21 After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 After they spoke the message in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been entrusted to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
The Church was continuing to experience tremendous growth. As we arrive at today’s passage in Acts 14, we read that Paul and Barnabas have seen the conversion of many new disciples and have also taken the opportunity to strengthen others.
As the church has grown, they have had the opportunity to appoint new leaders for each of these fledgling congregations. In so doing, Paul and Barnabas have reminded them that the path that follows after Christ is no easy one. They will need His constant presence and guidance as each of these elders in turn leads their congregations.
It’s an exciting but scary time as these churches are birthed and face the persecution of non-believers in their respective communities.
I admit. I have a hard time hearing from God on occasion. Raise your hand if you can identify. Maybe it’s because my mind is a little too prone to wander. I have the best of intentions for listening to God through my prayers but I’m soon distracted. Here, again, is another area where fasting can strengthen us as followers of Christ. Fasting allows us to remove some of the very things that pull at our attention.
This is what Paul and Barnabas were doing in our passage. They were, first of all, demonstrating to the new believers what spiritual discipline looked like. But they were also committing these men to the grace and leadership of God. Fasting demonstrated for them the kind of focus they were going to need as they led their own group of believers.
I need those same kinds of reminders in my own life. There is simply one voice that matters. Sometimes the only way I can get to that one voice is to deny all the other voices that surround me. Fasting enables me to do that very thing.
As I sit and write for you now, I’m at one of those places. I’ve got some very big and important decisions coming into my life, into my very crazy, crowded, and noisy life. It’s time to remove some of the noise and make sure I can hear what God is saying to me very clearly.
Does fasting guarantee I will hear from God? Not at all. It simply ensures that our hearts are more receptive to the words God has for us. God’s direction will come.
Fasting, along with meditation and prayer, prepares the ground of our heart for the words God will sow into our lives in those moments. I don’t want to miss what God is going to say to me regarding the decisions I am faced with. Why would I not want to be sure my heart is in a place that is completely centered on Him as the source of my direction?
If you are going to listen to God, you are going to have to shut out other noise. Fasting can help with this, but it starts by setting aside a time and place where you will not be interrupted.
- Find a quiet place to “step away” from distractions. This may be a special place outside, a room in your house, or even a quiet retreat that you find for yourself.
- Determine ahead of time what most distracts you from God. For example, social media may the issue. Food is most commonly what is denied in a fast because it reminds us of our complete dependence on God for our existence. Deny yourself in the hours leading up to your time of getting away.
- At the height of your fasting, go to your designated place and determine to hear God’s voice before you leave.