your appetite from the material things to the things of God, what happens? His desires become our desires; thus, I do what I ought to do and then I can do what I want to do. And then I’m walking in the will of God.
You’re being tempted because of your potential, and the Devil is after you and he’s really showing his hand because of the stuff in your life that is going to happen. Fast.
I think also about another guy in Scripture who’s name was Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was king of Judah. Jehoshaphat was in a terrible situation. And maybe you can kind of identify with him. He was surrounded by his enemies. And he couldn’t tango with his enemies. These guys wanted to play “Wipe Out” on his head. Do you know what he did? He turned to God. He said, “God, I’m going to fast.” And then he sent out a decree. The entire nation of Judah, all the people fasted. Even the women and children fasted. Because of the fast, here’s what happened. They won the battle. In fact, they didn’t even really fight. If you read the text, you see that it lasted one day. Yet, Scripture says that the victory was so amazing that it took the people three days to bring back the spoils of victory to Judah. Is that incredible?!
I want to fight a battle like that, don’t you? One day to fight—and you don’t really fight; God fights for you—and it takes three days to bring back the spoils of victory to my house! Man that is sweet, isn’t it?
Do you feel surrounded by something? Do you feel paralyzed, maybe, by fear? Fast. Redirect your food source from the material to the things of God. It will give you a whole new perspective.
Talking about perspective, one time for Christmas I got a magnifying glass. And as a kid, man, I loved that magnifying glass. If I got the angle right with the sun I could fry fire ants. Zzzp…. Zzzp.. Fire ants are demonic aren’t they? Those things are wicked.
What does a magnifying glass do? It changes our perspective. You look through the magnifying glass and the object you’re looking at gets bigger and it seems as though the things around it are smaller.
Here’s what David said. David, the new king, was on the run. And psycho Saul was trying to kill him and here’s what David said in Psalm 34. David said, while on the run, “I’m going to worship the Lord and I will magnify the Lord.”
When I fast; when I redirect my appetite heavenward, here’s what happens. I have a different perspective. I see God, I’m sensitive to the things of God, I hear Him, and I watch him lead me. I respond to that still, small voice. My enemies shrink in size around me and I gain a whole new perspective. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of decisions to make in 2007, and I need the perspective of God. And I’m not going to gain it, nor will you, until we fast. It gives us a perspective on which way to go, a perspective as we negotiate the maze of life, a perspective on who to marry, a perspective on what to do in this business deal, a perspective regarding my family, and my marriage.
Perspective—we desperately need it. Solomon said this in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Do you know what Jesus said in Matthew 6? “When you pray… when you give… when you fast.” Three. The power of three. We put them together, wow, all heaven will break loose in our lives.
I think about Daniel. Do you remember Daniel? Daniel was a healthy guy. He was deported all the way to Babylon. And there he was a long way away from his home. And the best and the brightest Jews were around him. And the king was serving all this fatty food. You know, all the wine and all the rich food—the Krispy Kreme donuts, the Chili’s (love those chips and hot sauce), chicken fried steak, and those big cat-head biscuits. I made that extra stuff up. I’m just kidding.
But Daniel said, “No. I’m not going to eat the king’s rich food. You know what I’m going to do? With your permission, I’m going to drink water and eat vegetables. And my boys are going to do the same. And we’ll see which, with your permission king, we’ll see which group looks better.”
So, one group was like in a feeding frenzy, like a bunch of sharks with their eyes rolled back in their head. Here’s Daniel, drinking water and eating only vegetables. After ten days, look at Daniel! Daniel’s group looked like Hulk Hogan, and the other group looked like me. It was an incredible contrast.
In Daniel chapter 10, the plot clots because Daniel knew that an angel of the Lord was coming to give him a word. Yet, the Prince of Persia was blocking the word. You know what Daniel did? Take a wild guess. He fasted. He redirected his food source for three weeks. And because of that, at the end of the three weeks, the power of the Prince of Persia was broken, the angel got to Daniel and delivered the message.
What a breakthrough! What a blessing! Do you want a breakthrough? Do you want a blessing in your life? God is a God who wants to bless his children. What does it mean to be blessed? It means to be on the receiving end of the tangible and the intangible favor of God. You need a breakthrough, maybe, in a certain area. You’ve just sat at this piano for a long, long time, pounding on one key. You’re thinking, “It’s this relationship, this relationship. No, no, no. It’s my career, it’s my career, it’s my career. No, it’s where I live, it’s where I live, it’s where I live, it’s where I live, it’s where I live.”
You’re that close from playing beautiful music. That close. What happens when I fast, though? Beautiful music.
Some of you may be saying, “Well okay, Ed, I understand this. And I’m going to get this incredible perspective like Jehoshaphat. I’m going to have the potential and power of God released. And I see that through what Jesus went through and Daniel with is breakthrough. And, man, I need a breakthrough!”
But here’s what else will happen. When you fast, it is like you’re on a 21-day prayer, because we’re going to fast for 21 days. It’s like you’re completely and totally worshiping God for 21 days! It’s a constant prayer. It also will carve out a phenomenal course for the year. Think about it. Think about the principal of the firsts.
If you have your Bible, turn to Matthew 6:33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.”
That’s what Scripture says. It’s about the first. So if you want to live that out, and I do, we’ve got to be into the firsts. What does Scripture say? Scripture says that my stuff is not my stuff. The first 10% is God’s. I bring it to the house of worship. When I bring the first 10% of what I make to God, he blesses the 90%. I don’t know about you, but I’m not big enough, bad enough, rich enough, or smart enough to handle my finances alone. I’ve got to have the supernatural help and anointing and blessing of God. And if you’re big enough and bad enough and smart enough to do that away from God, good luck.
Scripture also tells me, when I give God one day a week of corporate worship—one day a week—then God’s going to bless the rest of the week. I think about my time with God everyday. When I spend time with God everyday—just 5 minutes, 15 minutes or an hour, in prayer and study—he blesses the rest of the day. He multiplies my time. My days aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty cool.
The same is true as we look at this year. We give God a chunk during the first month of the year, 21 days of fasting, and I’m telling you, he is going to bless this year. We might be walking around in March and go, “Wow! Thank you! Wow, it’s already June and I’m still being blessed!” It’s the principal of the firsts.
Scripture says in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
That’s all about the blessed life. Blessing will accrue in our lives. In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”
Here’s something that’s really off the chain. My fasting and your fasting is an act of worship. Worship feeds God. I’ll talk more about that next time. Worship feeds God. So, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Well, how do I do that? Matthew 6. When I pray, when I give, when I fast. I redirect my food source. So, as you look at your life, where are you? Are you just pounding on one key? Going through the same ritual and routine and regimen 24/7 week after week, month after month, year after year? Or are you ready to play beautiful music and redirect your appetite toward God?